I am not a lawyer. Longtime readers will recognize the pattern that emerges everytime I discuss a legal ruling I do not like. For the newer readers, the pattern is:
1.) I see a story about a court ruling that infuriates me.
2.) I get the vapors, and immediately write a hasty and frosty post filled with ire.
3.) Cooler heads point out I do not know my ass from a hole in the ground about the law.
4.) More often than not, it turns out I jumped the gun with my outrage, and submit a weak mea culpa a few days later (or do nothing and hope people forget what an over-reactive moron I am).
With that in mind, I bring you this:
The board of governors of the American Bar Association voted unanimously yesterday to investigate whether President Bush has exceeded his constitutional authority in reserving the right to ignore more than 750 laws that have been enacted since he took office.
They include a former federal appeals court chief judge, a former FBI director, and several prominent scholars — to evaluate Bush’s assertions that he has the power to ignore laws that conflict with his interpretation of the Constitution.
Bush has appended statements to new laws when he signs them, noting which provisions he believes interfere with his powers.
Among the laws Bush has challenged are the ban on torturing detainees, oversight provisions in the USA Patriot Act, and “whistle-blower” protections for federal employees.
I don’t know how a President choosing to ‘ignore’ laws can be interpreted as anything other than exceeding constitutional authority. I am willing to bet there are a few exceptions where this may be ‘legal,’ but 750 times? I find that doubtful.
And if you are wondering why this matters, look no farther than the current debate about torture/detainee treatment mentioned below. The fact that the VP’s office is pushing the Pentagon to remove Geneva references from guidebooks is directly related to Bush signing the McCain amendment but noting he has no intention of following it.
*** Update ***
For the 2-3 Republicans who still read this site, I would suggest the Clinton test would be appropriate for this post. Before you start to flame me for agreeing with the liberal media, the liberal ABA, and the liberal boogeyman du jour, try on this statement for size:
The board of governors of the American Bar Association voted unanimously yesterday to investigate whether President HILLARY CLINTON has exceeded her constitutional authority in reserving the right to ignore more than 750 laws that have been enacted since she took office.
What do you think now?
I have moved from a position of, while not agreeing with Conservatives but respecting their positions as ones of true convictions, to a position of believing that, while there are some true believers, the majority accept any Bush says or does as Gospel (no pun intended) because they have the power and the Dems or liberal don’t. However, I cannot understand the shortsightedness of this approach when one considers that at some point in the future there will be the Bogey Man Hillary-like President, who would have enormous powers if the current vision of the executive position is accepted. Conservative rails against FDR, but it is all set up for a FDR redux.
How did that shrill harpie ever get elected president?
Come on John, don’t expect people who still support Bush to respond to hypotheticals, especially hypotheticals not yet addressed by Rush.
The Other Steve
Ahh, the Clinton Test. I’ve been using that for years to judge my own reactions.
Hello! Bush good, Hitlery baaaad.
That’s all you need to know.
It is curious that none of the chaps at Volokh have deemed this worthy to comment on.
Maybe the Volokh posse is picking out another cretinous guest-poster from TownHall to explain to us why gays are icky and we should totally amend the shit out of the Constitution to do something about that.
Look, if the powers granted to the executive through statute (several Patriot Acts) and extraconstitutional fiat didn’t give the non-Hillary authoritarians pause, I don’t know that this would.
These signing statements are way out there. Way out there. For all the years conservatives used to scream about liberal courts, presidents, etc. going over the top, this is a whole new ball game. Here are some excellent articles that I’ve kept which cover the issue:
1. Boston Globe
2. Boston Globe
3. Boston Globe
6. NY Review of Books
It’s only too bad that the Boston Globe is the only paper that has covered the issue in real depth. I think this is something that Americans really need to know more about.
It’s worth checking out this post at orinkerr.com (some good points in the comments) and this post at Balkinization. From the latter:
The Clinton test is good in theory, but it’s doomed to failure in practice. We can see this by comparing what Republicans in office said about Clinton during Kosovo with how they view similar statements today about Bush. “Inept foreign policy”, “no exit strategy”, “unjust war”, “bombing and attacking this tiny country that has never attacked the United States”. . . Statements like these are attributed to “traitors”, these days, rather than Republican Presidential candidates.
Follow-up: In case it’s not obvious, I meant two different Clintons above.
The ‘signing statement’ has a legitimate use – for the sitting president to formally announce the interpretation of an ambigious legislative statement. However, what Bush is doing, (in at least the well publicised cases) is bootstrapping – his signing statements add ambiguity where none existed before – and then he argues that his interpretation is valid/controlling because of some combination of war powers/CiC (of the army and navy, doofus, not of the whole country…)/’plenary’ foreign affairs power (aside from all those specific powers given to Congress by article I…but we like to ignore those.)
Why be hypothetical, John? Surely you know that the REAL President Clinton issued signing statements, right?
And what the fevered, crazed reaction of the We-Hate-Clinton-So-Much Rightwing howlers? Well, ummmm, they seemed OK with it. No big whoop.
Passed the Clinton test, I’d say.
In defense of conservatives, most liberals are exactly the same only with everything reversed. It’s easy to get caught up in the partisan games.
Really, Nice use of the Clinton test. IMO, putting it into slightly different context helps.
According to Pooh: “The ‘signing statement’ has a legitimate use – for the sitting president to formally announce the interpretation of an ambigious legislative statement. ” I thought that’s what Courts of Law were for – isn’t it their job to interprete ambigious legislative statements………or is US law different from UK law in this respect?
The Other Steve
Clearly you have a source for this.
Hey, this is interesting…
Even the DOJ doesn’t appear to agree with you Mac.
Notes that Reagan, Bush the Greater, and Clinton issued 247 or so signing statements, far more than had been done in history. But Bush the Lesser has issued 750.
Hmm, your “But Clinton did it” is looking pretty childish.
Hey guys, look over there! A gay hispanic activist judge jackelope!
Mac wants you to think that statements made at signings are the same as Signing Statements. The Bushesque version is just another ploy to weaken the judiciary, or to co-opt their discretion.
The Neowrong approach is to build up the executive, tear down the judiciary, attack science and generally derail any power that doesn’t lend itself to direct Dobsonian and Neoconian manipulation.
When you have liars and thugs and basically a corporate Mafia running your government, as you do now, then things take on a different look. This stuff isn’t happening in a vacuum.
Basically, Bush has queered signing statements for a lot of future presidents. He has shown what happens when you let a president run roughshod over the system.
Anne – yes you are correct, however, courts do not generally issue ‘advisory’ opinions – there must be an actual case in front of it.
In contrast, the signing statment is proactively saying ‘this is how we are going to enforce this law until told otherwise’ or at least it should be. Note that the ‘told otherwise’ could be either Congress ammending the law to cure ambiguities or the courts ruling that the stated interpretation is incorrect.
Wouldn’t this make Bush an “Activist President”?
In 8 years, Clinton issued 105 signing statements, Reagan issued 75, GHW Bush issued 146. Compare this to the present occupant of the White House, who has issued 750 signing statements in less than 6 years.
Mac Buckets…can you honestly say that you don’t see something terribly wrong with these figures?
I don’t see why he’d start now…
Other Steve, I’m not sure that you know what you’re talking about here.
You’re kidding, right? You need a source that Clinton used signing statements? You think Bush invented them — just like *chuckle* “domestic spying?” Do you also need a source that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west?
You’re defining “recent” incorrectly. That DOJ statement has nothing to do with GW Bush. That “legislative history” beef deals with the Reagan/Meese use of signing statements.
Bush uses mostly uses the justification:
“The president has enhanced responsibility to resist unconstitutional provisions that encroach upon the constitutional powers of the Presidency. Where the President believes that an enactment unconstitutionally limits his powers, he has the authority to defend his office and decline to abide by it, unless he is convinced that the court would disagree with his assessment. If resolution in the courts is unlikely and the President cannot look to a judicial determination, he must shoulder the responsibility of protecting the constitutional role of the presidency.”
