Reject The Bush Signing Statements: Vote! genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Reject Bush

George Bush and Dick Cheney believe that in the aftermath of the resignation of Richard Nixon, the power of the executive branch was unreasonably diminished. From the outset of their election to office, they have systematically sought to amass those authorities they believe were lost in response to the scourge known as Watergate as well as to use the constitution to position the executive branch above the oversight of the Congress.

Two new articles provide the latest examples of the Bush administration's actions in that regard. The Boston Globe reports on the latest signing statement that was issued by the White House in which it challenges many of the provisions of newly passed Homeland Security legislation. The Associated Press provides an in depth discussion of the Bush administration's position that the signing statements allow him to function "in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch."

From The Associated Press:

WASHINGTON - President Bush, again defying Congress, says he has the power to edit the Homeland Security Department's reports about whether it obeys privacy rules while handling background checks, ID cards and watchlists.

In the law Bush signed Wednesday, Congress stated no one but the privacy officer could alter, delay or prohibit the mandatory annual report on Homeland Security department activities that affect privacy, including complaints.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said it's appropriate for the administration to know what reports go to Congress and to review them beforehand.

"There can be a discussion on whether to accept a change or a nuance," she said. "It could be any number of things."

The American Bar Association and members of Congress have said Bush uses signing statements excessively as a way to expand his power.

The Senate held hearings on the issue in June. At the time, 110 statements challenged about 750 statutes passed by Congress, according to numbers combined from the White House and the Senate committee. They include documents revising or disregarding parts of legislation to ban torture of detainees and to renew the Patriot Act.

Privacy advocate Marc Rotenberg said Bush is trying to subvert lawmakers' ability to accurately monitor activities of the executive branch of government.

Frankly, the practice is really an adjunct to what has become known as neoconservatism...which in general terms is an authoritarian approach to conflict...primarily with regard to foreign policy. Nonetheless, in order to act upon the chosen foreign policy objectives that are at the core of the neocon mindset, it requires ample latitude and significantly limited oversight on the part of Congress. To fully appreciate the depth of the convictions held by this group, one needs some historical background. Thought Theater has previously provided those details in this posting. Suffice it to say that many members of the Bush team have been connected in their neocon beliefs and a desire to implement them for decades.

Additionally, in what one can only characterize as a strange conflation of events, 9/11 provided the necessary catalyst for the implementation of the neocon agenda. While there are indications that the Bush administration was actively pursuing the possibility of unseating Sadaam Hussein prior to 9/11, there is no doubt that its occurrence assured the ability of the neocons to execute that portion of their agenda and opened the door to a host of further opportunities. One can only imagine how rapidly all the dots were connected.

As if that isn't sufficiently troubling, another factor needs to be introduced into this equation. It is well known that George W. Bush felt his father had made a number of mistakes that led to his defeat in 1992 by Bill Clinton. Additionally, Thought Theater has previously written about the potential psychological factors related to this less than perfect father/son relationship and drawn some important comparisons between Richard Nixon and the younger Bush. In simple terms, both Nixon and George W. Bush feared political defeat and it became the prevailing motivation behind many of their decisions.

One cannot underestimate the significance of the fact that a number of George W. Bush's closest advisors and appointees cut their political teeth during the Nixon years and they also served during the presidency of the senior Bush. The degree and depth of the ideological and psychological alignments of these individuals is remarkable and history will undoubtedly explore the manifestations of these influences and the associated policy implications that ensued.

Lastly, one must also include the life journey of George W. Bush in the equation. His unsavory and less than idyllic early years of struggling with his own personal demons, coupled with his eventual embrace of strong evangelical beliefs must be considered when looking at his near blind conviction that fate has placed him in his position and chosen him to confront the challenges the world now faces. It cannot be repeated often enough that when this President was asked if he consulted his father about the issues he must address, he stated that he consulted a higher father. That said; can there any doubt that he is able to justify a signing statement?

