Bush’s Presidency should go down as the worst in our Republic’s short history. In the rush to create a new American Imperialism, Emperor Bush’s profligate Constitutional trespasses – the calculated, unchallenged scope and breadth of abuse of his Executive powers – have set a new standard of political authoritarianism.
Unfortunately, we seem to have forgotten the lessons of Rome’s decline and fall. Many of our institutions – the press, the legal class – have failed to rise in defense of our society’s freedoms.
The rapid devolution of our Constitutional state to a near neo-fascist variant should serve as a cautionary tale of public fear, willing compliance and Orwellian manipulation for those future generations hoping to chart a new course to liberty.
As ever, vigilence is the bulwark to tyranny.
Mark Silva, Chicago Tribune, reports on the American Bar Association’s Task Force on Presidential Signing Statements and the Separation of Powers Doctrine soon to be released analysis of the use of signing statements to subvert the already “whipped-dog” compliant Congress’ attempts at oversight.
“It’s clear that a large number of the signing statements that have been issued by this administration claim the authority to disregard the law,” Sonnett said. “This president is not the first president to do that. But he clearly has escalated the practice to what the task force believes is a dangerous new high. That has an impact on the separation of powers, and if it’s left unchecked, it could do damage to our system and to the Constitution.”
The ABA report notes the breadth of Bush’s signing statements, saying, “From the inception of the republic until 2000, presidents produced fewer than 600 signing statements taking issue with the bills they signed. According to the most recent update, in his one-and-a-half terms so far, President George Walker Bush … has produced more than 800.”
Further noted by the Silva, a sickening number of signing statements explicitly destroy what little oversight the current Republican Congress specified for the Warboys sweeping use of his Executive powers:
While the White House has asserted that it only expresses reservations, the ABA has cited examples in which the White House has indicated its intentions not to follow provisions in:
_Two bills forbidding use of military intelligence in materials “not lawfully collected.”
_A bill requiring a report to Congress on the use of the USA Patriot Act to secretly search homes or seize private papers.
_The “McCain amendment” forbidding any U.S. official from torturing a prisoner. While the administration insists it does not condone torture, the president’s signing statement in December reserved the right to waive the torture ban if harsh interrogation might advance anti-terrorism efforts.
_The Intelligence Authorization Act of 2002 requiring regular reports to Congress. The signing statement on intelligence reports to Congress called the requirement “advisory” and asserted that it “would be construed in a manner consistent with the president’s constitutional authority to withhold information” that could impair foreign relations or national security if released.
“The problem about these guys is that they play winner-take-all politics on structural issues,” said Richard Epstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution who has written on the subject. “They push as hard as they possibly can and they never back down.”
Bush voiced more than 500 objections to laws that he signed during his first term – including 48 that challenged his authority to withhold information from Congress in the interest of protecting national security and 37 that challenged his wartime authority.
The ABA report disputes the White House’s contention that signing statements are issued carefully. Bush’s are “ritualistic, mechanical and generally carry no citation of authority or detailed explanation,” the task force found. It noted that when Congress enacted a law requiring the attorney general to report on instances of officials refraining from carrying out law, the president attached a signing statement insisting on authority to withhold information.
The Jurist also weighs in:
[JURIST] An American Bar Association Task Force on Presidential Signing Statements and the Separation of Powers Doctrine [ABA materials] has determined that President Bush’s practice of attaching signing statements [1993 DOJ backgrounder] to new laws “undermine[s] the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers.” In recommendations [press release] released Monday, the task force found that the frequency and purpose of signing statements has changed dramatically during the Bush administration. Bush has used signing statements to clarify his interpretation of laws and in some instances reserve the right to bypass laws more than 800 times, compared to just 600 signing statements for all other presidents combined. ABA president Michael Greco expressed concern that Bush’s “unchecked” use of bill-signing statements “does grave harm to the separation of powers doctrine.”
If the Democrats take the Congress, they must immediately reverse the dangerous course the current Executive has set. Further, they must set a counter-example that will inform future generations of our country’s leadership. To do any less will forever and permanently diminish our Republic.