Sorry, weren’t you just telling me that you needed a source that Clinton ever issued ONE? You’re wasting my time — get yourself together before posting, please.
Are you retarded? “Clinton did it” is the ENTIRE POINT OF THIS THREAD? It’s John’s “Clinton test,” for crying out loud! Blame John, not me.
Now, add the above to the fact that this President, unlike the others mentioned, has had a Congressional majority in Congress for nearly all of his term in office and the signing statements look even more awry. It’s time we be honest with ourselves, this is all about power. The conservative party in this country, now in control of levers of power, has become a radical statist coalition in a lot of ways.
Anne Murphy writes: “According to Pooh: “The ‘signing statement’ has a legitimate use – for the sitting president to formally announce the interpretation of an ambigious legislative statement. ” I thought that’s what Courts of Law were for – isn’t it their job to interprete ambigious legislative statements………or is US law different from UK law in this respect?”
Sometimes, the court will look to the intent of the authors of some legislation (or the Constitution for that matter) in order to determine how to rule. Where Congress is concerned, there’s usually a good-sized paper trail with the Congressional Record and other sources offering the supporting arguments of legislators.
That doesn’t formally exist for the President, there’s no built-in paper trail recording why the President signs a bill instead of vetoing it. So if there’s a chance of ambiguity being hashed out by a judge, and the President leans on one side of that ambiguity, perhaps with Congress leaning the other way, the President could use a signing statement to make his intent clear should it go to court after his term.
What Bush is doing is essentially saying “I’m signing this law but I don’t have to abide by it”, not just “I’m signing this law under duress” or “I’m signing this law with the intent and understanding that it does not apply to private firearm sales.”
As usual, you have it 100% wrong. Do you even know what you’re saying anymore? If I need to use smaller words or draw diagrams for you, I will. Just ask.
Proof that one bad kid spoils it for the whole class.
Now we see that even the relatively unremarkable signing statement can be abused, if you have a government bent on abusing its power. That’s academic, until one day … like now … you actually get an abusive government.
So, what will need to happen is a slapdown of the signing statement by the judiciary. There is no consitutional basis for even recognizing a signing statement, so just slap it down at the SCOTUS level and be done with it.
And then, thanks, George Bush, for another fucking stupid waste of everybody’s time and energy so that you can try to prove yet another stupid Bush Mafia point at our expense.
Let’s put it to a vote, Mac. Who is more wrong here, Mac, or me?
Let the people decide. Democracy in action.
The Other Steve
That’s curious. I was referring to the wiki article I quoted.
Are you just playing obtuse, or don’t you bother to click on links before complaining about a lack of links?
The Republican Congress has been a Bush enabler for a long time. Is there one instance were there was blowback and they challenged the signing statements?
McCain is the biggest wimp, he had the perfect opportunity to challenge Bush over the Torture legislation, and he would have had the entire congress at his back to do it, and he did NOTHING! Loser!
The Other Steve
Wait a minute. Are you saying John forced you to use the “But Clinton did it too” defense of a child?
I didn’t see John twisting your arm, or submitting you to waterboarding.
The Other Steve
Well, Mac Buckets is 100% wrong, but ppGaz is only 50% wrong.
I think if we add that up, that makes Mac more wrong than ppGaz.
I guess I’m one of those 2-3 Republicans who read your site and I have to say I totally agree with you. This President is has made mincemeat of the Constitution and he such abuses of power should be looked into. No President is above the law, even one of my own party. From the prisoner abuse to these signing statements, we see a President and his Administration have no regard for the law, something that is not conservative and definitely not American.
So I simply say kudos to the ABA.
I’m sorry, I never saw the “Has Bush maybe broken the law more than Clinton maybe broke the law?” question posed in the original post by JC.
What I saw was an uninformed (although to his credit, John admitted in advance that he was probably ignorant of the facts — one of the reasons I like him) hypothetical regarding the Clinton Test for signing statements. I merely showed that we don’t need a hypothetical to figure out what Republicans would do if Clinton used signing statements, too. Obviously, Republican’s didn’t give much of a rat’s ass, as opposed to Democrats, who are rallying a posse to investigate Bush.
The GOP passed the Clinton Test — did the Dems pass the Bush Test? Obviously not. So going back to John’s post, it seems he was concerned about hypocrisy from the wrong side!
Somebody would have to sue, and as stated above, the Congress prefers to lick Bush’s boots instead of mounting any challenge to Bush’s authority…
The Other Steve
You know, I think that’s a perfectly reasonable thing.
But this doesn’t sound like the same thing.
If the President doesn’t intend to enforce it because he thinks it is wrong, why doesn’t he just Veto it?
The Other Steve
So you’re saying that it is fine for the PResident to ignore the law, and it doesn’t matter who does it?
Aw, Andrew Jackson wasn’t so bad.
Awrite, bout time I got some respec’ aroun’ here innit?
Sorry, I deny that entire silly premise. If the question is “What if Clinton did it?” And the answer is, “Clinton really did do it,” then how is the correct answer the “response of a child?”
Face it, you got busted, and now you are frantically backtracking away from the original question.
Mac Buckets, it seems clear to me that John is not saying that signing statements in and of themselves are the problem. It is the fact that this President has decided to use signing statements to subvert the will of Congress and increase the power of the Executive. Very often, Mr Bush will use a signing statement to negate a protion of a bill that was included by Congress as part of negotiations with the Administration. Bush is using the signing statement in place of a veto. It’s another way that this administration is subverting the system outlined in the Constitution.
Of course, it becoming pretty obvious that this Administration has a pretty low opinion of that document.
I’m noting that Presidents making statements when they sign a bill, to the effect that they believe that parts are unconstitutional and should not be enforced if challenged, is something that’s been happening for about one hundred and seventy years. If it was fine 170 years ago, and it was fine eight years ago, what makes it not fine now?
Oh, yeah, Democrats hate Bush! Well, with that fine rationale…
Obviously you have not been to the Rick Moran School of Losing Gracefully.
It’s being done by a serial abuser of government power.
By a guy who seems bent on centralizing and consolidating power up to the federal level and into the executive at every turn. And putting a finger into the eyes of the people, the courts, the congress, and the law, without so much as an “excuse me.”
That’s why you tin eared moron.
Read John’s posting again, Mac — his “Clinton Test” doesn’t appear to be “What was the reaction when President Bill Clinton did this?”, but is “What would the reaction be if President Hilary Clinton did this?” I think you missed John’s point.
Bush hasn’t vetoed A SINGLE BILL. It’s unprecedented. These signing statements are why. Rather than do something horrendously public that might actually get him in hot water with his political enemies or even his allies… (most likely especially his political allies) he adds a signing statement.
The Other Steve
So now you’re issuing your own signing statements?
You also seem to be ignoring the number of times it was done, and why it was done.
Are those silly premises too? The differentiations?
Really! What is this guy’s problem? Veto the damn thing, veto something, anything..just once, you know, to show you understand the concept!
Yes, the gathering and dispersing of power been the main use of signing statements for most of American history. To say that Bush’s use of signing statements is an indicator that h he dislikes the Constitution is to say that many of our former Presidents, and certainly the most recent few, felt the same to varying degrees.
The Other Steve
That might explain why he’s supporting a gay marriage amendment. He doesn’t actually think that he would ever enforce it, so there’s really no big deal.
It’s amazing how far we’ve gone. Back when Teddy Roosevelt became Chief of Police of New York City, he felt that ignoring laws even though they were bad promoted lawlessness. He started enforcing the blue laws(prohibition to sell alcohol on sundays, etc.), arguing that if people didn’t like it they should go to Albany and get the stupid law changed.
Today the Republicans believe that lawlessness is a good thing.
I would think that it’s not the NUMBER of signing statements made by each president, but the CONTENT of those signing statements. A statement saying “I, President GW Bush herby congratulate all concerned Americans and diligent members of congress on working together to refund every taxpayer $300 semolians” is much different than “I, President GW Bush reserve the right under the war powers of the executive to ignore this law.”
