January 2006


The "Imperial Presidency" is not new with Bush, but this administration has taken it to new heights. Considering how anti-American and anti-democratic this is, I wonder why more Conservatives don't object.


  1. Senator McCain proposes an anti-torture bill.
  2. The McCain legislation receives widespread support.
  3. Vice-President Cheney warns that this legislation will harm our ability to conduct the "War on Terror."
  4. President Bush says that if the bill comes across his desk, he will veto it.
  5. President Bush proposes Alito for the Supreme Court.
  6. The McCain bill comes across his desk and President Bush signs it, but appends a "Signing Statement" that basically undermines the authority of the bill.

What is this "Signing Statement?" When the President, or other executive (governor, mayor), signs a piece of legislation, they can append a statement stating what they consider the legislation to mean. In practical terms, this signing statement instructs government agencies how they should implement the new law. For example, if the Senate and the Congress together make a bill that makes giving tobacco products to children a form of child abuse, the President may choose to sign it, but interpret this bill to mean only selling cartons of cigarettes to children under the age of eight. Government agencies would then be told to selectively enforce this law and not to prosecute anyone for giving a ten year old a box of cigars.

President Bush signed the anti-torture bill. In his signing statement he claimed that the intent of the legislation was that in ordinary circumstances it would be illegal for the government to torture people, but that it was perfectly legal for the government to torture people provided that the President told them to do this torture.

I think this makes a mockery of the anti-torture legislation. It is as if we had a law that said it was illegal to prevent someone who is legally entitled to vote from voting, and the President signed it, but said he could specifically exclude anyone from voting who he thought might be a threat to national security. He could then decide to prohibit Jews or Quakers from voting because he thought their voting would jeopardize national security.

If the President can sign any piece of legislation and then thumb his nose at the legislature, and require the judicial branch to back up his contempt in the courts, we have negated most of the Constitutional checks on the Executive Branch. Why have a Senate? The only thing missing is for George W to appoint his favorite horse as a Senator.

What's this got to do with Samuel Alito, whom George W nominated for a place on the Supreme Court? Judge Alito has written extensively on the "right" of the executive branch to "protect national interests" even when this means ignoring or directly disobeying the explicit instructions of the legislative branch. The only way the legislative branch can really challenge the executive branch is when the judicial branch helps reign in the executive - as the Supreme Court did to FDR about the WPA program. Alito represents the Bush administration's attempt to pack the court and prevent this from happening.

The members of the current Administration have a long history of anti-Constitutional activities. Some of you will remember the Iran-Contra affair. In this scenario, the Reagan administration asked the Congress to fund the Right-wing revolutionaries in Nicaragua (Contras), who were engaged in a terrorist campaign against the legally constituted (and elected) government(Sandanistas). Congress said "no." So, various members of the Reagan administration (George Bush Sr., Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz...) arranged for a shady arms deal where the US sold arms to Iran, through several intermediaries, and the proceeds of the sale funded the Contra terrorists and paid most of the expenses of the US armed forces providing the Contras with tactical and logistical support. If the buck stops with the President, then President Reagan ought to have been impeached and removed from office, whether he knew about this illegal activity or not.

Somebody needs to tell these people that above all others, it is the people in the government who must have a commitment to obey the law. The highest law of our land is the Constitution. When members of the executive branch thumb their noses at the legislative branch, they're thumbing their noses at the Constitution. When they break the law by cynical, self-serving "interpretation" of laws as applying to everyone but themselves, they are circumventing the Constitution.

I always thought that the most ardent Conservatives were the most rabid for a fundamentalist interpretation of the Constitution. I keep waiting for these right-wing advocates of Truth, Democracy, and the American Way to kick up a big stink over the Administration's unconstitutional behavior. Any President who intentionally ignores and circumvents the authority of Congress and the Senate deserves to be impeached and removed from office. Why is no one in government calling for this elementary action to help preserve our Constitution?

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