Eviscerating the Law Bush's Misuse of Signing Statements
Byline: Nat Hentoff, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
This president has made it clear that his signing a law passed by Congress does not necessarily mean that he will enforce it. In the unprecedented number of "signing statements" he has attached to new statutes before sending them to the Federal Register, President Bush dismisses those laws he believes erode his ever-expanding view of his powers.
This particular expansion of presidential powers overriding the intent and powers of Congress is, says the American Bar Association, "of great consequence to our constitutional system of government and its delicate system of checks and balances and separation of powers." Agreeing, Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has held a hearing on "signing statements." The ABA decided to call public attention to these unilateral disruptions of our rule of law because of the extraordinarily diligent research on Mr. Bush's signing statements by one reporter, Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe evidence that a lone journalist can rise above the quicksand of the 24-hour news cycle and make a significant difference.
In one of his probes, Mr. Savage revealed that Vice President Dick Cheney and his chief of staff, David Addington, are Mr. Bush's chief architects for these wholesale expansions of presidential powers.
Mr. Savage notes, "The Bush-Cheney administration has used such [signing] statements to claim for itself the option of bypassing a ban on torture [the McCain amendment]; oversight provisions in the revision of the Patriot Act and numerous requirements that [the administration] provide certain information to Congress." Also, "In October 2004, five months after the Abu Ghraib torture scandal in Iraq came to light, Congress passed a series of new rules and regulations for military prisons. Bush signed the provisions into law, then said he could ignore them all."
What especially stuns me: "One provision made clear that military lawyers can give their commanders independent advice on .. what would constitute torture. But Mr. Bush declared that military lawyers could not contradict his administration's lawyers." These are the Bush lawyers in the Justice and Defense departments who have so badly advised the president on such issues as torture since 2002 as to alarm our allies and cheer our enemies who use these lawyers' definitions of permissible torture as ways to recruit jihadists. …