The Bush administration daily bombards Americans with hyperbole about the "inherent powers" of the president. With each new act the president predicates on these mythical powers, their destructive consequences expand.
Recently, the president indicated in a "signing statement" that he would disregard four provisions of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act which, he claimed, "could inhibit the president's ability ... to execute his authority as commander in chief." One provision forbids expenditures "to establish any military installation or base for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq." Another requires intelligence agencies to turn over to congressional committees "any existing intelligence assessment, report, estimate or legal opinion." A third creates a commission to investigate mismanagement, waste, and excessive force by contractors operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. And the fourth provides protection for whistle-blowers working for government contractors. Defiance of Congress--and of the Constitution--so blatant requires that the legal record be set straight.
The Constitution provides that "The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States." This does not grant limitless authority. Rather, constitutional "executive Power" consists of those powers explicitly delegated to the president, and created in the "Laws" that Congress enacts "for carrying into Execution the ... Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof."
Inasmuch as "All legislative Powers ... granted [by the Constitution] shall be vested in a Congress of the United States" and "Congress shall have Power ... to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution" the president's powers, the president enjoys no lawmaking power. The president cannot add to or subtract from his constitutional or statutory powers or duties by proclamations, executive orders, directives, "signing …