That said, I have no idea if Clinton ever used his signing statements to actually derail the enforcement of a law. It would seem inconcevable that Newt & Co. would let Clinton get away with that, but that’s not really proof.
The Other Steve
Now that’s a Silly Premise.
It’s entirely possible for Bush the Lesser to Hate the Constitution, without assuming that all other Presidents did.
The Other Steve
to Mac Buckets, the inconceivable is reality.
It seems Bush is using the signing statements as a line item veto. Line items vetos were ruled unconstitutional IIRC. Something about the presidents job being to sign the bill or veto it, that’s all.
The Other Steve
It’s hard to veto bills, when you love spending money as much as George Bush.
Presidents in the past have used signing statements to clarify their interpretation of a law in the event of future judicial review Mr. Bush is doing something entirely different.
His statements are designed specifically to increase Executive power wile limiting that of the other branches. On 82 occasions he had written that the Constitution does not permit any interference with his “power to supervise the unitary executive.” He has made 126 claims that as president, he has “exclusive power over foreign affairs” or that the president has “authority to determine and impose national security classification and withhold information.”
This is not “Here’s how I interpreted this bill when I signed it.” This is “As President I find myself to be above this law.” This is dictatorship, not constitutional governmrnt.
The Clinton test certainly works. I can just hear the screaming and threats of impeachment from the moment the next Democrat is elected president.
And as far as whether Bill Clinton used signing statements, yes he did. A few times. In fact before Bush, signing statements had been used fewer than 750 times in American history.
Once again, this why guys like John and Brian need to help the Dems get in in 2006 and help put a stop to this.
As repugnant as I find Bush’s lack of respect for the Constitution, I can take comfort in the fact I did everything I could to keep him from getting elected in 2004 (if not 2000). If I had actually voted for him in 2004, I’d be that much more motivated to get the Dems in charge of the House.
I’m not kidding at all here. Whatever you think of Kerry or Dean or Pelosi, you’ve got to think you can live with a little screaming and windsurfing if it means saving the Constitution.
Why would Bush bother using a veto when he’s got the signing statements. It’s the best of both worlds — you ignore the bill and don’t have to piss off Congress by using the veto. Why didn’t presidents think of this earlier?
At least it’s not 8,358,356,586,736 signing statements. Bush reserves the really large numbers for other things.
The “whys” have been fairly simple — presidents think a bill violates the constitution (Bush thinks he should have a greater say on certain military matters than Congress because he is the Constitutional C-in-C, for instance), and they say they won’t enforce parts of a law. Since no president has ever been brought up on charges as a result of 170 years of this practice, I think we can say it’s accepted.
As far as the number of times it’s been done, that’s legally irrelevant, and shouldn’t warrant an ABA investigation. If it’s legal for you to do something once, it’s legal for me to do it 1000 times.
Interesting comments about Presidential interpretations vs Court rulings – thanks. It’s a different approach from us. Over here it’s generally considered pretty outrageous – not to say arrogant and dangerous – for a politician to start saying what a piece of legislation “means”. (Though, admitedly, the Blair government, given as it is to trampling over our constitutional niceties, has recently been having a go at ignoring this tradition.) Anyway, here the Courts are not even supposed to base their interpretion of what a law means on what was said when it was being drafted/debated in Parliament before becoming law…..This has the quite useful effect that the Courts have a freer hand take badly drafted, or plain stupid laws (of which we have an inordinate amount these days), ignore the “statements of intent” which were made while they were being passed and make something more coherent and sensible out of them. But it seems to me that the main problem with your approach of having the President “pre interpret” a law is firstly, that until a court of final instance can get its hands on a suitable case everyone will presumably follow his interpretation, which may be quite wrong, rather than thinking for themselves what the correct interpretation should be. And secondly, it puts the judiciary in the awkward position of having to explicitly contradict or “overrule” the President. In that sense it seems to me it’s better to keep the executive and the judiciary as separate as possible.
I know your system is quite different, and that all systems have their pros and cons, but I have to admit to being astonished to find out that the President seems to be able to add something onto legislation which has the effect of undermining or changing it in a very significant way.
Seriously — if I voted for a president who shat on the conversation as much as Bush has, I would be thinking long and hard about killing myself.
the difference between previous presidential signing statements and bush’s is that in the old days, signing statments were clarifications of what the executive thought the extent was of a new bill. like ‘the broad language of this bill means it also applies here and here’.
bush uses signing statments like a line-item veto, saying that certain parts of a bill will not be enforced in any way by the executive.
remember, the line-item veto was declared unconstitutional by the supreme court.
They’ve been using it since Andrew Jackson, although you’d never know it by the lefty rhetoric. Although if the internet were online in 1830, we’d have heard “Save the Constitution from President Jackson! The Nation will never survive!”
Essentially, signing statements work like unofficial line-item vetoes. If the Prez had the line-item veto, he’d never have to use signing statements.
I think the points been made that no other president in history has used signing statements to say they won’t obey certain parts of the law. If the law is unconstitutional in that it steps on the executive, the executive deosn’t sign the bill, simple as that.
Go ahead. I’m waiting.
You really can’t distinguish between how others have used it how Bush has can you?
Come on, Mac, you’re being deliberately obtuse, unlike, say, Darrell, who is genetically obtuse.
Mac, that is total BS. Bush doesn’t want the responsibility that would come with the line item veto. Bush wants to be able to sign a bill that outlaws torture, he just doesn’t want to abide by that law. He wouldn’t have the guts to veto any portion of that bill, Rove would never let him do something that could be so politically damaging. This way, he can say “I signed the bill outlawing torture of enemy combatants.” but he still can waterboard some Ayrabs whenever the urge strikes him. The signing statements are simply the coward’s way out.
Uh huh …. but you see, every bill he signs was passed by an entirely Republican-run congress.
Is the problem that his own congress can’t pass consitutional bills, Mac? This congress is so inept that it requires his deft finishing touch as the pen is taken into hand?
Essentially, the Supreme Court found the line-item veto unconsitutional. Next.
This is just flat out wrong. They aren’t like line-item vetos. They never were used like line-item vetos. They are not an excuse to ignore the rule of law. Leaving a note on a bill to a judge about how you think a law should be interpreted is a far cry from a note saying that you are above the law or that laws banning torture don’t apply to you.
Sorry, but that’s just flat-out wrong. The ability to stop enforcement of a certain provision in a passed and signed law has been a relatively common use of signing statements.
RE: Signing Statements – Mac Buckets, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Before Reagan, only 75 signing statements had been issued in US history, and they were “generally triumphal, rhetorical, or political proclamations and went mostly unannounced”. When Alito worked for Reagan he created the foundation for using signing statement as a way to bend a bill’s execution within the Executive. Between Reagan, Bush 41, and Clinton a total of 247 signing statements were issued. Bush has issued over 750.
No other president besides Bush 43 has used them as a way to subvert the actual laws, at least not so baldly and aggressively. This subversion is manifest through the actual way the laws are implemented (or not), as the people who work for Bush apparently pay close attention to what signing statements say. This dustup over the latest army field manual is a very good example of how the signing statement (to the McCain torture bill) changes how the law is implemented by the actual people who work for the President. Most of the time, we don’t get to see so clearly how this works.
If you want a brief historical summary of signing statements, check this link:
Personally, I think signing statements, for the purpose of criticizing a law, are extra- or un- constitutional and should be abolished. If a president wants to challenge a law, fine, take it to the Supremes and let them decide.
RE: Presidential lawlessness in general – if you want to follow good coverage of the ongoing drama of Bush’s lawbreaking, one good place is Glenn Greenwald’s blog Unclaimed Territory.
Plus, his book on the subject, “How Would a Patriot Act?” is a brilliant summary of the recent history of Bush’s lawbreaking from Greenwald’s personal standpoint as a constitutional lawyer.
So the reason we suddenly have all this signing statement activity is that his own bought-and-paid-for congress can’t pass properly written laws?
Sorry, but 170 years of history argue against you. (170, at least — someone brought to my attention that it might be Monroe rather than Jackson who first used the signing statement to override part of a signed bill.)
