May 1, 2006

A Fine Point of American Democracy.

President Bush is using a quaint trick to limit the scope of hundreds of laws that the Congress passes. That is the upshot of this nice article.

In short, this is what happens.

When the Congress passes a law it goes to the President for ratification and his signature is necessary for that law to come into effect. When he signs the law, the President issues a signing statement, which is essentially his views on the law. In these statements Bush has repeatedly rejected provisions of many bills and strongly asserted his constitutional right to interpret them any way he wants.

While these statements technically do not change the content of the laws, they are a very potent weapon in two ways.

1. Presidential statements are deemed very highly by the federal bureaucrats who are charged with the implementation of the laws. Often they look at President's interpretations to resolve any ambiguity, and in such cases may be contradicting the intention of the Congress.

2. When a legal dispute arises in the implementation of the law, often courts look at the debate and testimony, and the law's history to interpret what Congress meant. When there is a presidential statement it becomes an important document in court's deliberations. Thus it is an extremely effective tool for the president to ensure the court pays attention to what he thinks.

President Bush has challenged more than 750 laws since taking office. To put this in historical context, here is what happened with his two predecessors.

George Bush Sr: 232 laws challenged in 4 years.
Bill Clinton: 140 laws challenged in 8 years.
George Bush Jr: More than 750 laws challenged in 5 years.

Here are some of the examples.

Congress: US can't torture its prisoners.
Bush: No, we can if I, as commander-in-chief, think it works.

Congress: Justice department must keep the Congress updated on how it's using the Patriot Act.
Bush: Nope, I can stop Justice dept from giving any information if I feel like it.

Congress: The Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and its contractors may not fire or otherwise punish an employee whistle-blower who tells Congress about possible wrongdoing.
Bush: Nice try. I, or my cronies, will determine whether one can give info to the Congress.

Congress: US troops can't fight rebels in Colombia.
Bush: Are you kidding me. I will say when we can or can't fight.

Congress: Defense department lawyers can't interfere with the ability of military lawyers to give independent legal advice to their commanders.
Bush: Nothing doing. All military lawyers have to follow legal conclusions reached by the administration's lawyers in the Justice Department and the Pentagon when giving advice to their commanders.

More such examples can be found here.


At 3:01 PM, May 04, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These "examples" are biased and bullshit.

At 3:04 PM, May 04, 2006, Blogger JackCrackerMan said...

The sad thing is, even with all this crap that bush has done... he is still getting away with it. Everyone talks crap about Bill Clinton but all he did was get a blow job in the privacy of his office. I think this guy should get the same treatment for trying to ass rape the entire nation.

At 8:24 PM, May 04, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Anonymous guy who said that the examples were biased and bullshit is full of shyt himself, he doesnt know anything that bush is doing, hes only following Bush cuz his mom is Bush's HOE, tahts right bytch, learn to read, so you can start reading headlines. Ya dumbass.

At 9:50 PM, May 04, 2006, Blogger Krishna said...

Anonymous1: I will be interested in some evidence in support of your pronouncements.

Jack: It amazes me too that there is at least no intense public dismay over his behavior.

At 11:10 PM, May 04, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The issue is that the MSM (main stream media) is partly to blame for the severe lack of information/coverage of such stories.

I mean what did we hear about the Steven Colbert keynote speech on Saturday? Next to nothing. I'm not saying he handed it to Bush, I'm just saying that the biggest surprise at the Correspondent's Dinner was a Bush impersonator? Give me a break.

This type of story can get easily twisted into whatever viewpoint you want. I disagree with the examples, but you have to look at the hard facts. The fact that Sr. signed 200 and Clinton signed 140 vs 700+ is staggering and a little more than frightening.

At 7:59 AM, May 05, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While the examples are essentially true, the author has oversimplified them to some extent (they boil down to that with all things taken into account, but they do not directly say it). Either way, it is best to do research on the documents yourself.


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