Sunday :: Apr 30, 2006

Bush Believes He Is The Law

by Mary

Laura Rozen points to a stunning article in the Boston Globe on just the extent Bush is going in stating only he can say what laws are valid. In their investigation, Bush has claimed the right to ignore or refine 10% of the laws that he has signed. No wonder he has never vetoed a bill: because he believes he can arbitrarily and unilaterally change the bill he just signed. Folks, we don't live in a country that is governed by laws anymore.

David Golove, a New York University law professor who specializes in executive-power issues, said Bush has cast a cloud over "the whole idea that there is a rule of law," because no one can be certain of which laws Bush thinks are valid and which he thinks he can ignore.

"Where you have a president who is willing to declare vast quantities of the legislation that is passed during his term unconstitutional, it implies that he also thinks a very significant amount of the other laws that were already on the books before he became president are also unconstitutional," Golove said.

Defying Supreme Court Bush has also challenged statutes in which Congress gave certain executive branch officials the power to act independently of the president. The Supreme Court has repeatedly endorsed the power of Congress to make such arrangements. For example, the court has upheld laws creating special prosecutors free of Justice Department oversight and insulating the board of the Federal Trade Commission from political interference.

Nonetheless, Bush has said in his signing statements that the Constitution lets him control any executive official, no matter what a statute passed by Congress might say.

In November 2002, for example, Congress, seeking to generate independent statistics about student performance, passed a law setting up an educational research institute to conduct studies and publish reports "without the approval" of the Secretary of Education. Bush, however, decreed that the institute's director would be "subject to the supervision and direction of the secretary of education."

Similarly, the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld affirmative-action programs, as long as they do not include quotas. Most recently, in 2003, the court upheld a race-conscious university admissions program over the strong objections of Bush, who argued that such programs should be struck down as unconstitutional.

Yet despite the court's rulings, Bush has taken exception at least nine times to provisions that seek to ensure that minorities are represented among recipients of government jobs, contracts, and grants. Each time, he singled out the provisions, declaring that he would construe them "in a manner consistent with" the Constitution's guarantee of "equal protection" to all -- which some legal scholars say amounts to an argument that the affirmative-action provisions represent reverse discrimination against whites.

Golove said that to the extent Bush is interpreting the Constitution in defiance of the Supreme Court's precedents, he threatens to "overturn the existing structures of constitutional law."

A president who ignores the court, backed by a Congress that is unwilling to challenge him, Golove said, can make the Constitution simply "disappear."

This method of expanding Presidential power was first thought of in Reagan's administration by a young Samuel Alito.

Under Meese's direction in 1986, a young Justice Department lawyer named Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote a strategy memo about signing statements. It came to light in late 2005, after Bush named Alito to the Supreme Court.

In the memo, Alito predicted that Congress would resent the president's attempt to grab some of its power by seizing "the last word on questions of interpretation." He suggested that Reagan's legal team should "concentrate on points of true ambiguity, rather than issuing interpretations that may seem to conflict with those of Congress."

...But the current President Bush has abandoned the veto entirely, as well as any semblance of the political caution that Alito counseled back in 1986. In just five years, Bush has challenged more than 750 new laws, by far a record for any president, while becoming the first president since Thomas Jefferson to stay so long in office without issuing a veto.

"What we haven't seen until this administration is the sheer number of objections that are being raised on every bill passed through the White House," said Kelley, who has studied presidential signing statements through history. "That is what is staggering. The numbers are well out of the norm from any previous administration."

Of course, Bush, being Bush, decided that he no longer has to be restrained by any such worries. He and he alone is the decider.

Bush's enablers see no harm because he's just sayin', you know. You can trust him to not abuse this power he's grabbed.

Defenders say the fact that Bush is reserving the right to disobey the laws does not necessarily mean he has gone on to disobey them.

Of course not. He would never do anything like that unless it was really, really important. And because he's the decider, he gets to figure out when that is.

It is clear that Bush, in his arrogance is destroying our form of government. Because his rubber-stamp Congress is too sensitive to his perogatives, they are helping him do this. History will show that unless we find a way to stop him, there will be nothing left of our Representative Democracy except an empty shell.

Bruce Fein, a deputy attorney general in the Reagan administration, said the American system of government relies upon the leaders of each branch "to exercise some self-restraint." But Bush has declared himself the sole judge of his own powers, he said, and then ruled for himself every time.

"This is an attempt by the president to have the final word on his own constitutional powers, which eliminates the checks and balances that keep the country a democracy," Fein said. "There is no way for an independent judiciary to check his assertions of power, and Congress isn't doing it, either. So this is moving us toward an unlimited executive power."

What laws we live under will be whatever he says they are. And if he can "disappear" the Constitution, what else can he "disappear?"

Mary :: 9:17 AM :: Comments (17) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!