Well, I don’t think there’s much to add to the current debate, so I’ll post about something that I enjoy getting outraged about.
I guess Andrew Sullivan posted an email from someone who used to support the war in Iraq but who has since given up hope and turned against in.
Someone else emailed saying that this guy is wrong, a pussy, ect and among other things, went to a place that used to make my blood boil but now mostly just makes me laugh, since I guess I’ve been all outraged out.
Anyway, he says, “..if he did understand it (and) had the courage to see it through even knowing that war is a dirty business and sometimes bad things happen in war.”
And in my mind I read, “…if he did understand it had the courage (from behind his computer in his mom’s basement) to see it through even knowing that war is a dirty business (for other people) and sometimes bad things happen in war (to other people).
If I live another 100 years, and all of my opinions change and I come to a place where I make Alan Keyes look like an ANSWER activist, I would still be ridiculously entertained at the notion that these guys see themselves as being on the frontline of the war on terror, at that from their desks, it’s vital they keep their courage and not lose their resolve to win this war.
You must not be familiar with Washington, DC, if you think that the Legislative and the Executive aren’t always in a 24/7 turf war.
He’s not using signing statements to stop enforcement of a certain provision in a signed law, he hasn’t signed it yet. If there is something in the passed bill that he disagrees with he VETOES the bill. He can’t pass MOST of the bill, its an all or nothing deal. Don’t take my word for it, check the constitution.
It seems really obvious to me that in a lot of ways, the Republican party has become a radical statist party, the very antithesis of what it has promoted itself as being all these years. I mean, how many times has the Congress actually stood up against this President? I count one time, on immigration. And I ought to really put “stood up” in quotes there.
The Republican party has become the party of untrammeled executive power, a party dedicated to ensuring that fear continuously propogates an ever larger, ever authoritative, executive branch. In that, Congress backs down about signing statements, wiretapping phones, presidential records, and everything else, reminding us that even the act of holding hearings can give comfort to terrorists, gays, liberals, trial lawyers, just name an enemy. It’s disgusting and I’m tired of it.
Its arguing against you. Bush is using the signing statements differently than all the other presidnets form the past 170 years. Bush is taking an acceptable practice and using it as a line item veto. He gets away with it because idiots like you are easily fooled by ‘everyone else does it’ and don’t bother with details.
Your current CNN.com main headline.
Uh huh. Yeah, you really ain’t feedin the bulldog here, Macster. Have you tried some of the other threads? Maybe there’s one on lawn mower maintenance or something more suited to your abilities.
Shorter Mac: Bush is at war with his own congress. Makes perfect sense to me.
For those of you wasting your time on MacBuckets, allow me to point out his grasp on ‘reality’ from the other day:
Any atttempt to remind him that the actual point of the invasion – as was sold to the American public – was to protect us from a mushroom cloud and to punish those responsible for 9/11, is viewed by him as:
Just remember that the next time he chides one of you about the ‘facts’ of history or questions your intellectual ‘honesty’. The guy is a fucking joke.
Not really, Ppg. It comes down to turf and power. For instance, Congress thinks that they have the right to decide where our military can and cannot go. The President says, “Wait, I’m C-in-C — it says so right here in the Constitution! I’m the decider of where troops go and don’t go.”
So Congress sends a troop-funding bill to be signed that somewhere in the reams of paper also says that our troops can’t go fight in the Congo. Well, the President doesn’t want to send troops to fight in the Congo, either, but he also doesn’t want Congress usurping power he feels belongs to the Executive. But he wants the troops funded, so rather than vetoing and starting again on a troop-funding bill, he signs it and drops a signing statement on the Congo provision.
Signing statements don’t have the force of law. The law means what it says. No more, no less. Courts may turn to the legislative history for guidance on ambiguity, but I can pretty much guarantee a court isn’t going to care a bit what the executive thinks a law means.
The practical effect of a signing statement is as a tool for the executive to send a message to the Departments of the executive branch telling them how to enforce the law (or not.)
The real question is whether the executive branch is failing to execute a law properly. I suppose that’s for a court to decide or for the legislature to use its various powers when it feels the executive is not acting properly. But that’s true whether there is a signing statement or not. As far as I can tell, the signing statement is nothing more than a glorified memo to the President’s subordinates.
Do tell. I don’t suppose you have a link?
Yeeeahhh, you might want to look into that Declaration of War thingie.
BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I didn’t think it was possible to take you less seriously. Boy that Pat Roberts (or Arlen Specter or…) should does put up a fight for legislative perogatives.
Unless you meant it literally, that they are battling over territory, in which case it’s true, given the outrage over the William Jefferson
invasionincident – the equivalent of Lusitania, that one.
There is one other point here regarding signing statements, and I’ll just quote from the Wikipedia entry to save me the typing:
The three types of signing statement
Generally any executive statement made with the signing of a law can be said to be a ‘Signing Statement’.
Christopher Kelley, a political scientist who has analyzed signing statements, groups them into three categories: 
* Rhetorical, “this is a great law”
* Political, “this law meets the need of our unions”
* Constitutional, “I’m signing this law, but won’t enforce section 2”
In common usage, the phrase “signing statement” normally refers to ‘Constitutional’ statements that direct how the law is to be applied.
A note on applying a metric to signing statements
It is common for different metrics to be used when counting an executive’s total use of signing statements. A flat count of total signing statements would include the rhetorical and political statements as well as the constitutional. This may give a misleading number when the intent is to count the number of constitutional challenges issued.
Another common metric is to count the number of statutes that are disputed by signing statements. This addresses a count of the constitutional issues, but may be inherently inaccurate due to ambiguity in the signing statements themselves, as well as the method of determining which statutes are challenged.
(End of Widipedia entry)
So, the point here obviously is that although the raw numbers of signing statements are enlightening, we must look at the content of the statements and the intent of the presidents in creating them.
And, protestations to the contrary from people like Mac Buckets, the fact is that Bush #43 has used signing statements in a way to subvert his constitutional charge to faithfully execute the laws. This is clearly true because the administration has said this is the intent. No other presidents before Bush #43 have done this, which is why there is a rising tide of non-partisan anger towards Bush.
More power to the ABA, it’s doing the work the Congress should be doing. Amazing, really, when you think about it.
You just don’t get Washington, Ppg. That’s OK. Stay out in Arizona and imagine your pretend world where politicians don’t care about power. Congress is happy if the President slaps them down, and the President is happy when Congress takes a chunk of presidential authority. I mean, it really doesn’t jibe with history, but you never cared much for history, anyway!
Do tell. I don’t suppose you have a link?
When was the last time we used that old thing?
In theory, sure. Not in practice. Not for the last 170 years, at least.
It’s right there with the links that prove that Bush is the only president ever captured on film flipping a bird to the camera.
I haven’t been able to find it online, bit Phillip W. Cooper’s paper in the Sept. 2005 issue of Presidential Studies Quarterly (check your local library for a copy) outlines in some detail the differences between Bush’s use of signing statements and that of other Presidents. The main difference described is Bush’s attempt to expand Executive power while reducing that of Congress and the Judiciary.
No wonder why my ABA dues are not $300 a year. Not for nothing, I don’t care if its President George W. Bush or President Hillary Clinton (shiver), the ABA is at its base a trade organization and lobbying group. Keep to the things you know and the things that help your dues paying members. Leave interpretations as to what is and is not constitutional to the courts. I think the Consitution actually says something about that.
Mac Buckets, you want links detailing differentiation of the use of signing statements by different presidents?
OK, here they are. This should disabuse you of your wrongheaded notion that all presidents have used them the same way for 170 years.
Still waiting on that link. Any day now.
Look, I know the link doesn’t exist, because to make that statement, you have to ignore at least 170 years of history, and not even the most ignorant assclown of a political science prof would be wise to do that. The first controversial signing statement 170 years ago just said, in essense, “Thanks for passing this bill, but you can forget this one part.” And it was forgotten. Think that’s “subverting” an actual law baldly and aggressively enough?
