Byline: William T. Robinson III, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
President Obama recently issued his 20th presidential signing statement, this time to an addendum to the sprawling National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2012. The president notably took issue with provisions that deal with the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists.
Regardless of how onerous the president finds the detention language, his use of a signing statement to ignore the clear intent of Congress runs counter to the constitutional obligation he has to take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed. That is not to say that Mr. Obama is obligated to accede to every whim of Congress. Rather, this president - like every other president who objects to language in legislation enrolled by Congress - should exercise the wholly constitutional authority he has to veto a bill.
This is not a constitutional issue born in the current administration, nor is Mr. Obama the most prolific issuer of signing statements. In 2006, the American Bar Association (ABA) created the blue-ribbon Task Force on Signing Statements and the Separation of Powers Doctrine to examine the history and consequence of a practice the task force ultimately concluded was contrary to the rule of law. The task force found that American presidents have used signing statements to disregard or decline to enforce laws perhaps as far back as James Monroe. All the combined signing statements in the first 200 years of our republic, however, pale in number and consequence to those issued since.
On the campaign trail in 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama chided President George W. Bush for his reliance on signing statements, saying, That's not part of his power, but this is part of the whole theory of George Bush that he can make laws as he goes along. Noting his background in …