Mac, give us a link that demonstrates that 170 years of history support you. I suspect that if it did, schoolhouse rock may have included something on the matter…
I’m sure you can find differences — just the statement that “Bush is the first to ______ ” is garbage. What has drawn the attention (besides just the standard Bush Derangement Syndrome) is that he seems to have used it so much more than other Presidents. But if it’s legal for the last guy to do once, until further notice it’s legal for the next guy to do it 1000 times.
Still shorter Mac: what about all the babies Clinton ate?
The Other Steve
Here’s the thing.
Applying the Clinton Test, as I call it. I wouldn’t have regarded it as ok under Clinton. Or Bush the Greater, or Reagan either.
So at least I’m consistent. We’ll hope Mac remembers this under President Hitlery.
Links delivered. Go read a bit, and what you’ll find is that the nature and frequency of the signing statements changed dramatically during the Reagan Admin. And, you’ll find the type of use and frequency changed again under Bush #43.
And, you’ll also find that signing statements appear NOWHERE in the Constitution. Therefore, they are an extra-constitutional device with no legal standing. None.
However, that said, the people who work for the president read them as (partial) direction on how to do their jobs in implementing policy required by laws passed by congress. This is where they have their power.
And, Bush #43 is clearly using that power to not implement laws, or parts of laws, passed by the congress that he doesn’t like. What the Constitution does say explictly is that the Executive is to “take Care that the laws be faithfully executed” in Article II, Section 3.
If a president, any president, doesn’t do that (through the use of a signing statement or any other device) he is failing his constitional duty. If he does it consciously, hundreds of times, and keeps doing it, it’s grounds for impeachment.
This isn’t complicated. It isn’t partisan. It is wrong and un-American. Detaining American without due process is unconstitutonal. Warrantless spying on Americans is illegal. Torture is illegal. Etc., etc.
Here is that notorious liberal hack, John Dean:
The article is full of other links and citations.
Now quit whining about not having any links.
You didn’t see that on “I’m Just A Bill?”
This .pdf (also posted above) that I was sent today has a short history of signing statements. It actually says that Monroe used the first signing statement to change a law he’d signed earlier regarding the army (I’d have known that if I had known that wikipedia would have an entry for “signing statement”), and it continues through Clinton’s signing statements.
Macbuckets, just playing the role of good little Bushie:
Read the entire deconstruction of Mac’s playbook if you wish.
It’s easy to say you would’ve been protesting it under Clinton, too — but no one did, did they? Did the ABA have a publicized investigation then? Of course not. A little hypocrisy, I think.
Mac, so I expect you to shut up when President (MRS) Clinton starts doing it in 2009..
Made you shutter didn’t it?
Actually that is a proverbial argument and one that I would never make in all seriousness. Does not matter who the president is, its wrong and needs to be corrected before the pressident gets so great, it can’t be overturned…
If you did, they didn’t come through in your post.
And for 170 years, presidents have decided that when they deem those laws to be unconstitutional, they attach signing statements, effectively nullifying the offending segments with no chance of congressional override.
You guys crack me up.
Also, if Bush packs the Supreme Court with any more “Alitolites”, then if it ever did make it to the courts, they’d affirm them, scary stuff, my friends…
So that explains all of the vetoes Bush has issued, the contentious Supreme Court hearings, the detailed Congressional oversight committee reports, . . . oh, wait, I must be thinking of a different President and a different Congress.
Does that sound constitutional to you? Ignore for a second that you are completely wrong that everyone was doing what Bush is doing (ok maybe Nixon did it too). The constitution says sign or return the bill.
PERHAPS YOU WILL BE ABLE TO SEE THIS LINK.
Right you are. And you aren’t the only one who thinks so:
That’s from my giant link above.
Mac, let’s do it the other, easier way – you know, the one where one side isn’t called upon to prove a negative?
Can you point to one or more of the Clinton signing statements that indicates that his administration can gleefully ignore part of the bill he just signed?
I mean, hell, that should be easy, there aren’t that many to go through.
Ummm, I didn’t need a link for that — I already said that about Bush’s signing statements. I was asking for links to prove the “Bush is the only president to _____” garbage. Dean doesn’t say that — his beef is more with the frequency of the statements.
From an interesting pdf
Sure, there was a section of a defense authorization that had a provision that any HIV-positive soldiers were to be discharged. Clinton signed the bill, but said in his signing statement that since he believed that HIV section was unconstitutional, he would direct the AG not to defend it.
Clinton didn’t veto the whole thing, he didn’t wait for the courts to act, he just said that the one section wasn’t going to be enforced because he felt it was unconstitutional. That’s what presidents do sometimes.
There are others if you need them.
What do you think that article says?
Still waiting on that “Bush is the first” link. Step up, dude. Or at least read one of the several links on this page that prove you wrong.
by the way, “Nixon did it” is at least 25 years stupider than “Clinton did it,” but I suppose no fairminded (cough) lefties will ridicule you for it, so I will.
As far as unconstitutionality…170 years of Supreme Courts have had the chance to address it. They haven’t.
I would, however, suggest to a reasonable reader that the examples given in this paper of the Clinton signing statements deal with arcana and administrative bullshit, and not with ignoring laws against torture.
To wit: a bill came before him with a provision for discharging AIDS infected military even though medically unwarranted – Clinton signed a bill that contained this provision because the military needed funding, while his signing statement instructed his AG not to defend this provision if challenged, due to his feeling it was unconstitutional – he had already vetoed the bill containing this provision once.
However, wrong is wrong. I would hope that everyone who is not Mac Buckets could understand that it was only because Newt was such a bipartisan guy that he wasn’t going after Clinton for contending (in a signing statement!) that the Government Printing Office fell under the Administrative branch rather than the legislative one.
Clearly, his willingness to avoid fighting such a worthy battle indicates that were Clinton issuing signing statements of the type being issued by Bush, Newt would also have happily endorsed what Clinton was doing.
But then, according to Mac Buckets, we are obliged to be equally outraged at all signing statements, or to just shut up about them. It is a matter of degree, rather than kind, and if we care at all about freedom, we must ignore the degree in its entirety.
The links are in fact provided in a post above, Mac, it seems it took awhile for that post to be approved. Scroll up.
If you actually understood how the signing statement had been used in the past, your opinion might actually change about the constitutionality of what Bush #43 is doing. Presidents used them as a form of negotiation with Congress, moreso than a device for deciding what is unconstitutional.
Your statement, Mac,
“And for 170 years, presidents have decided that when they deem those laws to be unconstitutional, they attach signing statements, effectively nullifying the offending segments with no chance of congressional override.”
is untrue on its face. Presidents do not have the constitutional power to make the decision about what laws are constitutional. There is no provision in the constitution for signing statements. Period. Please quote the part of the Constitution creating the signing statement, and the President’s ability to determine, in his sole judgement, the constitutionality of laws passed by Congress.
The Supremes told Clinton that the line item veto was unconstitutional. Period. Using a “signing statement” to act as a line item veto, or to do what you say (in the quote above) is just as unconstitutional.
This is not a partisan issue. It doesn’t matter if you apply a Clinton test, or a Bush test. The president does not have the power, under the constitution, to decide which laws it wants to enforce or which are constitutional.
Is this not obvious?
President Jackson’s signing statement was about building a road. Congress had passed a bill including a provision to build a road from Detriot to Chicago. Jackson didn’t want to build it past the Michigan Territory, and so he didn’t. Just because Congress didn’t take him to task by taking the issue to the Supremes (which Congress did not do in this case) doesn’t mean that Jackson was right.
And, similarly, just because our Congress today does not take Bush #43 to task for his choice to flout the law does not mean that he has that right.
The truth is, Bush #43 is scared to death to be tested in the courts on this issue, which is why in the Hamdi case Hamdi was released, after being held for years without being charged, just before his case was to come to the Supreme Court. It is also why Bush finally charged Padilla with a crime, finally, after holding Padilla without charge. Bush knows his ignoring the law will result in a loss in the courts.
So, basically, Bush has not been tested yet, in no small part because the Congress has been rolled over by this administration. And, would not Bush seek out a test in the court of its assertion that it does not have to follow the law in time of war, if it believes it is correct? Wouldn’t it want to clarify in the courts that it has the right to torture, to hold people without charge, to perform warrantless spying?
The reason why you’re worth responding to Mac is that apologists like yourself are the reason we are on the road to a real risk of presidential dictatorship in this country. Reasonable people can disagree, but I hope that we all agree that no one in the USA, including any President, is above the law.
And, that’s essentially what you’re arguing, Mac. That Bush is above the law. How can you justify this in your own mind? Doesn’t that scare you?
I read Lithwick’s piece. Tim, recall your post a few days ago about semantic tricks? I think what we have here is some significant slippage between the “not constitutional” in the sense of “doesn’t mean anything” and the “unconsitutional” in the sense of “prohibited”.
Mac, the Supreme Court cannot just decide to rule on an issue by itself. A case must be brought. I’m sure you know that. And several cases involving signing statements have come before the court, but not to address the direct issue of whether or not signing statements carry the force of law. Clinton lost his case before the Court regarding the line-item veto, and it doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to believe that the Court would reject the use of signing statements to acheive the same purpose as a line-item veto.
The Court has ruled that Executive branch agencies could apply “reasonable statutory intrepretation” of a bill when it was unclear or ambiguous, and in that ruling allowed that signing statements could be used as a tool in that interpretation process by the agency in trying to understand the President’s perspective on such ambiguity. However this is a far cry from deciding whether a bill is consitutional or not, as in the case of McCain’s torture bill. Reasonable people can see the difference here.
Presidents & the Congress battle for control. Fine. But to say any president has the authority to decide if a law is constitutional is insane. It’s just not allowed in the Constitution.
Look, either the act of making signing statements is constitutional or it is not. You don’t get to say that it’s consitutional if the President is “my guy,” or is against Newt, or is implementing policies I like.
Clinton used it to fight political battles, Bush is using it to fight terrorists. Same principle, it just shows where each man’s concerns lie. (I thought you’d like that one :)
Umm, Mac? Did you get the license plate on that jackalope?
‘Cause “waiting for the courts to act” is *exactly* what Clinton did. He said, “OK, I’ll enforce this, but, when a soldier sues, my solicitor general isn’t going to defend the law, and my administration will abide by whatever decision comes down.” That’s “waiting for the courts to act,” at least where I live.
Too busy being activist judges.
This is a bit off-topic, but it strikes me as odd that the adminstration would not be worried about the powers they could be bequeathing to a future Democratic adminstration. Combine this with Frist’s eagerness to do away with the filibuster, depriving future Republicans of a tool that they may want to use against Democrats – what I get is the feeling that they may know something the rest of us don’t yet know. i.e. that there is no real worry about having a Democratic administration or Congress in the foreseeable future; it’s all in the bag.
Mac, you’re again wrong.
When Clinton signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 1996 that you reference as an example of a signing statement issued by Clinton that declared a law unconstitutional, you leave out the rest of the story.
Clinton had vetoed an earlier version of the bill he signed that had the same language you mention that required “medically unwarranted discharge procedures for HIV-positive service members”. Yes, Clinton did issue a signing statment stating that this provision of the act that he did eventually sign was unconstitutional, and his signing statement did direct the AG to not defend it if challenged.
However, you fail to mention that Clinton then subsequently worked with the Congress to amend the legislation to correct the problem at hand, and was successful in doing so. This was a positive use of a signing statement to clearly, publicly signal to Congress that there was a constitutional problem with a piece of legislation it had just passed, then they worked together to fix the problem, and did. This was a better methodology for working with Congress than simply issuing a(nother!) veto for a large complicated act because of one small provision that was unconstitutional.
Clinton’s intent was not to subvert the rule of law, or ignore the law, but to make sure the law was constitutional, and he worked with a Republican Congress to make sure that happened.
Clinton did the opposite of what Bush #43 is doing, not the same thing. And, while I think signing statements should be abolished, in this case it was a positive use of the device.
Get your facts straight, Mac.
In principle, Mac, I agree. But in reality, you pick your political battles. As others have pointed out, there is no constitutional legitimacy to signing statements. I do think it is disingenuous of Bush to trumpet his signing of the torture bill whilst whispering that it doesn’t apply to him if he doesn’t want it to. I chalk up the general ignorance of that fact to a lazy press.
That signing statements have been fairly ignored up to now to me says that the content of the statements themselves have been *relatively* benign, or at least not worth fighting over [and this from a congress that would go after Clinton if he didn’t flush]. From the pdf file above, it appears to me (at least in the examples given) that Clinton’s signing statements came after bills had been vetoed at least once and veto negotiations were undertaken. That appears not to be the case in Bush’s case. Instead, he just ignores the parts he doesn’t like and signs them anyway.
I feel you when you say they’re either constitutional or not. In fact, I’ll go with “not” whether Clinton did it, Bush I did it, or fucking Zachary Taylor did it. That said, I just find it distasteful that we’re debating whether it’s constitutional that the President can sign an anti-torture bill and then declare himself exempt from it. We should be debating whether it’s fucking human.
I said “when they deem those laws to be unconstitutional,” they use signing statements, which is just plain historical fact. I know the Constitution doesn’t explicitly give the Prez the power to interpret the constitutionality of a provision, but that hasn’t stopped the Executive from claiming this right unfettered for 170 years.
Yes, it is a partisan issue. When Clinton uses that power, it’s Cricket City on the left, but when Bush does it, the ABA must have an investigation and moonbats start ragging on and on about impeachment.
But it’s not a partisan issue, right?
Again, I haven’t argued the rightness or wrongness of signing statements. I’m just saying that this has been going on for 170 years, and “the sky is falling” garbage like yours is just so much partisan drivel.
Also, was Clinton above the law, too, or just Bush? I’m confused when using the signing statements as a line-item veto means you’re a hero bravely standing against the Evil Newt and when it means you are Stalin or (gasp) Hitler.
Why do you bring up those guys? Murders have been going on for eons; the only difference is the numbers, right?
Only because it’s completely irrelevant. Had Congress not later worked with Clinton on a compromise bill, the “line-item” signing statement would’ve still altered the law of the land.
The HIV provision was never deemed by a court to be unconstitutional — Clinton was strong-arming Congress to make political points. So to say Clinton was only trying to “correct” the bill is showing your political stripes more than anything.
I guess if Congress returns a modified Torture/Terror Bill that gives Bush the powers he wants for the Executive, you’ll excuse Bush’s signing statements on those matters, and say the bill has been “corrected.” Sure, you will.
As is Bush’s, he would no doubt say.
Here’s a guide:
If you tell your AG to not defend discharging military personnel who are AIDS-infected even though it isn’t medically warranted, AND you then work with congress to fix this part of the bill you signed anyway because you knew the military needed funding and didn’t want to delay it further, you’re a hero.
If you sign a bill that claims that the US does not endorse torture after it passed 90-9 in the Senate, and use it to demonstrate how moral your administration is, and THEN you declare yourself exempt from it, you’re a scumbag.
Frankly, I would’ve thought that would beeen fairly self-evident, but apparently it’s quite confusing.
I think the argument actually being made here is that it wouldn’t have altered the law of the land. It would’ve been possible to challenge it in the courts anyway, no?
President Bush can do whatever he pleases. Article II, bitches. Signing statements are his way of telling hairy-palmed Republican congressmen to go rub one out while he actually runs the country.
As the head of the Executive branch, he’s the executator. The Presidenter. Gunna pound some Libs like he does Laura. Teach the Dems to bow down and reco-n’eyezee. 750 laws? 2 weeks worth, tops.
Now THAT’s funny.
Well, there’s a totally non-partisan reading of that episode! (The military would’ve been funded and the HIV provision unenforceable anyway even without the “compromise” bill)
Well, at least you didn’t say Stalin or Hitler!
Does your Constitution come in Republican, or just Democrat?
You’re sounding pretty defensive, Mac. “They deem” and the president deciding is a discintion without a difference. And then in one sentence you go from acknowledging presidents have no power to decide constitionality to apparently believing they have been doing it for 170 years. Which they have, in fact, not.
Not that it matters, but I’m not a partisan. I don’t belong to a party, and never have, and am 45 years old. I’ve voted both R & D, for offices national & local.
So for me this isn’t about partisanship. If you actually understood the massive power grab Bush is making perhaps you’d take a non-partisan view as well.
And, it’s silly to keep referencing “170 years” of history on signing statments. The use of the signing statement has changed in character and frequency, starting under Reagan, and then again under Bush #43, and this issue from a constitutional perspective should likely now be addressed.
Presidents of all parties have a long history of grabbing power when they can. Bush is just raising the stakes hugely.
Further and more broadly, Bush has made a massive power grab based on the theory of the “unitary executive’, and signing statements are just one part of the execution of his strategy to aggregate power so he can operate above or outside the law.
It’s wrong. It’s un-American. And it should be stopped.
One final thought on signing statements. I understand many Republicans today are of the “strict constructionist” camp, or say they are, and believe that if a power or right is not vested in the Constitution then it doesn’t exist. I wonder how signing statements, which don’t appear in the Constitution, would be viewed by strict constructionists such as Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and the like?
Perhaps Congress should use this issue surrounding the army field manual & the McCain legislation to put this question before the Supremes?
So a gang of trial shysters wants to call Bush a crook for exercising Constitutional powers. Big deal.
Look, Andrew Jackson started this whole signing statement thing. He was a Democrat, and I don’t recall anyone complaining about it until Bush, a Republican, came along. The Republicans have let the Democrats get away with this thing for 170 years; traditionally, the Democrats let the Republicans do it, too. But now, the Left has come down with such an awful case of BDS that they’ll abandon 170 years of traditional comity to go after a wartime President.
Of course, when Saddamites and sodomites take over one of the two parties in America, you’re going to get this sort of radical extremism in defense of tyrannical secular humanist/Marxist/Darwinist rhetorical gibberish.
But he doesn’t. Mac is a neo-nannystatist, and defers all consideration of governmental malfeasance in lieu of being protected from the evil terrorists. Anyone who questions what the government does is either a traitor, doesn’t understand the issue or is acting from a purely partisan standpoint (or all three). We’ll see how his views hold up when it’s a Democrat fighting the good fight.
Wrong. Monroe was the first.
That’s some good spoofy stuff, there.
It comes in American.
Do you objectively see no difference in the content of the signing statements, or just choose to ignore it because it fucks with your narrative of Democrats = Hypocrites, Republicans = Angels?
Seriously, are you arguing that the President saying he can exempt himself from the provisions in the Anti-torture bill are qualtitatively no different than the signing statements of Clinton, even if we’re prepared to stipulate that neither one of them are constitutional?
I will. And then I’ll push for someone to challenge the constitutionality of the law and hope to God the Supreme’s strike it down. Power, check.
I support the President on these signing statements. Terrorists will win if he is forced to follow the law.
The Other Steve
It’s interesting. That’s basically been the entire argument here put forth by those opposed to Mac.
But he keeps dodging the question. Instead claiming we can’t be outraged about it, because Clinton did it, while not confirming that he will not be outraged in the future.
This is really pretty typical of wingnut thought at it’s best.
Well, more than that, Mac is creating a false equivalence. There’s a difference between saying “I will enforce this, but will not defend it against legal action” and “I will not obey these strictures”. The former is checks and balances in aciton; the later is placing the Executive above the law.
WILL YOU STOP with the long words?
Why? Do you have something against erudite employment of sesquipedalianisms?
You’re damned right I do! As does every red-blooded American!
Besides, we have registration of sequipedalians in this country. Parents have a right to know where they are.
I do wonder about that. What happened if the Civil Rights Act and the rest of integration was passed but Eisenhower just decided not to enforce it? More generally, what happens if a President decides that, to hell with it, he’s not going to enforce the legislation that backs FEMA or he just up and orders the military to stand down until he says otherwise. How much power does the President have to NOT enforce a law?
I mean, I suppose the entire purpose of Impeachment and Censor and the rest is there in case a President does go off the deep end on this sort of thing. But then you’re just left with the problem that Congress won’t, in turn, do it’s Constitutional duty to hold the President’s feet to the fire.
Personally, I think that a President who ignores 750 laws on the books isn’t an Executive problem, it’s a wholescale government problem.
So you’re one of those minutemen who chase illegal juvenile sesquatches back out into the desert? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?
Mac B’s comments are worth reading and not as ridiculous as some make them out to be. Its always harder to defend a particular position than to criticize it since critics need not stay consistent or offer coherent realistic alternatives. Of course, this president may be making it more difficult than others would have made it.
Bottom line: if signing statements are bad then its not a new evil and conservatives didn’t complain when Clinton did it. Will they complain when Hillary does it? I suppose they will now.
You could make an argument in favor of signing statements since an executive might take the same positions less publicly.
At any rate, I don’t see the big dealio – presidents make statements all the time and are free to explain why they are signing something and what they intend to do in the future. Such statements should be evaluated case by case. If an executive states that s/he will not follow the law s/he’s signing, that seems worthy of criticism. (And questioning his or her reason for not vetoing.) But even that kind of a statement is hardly in the same category as, say, actually violating a law that’s been signed. (As opposed to the spirit most of the comments which seem to hold it might even be worse!)
It’s honestly too bad there are people who think like this. They are what’s wrong with our country. Ensuring the President has the power he needs to protect us is what Bush is all about. That’s why he needs to 1) wiretap our phones without warrants, 2) torture bad people, and 3) make signing statements that subvert so-called acountability statutes. Trust me because I trust him.
Yes, but not for the reasons you think.
The Bush Admin is gaming signing statements the same way it’s gamed everything else, by taking Executive Powers which were used rarely, or only in dire emergencies, and making them standard procedure.
Bushists say, “But we’re fighting terrorism!” or “But we’re fighting a war!” But terrorism isn’t a dire emergency, nor is a non-declared war against a country that didn’t attack us.
Christ on a coatrack, the Cold War wasn’t enough of a dire emergency to justify standard use of signing statements, or suspension of habeas corpus, or any of the extensions of power Bush has abrogated to himself.
I find it difficult to believe Bushists are really that scared of terrorism, much less that scared of Iraq.
In fact, based on the bunkum and humbuggery Bushists reveal every time they open their mouths or comment on a blog, that they’re not even that keen on Bush, per se. What they’re keen on is advocating the most egregious policies and actions they can think up purely for entertaining shock value. The fact that what they’re tearing down in the process are the institutions that have kept this country free and strong for over 200 years just adds to the thrill.
It’s the same thrill that the Romans must have felt when they burned the Library at Alexandria, that Napolean’s soldiers felt when they defaced the Sphyinx, and that other small-souled savages have felt all through history when they trash, for grins and giggles, something they lack the capacity to ever have built in the first place.
He needs to go all Kilo Company on his detractors. Show ’em who’s boss. Demonstrate his moxie, flex his hubris, flaunt his arrogance, and nail Condi while he’s at it. He’ll then rename it the State Deporkment. That’s what real men do.
They would have anyway, because they like to make it up as they go along.
Yesterday was ‘the rule of law’and today is ‘we need to break a few rules to keep you safe’, so who knows what tomorrow will bring?
So, on that basis, if soldiers from the local armory want to take over my house and live there, that is all fine and dandy with you.
After all, that old 3rd Amendment hasn’t been used in ages.
Who knew the Constitution was one giant sunset law.
The President. He’s such an
Say W00T for the third amendment. While you’re at it, say W00t for prison shower scenes. (With optional extra mating boobies.)
I think I’m going to start a non-profit: The Third Amendment Preservation Society. You never know when the Godless Liberals will attack the Third.
Listen to you guys, acting as if the President isn’t upholding the Constitution or something. Indeed, in this time of terror, he is the Constitution. Get used to it.
This whole billeting of strong, manly troops in your quarters sounds pretty gay, if you ask me. Or, alternately, like a very heterosexual Boy Scout camp out, if Darrell is there.
The Other Steve
Mr. Buckets hasn’t been particularly consistent in his defense of anything thus far. Why should this stop him now?
Thank god for options.
I wonder if that extends beyond US Citizenship. Can you board a US Soldier in an Iraqi house without the owners concent?
I’ve actually wondered that about alot of the Amendments and civil rights. Can, and should, these rights be extended to non-citizens? Logically, if the US is all about spreading American Democracy, and if we read Jefferson literally with the whole “all men are created equal” thing, we should in fact extend freedoms of speech, press, bearing arms, habeaus corpus, and the rest to every human our government interacts with. But then you end up having to extend these protections to terrorists.
Maybe we can just pass an amendment that declares terrorists as not human. That could solve alot of problems.
The next two years may well be remembered for two linked dramas playing out:
1, George W. Bush finally coming to terms with the fact he wasn’t elected monarch, dictator or even privileged character in charge, by a public that on further exposure to him has largely decided it doesn’t much like, trust or need him.
2, The U.S. public coming to terms with the realization its inattention to and disdain for politics and politicians, its penchant for going with whoever seems attractive and likable, coupled with being distracted most of the time, has left it with a sneaky, arrogant,lackluster turd for a national leader — uncomfortable circumstances for which there is no quick fix or instant relief.
I think the ‘all men are created equal’ thing is about nobody having a divine right to rule. We’re all the same and all have the inaliable right to life liberty and pursuit of happiness. Government was established to provide us the environment to freely exercise our rights. Government doesn’t grant us our rights we grant government its existence.
Sadly, most Americans are ignorant of the Revolutionary War history and politics and believe that the government gives us rights and, therefore, can take them away.
The thunderous sound you hear is Adams, Franklin, and Jefferson all spinning in their graves.
Yeah, but we had to solve that energy crisis *somehow*…
i love this, saying its okay cause andrew jackson did it. guess we should get on committing genocide against the indians any day now cause jackson did it way back when.
seriously, jackson was well known for asserting the power of the executive and ignoring the supreme court and the constitution. i guess there are parallels with george bush after all.
i figure buckets is long gone, as his fallacious comparison with clinton’s signing statements has been shown to be just that.
Actually, he’s probably gone because he used facts (something foreign to most people here) to bitch-slap ten different people and prove them wrong, and he probably got tired of the fact that every time he proved someone wrong, the reaction was to stick their fingers in their ears and go “la la la”.
Or, maybe he’s gone because, having made fools of all the nitwits that hang out here all day, he decided to get back to his job or his wife or his girlfriend or his LIFE. I realize most people that congregate here have none of those things, but some people do.
The US spent several years getting other countries to allow US not to recognize foreign law when it comes to the military. This is especially correct when it is the UN.
The article that mentioned the Republicans check laws,etc. to see it it dminishes the Presindent’s powers may have something to do with the retired government employees getting mad.
OK, maybe that’s 3-4 Republicans who still read this site.
I have yet to see Mac ‘prove’ anything; wake me when he does–bucket boy has an acute allergy to facts, as the above discourse shows–the facts pile in, and *poof*, he disappears!
Actually, he’s probably gone because he used facts (something foreign to most people here) to bitch-slap ten different people and prove them wrong, and he probably got tired of the fact that every time he proved someone wrong, the reaction was to stick their fingers in their ears and go “la la la”.
Or, maybe he’s gone because, having made fools of all the nitwits that hang out here all day, he decided to get back to his job or his wife or his girlfriend or his LIFE. I realize most people that congregate here have none of those things, but some people do
well, his ‘clinton did the same thing’ was proven completely wrong, cause clinton didn’t do the same thing. and his ‘jackson did it too’ was proven to be completely inane, since well, the dude used the power we’re complaining about bush using in order to commit genocide, a genocide that the US is still ashamed of to this day. mac: 0. everybody else: 2
it looks like, as usual, the facts have a liberal bias in this case. mac’s attempts to cloud the issue with false equivilences, as well as your creepy attempts to suck up to the guy nonwithstanding.
I have yet to see Mac ‘prove’ anything
yep. he did posit that a previous president did the same thing, and when asked for proof offered a half-assed attempt to read history completely out of context. and when that was revealed, he vanished.
Right. Because he was so spot on with his quip about how the Constitutional mandate of Congress being the only branch of government with the ability to declare war was antiquated and quaint.
Let me know how many soldiers you are being forced to house in your own home against your will, McNulty.
As widely predicted, terror status soon to move up to mauve:
Terror coming soon
Remember, we’re safer now.
By the way, John C., kudos on this post.
OK, this is off topic but perhaps worthy of it’s own thread.
Today is 6/6/06 and
ACLU backs student’s singing of Christian song
Surely the end times are near!
How terribly convienient.
The Other Steve
LOL! You made me spit my tea all over the keyboard.
That’s a good one. BWAAAHAHAHA!
The guy who refused to provide links, and then attacked me for not providing a link, when I clearly did, and then started saying “la la la” to the points I quoted from the link…
You project much, young Skywalker.
Are we talking late October, or early November?
Thanks for clearing that up.
Ding Ding Ding! Get that person a cookie!
To all the no-lifers who expect me to be available 24/7 to correct their silly errors and Swiss-cheese, know-nothing rhetoric all freaking day, sorry to disappoint. And to the cowards like Pb who wait until I’m clearly off the board to come and pile on with your weak insults, desperate lies (other steve), and third-grade snark, you might do well to emulate me and get a wonderful life.
What we’ve learned so far:
1) The original question John raised is a silly hypothetical, mainly because we don’t need a hypothetical.
2) The GOP passed “the Clinton test” by remaining consistently indifferent about signing statements used to nullify provisions of signed law (or even note that possibility exists) under Clinton and Bush.
3) The Dems failed “the Bush test” by snoozing through 170 years of “unconstitutional” Presidential signing statements used to nullify provisions of signed law, but typically wadding panties over Bush’s — granted Bush has issued more, but if was constitutional for anyone to do once, it must be constitutional for someone else to do it 1000 times. So John was right to worry about hypocrisy, but he just got the players reversed because he didn’t know his history.
4) Is using signing statements good or bad? From the comments here, the consensus seems to be that it can be either, depending on if the President is doing something you personally like. This is why any attempt to “investigate” by the ABA is bound to fail. This issue is clearly just another in a series of partisan horses for the left to ride into the ground.
5) Who wrote this, defending the right of Presidential signing statements?
“The president has enhanced responsibility to resist unconstitutional provisions that encroach upon the constitutional powers of the Presidency. Where the President believes that an enactment unconstitutionally limits his powers, he has the authority to defend his office and decline to abide by it…”
Answer: Walter Dellinger, Clinton’s Assistant AG, 1993.
Well, Mac, since you couldn’t stay away…
Your defense of Bush may be “logical,” but is ultimately unconvincing because you refuse to acknowledge not only the troubling frequency of Bush’s use of signing statements–something you brush off as though it didn’t really matter–but also the *areas* in which Bush has so prominently applied these statements–areas involving constitutional rights and our fundamental values as a nation.
Yours is really the more reflexive argument, in that you defend Bush’s behavior in the face of widespread, bi-partisan concern over the lengths to which Bush has gone to extend his executive powers at the expense of transparency and proper oversight. Your “history lesson” is an exercise in the obvious which no one familiar with the issue disputes, and it doesn’t address the issue in any substantive way.
I think you exactly make the point John anticipated: While that little Crackerjack prize might feel good in your pocket just now, you may not be so happy when someone snatches it away in the future.
I would add that your triumphant quoting of Dellinger’s defense of signing statements does nothing to support your position. The appropriateness and/or legality of signing statements is nowhere in dispute. The question is: When does the excessive use of signing statements become 1) a substitute for proper legislative practice; or, worse, 2) a de facto refusal to acknowledge the limits of presidential authority.