From The Boston Globe:

Bush signed the homeland-security bill on Wednesday morning. Then, hours later, he issued a signing statement saying he could ignore the new restrictions. Bush maintains that under his interpretation of the Constitution, the FEMA provision interfered with his power to make personnel decisions.

The law, Bush wrote, "purports to limit the qualifications of the pool of persons from whom the president may select the appointee in a manner that rules out a large portion of those persons best qualified by experience and knowledge to fill the office."

The homeland-security bill contained measures covering a range of topics, including terrorism, disaster preparedness, and illegal immigration. One provision calls for authorizing the construction of a 700-mile fence along the Mexican border.

But Bush's signing statement challenged at least three-dozen laws specified in the bill. Among those he targeted is a provision that empowers the FEMA director to tell Congress about the nation's emergency management needs without White House permission. This law, Bush said, "purports . . . to limit supervision of an executive branch official in the provision of advice to the Congress." Despite the law, he said, the FEMA director would be required to get clearance from the White House before telling lawmakers anything.

Bush said nothing of his objections when he signed the bill with a flourish in a ceremony Wednesday in Scottsdale, Ariz. At the time, he proclaimed that the bill was ``an important piece of legislation that will highlight our government's highest responsibility, and that's to protect the American people."

What I find significant in this signing statement is the total disregard for what was intended behind the bills personnel guidelines with relation to FEMA. Clearly, Congress was seeking to address the Katrina debacle...one that many feel resulted from the President's appointment of his crony, Mike Brown, to direct the organization. Brown's conduct in performing his duties proved to be an embarrassment to the administration and an outrage to the millions who watched as many of the people of New Orleans were left to struggle in desperate conditions for days.

The signing statement essentially suggests that the efforts of Congress to address the issue are meaningless and that their attempt to exert oversight over the executive branch would be rejected. In my moments of cynicism and sarcasm, I view these signing statements as the proclamations of one who believes he is divinely guided and as such, the suggestions and observations of mortal men are ceremonially accepted...but then summarily ignored. The arrogance cannot be overlooked.

From The Boston Globe:

Bush's remarks at the signing ceremony were quickly e-mailed to reporters, and the White House website highlighted the ceremony. By contrast, the White House minimized attention to the signing statement. When asked by the Globe on Wednesday afternoon if there would be a signing statement, the press office declined to comment, saying only that any such document, if it existed, would be issued in the "usual way."

The press office posted the signing-statement document on its website around 8 p.m. Wednesday, after most reporters had gone home. The signing statement was not included in news reports yesterday on the bill-signing.

Senator Susan Collins, a Republican from Maine and chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, who has been one of the harshest critics of FEMA's performance during Katrina, yesterday rejected Bush's suggestion that he can bypass the new FEMA laws.

Georgetown Law School professor Martin Lederman said Congress clearly has the power to set standards for positions such as the FEMA director, so long as the requirements leave a large enough pool of qualified candidates that the White House has "ample room for choice."

"It's hard to imagine a more modest and reasonable congressional response to the Michael Brown fiasco," said Lederman, who worked in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel from 1994 to 2002.

Perhaps the most telling fact of all is that the President has only vetoed one bill during his six years in office...and that bill was related to stem cell research. He likely vetoed it because it was so narrow that he would be unable to subvert its intention with a signing statement. Nonetheless, the significant point is that he has determined that he needn't address the laws being passed by Congress under the constitutionally prescribed process...that being to either sign them into law or to veto them.

In writing his signing statements, he frequently cites his constitutional authority...a move intended to circumvent the risks of the veto process in order to act as he chooses despite the passage of law. Were he to veto some of these laws, he runs the risk of having his veto overturned...thereby not permitting him to act in opposition to law...which he is currently doing through the signing statements. At last count, the President has used the signing statements to act in opposition to some 800 laws. The strategy is effective so long as Congress fails to challenge his authority. Additionally, should Congress elect to challenge the President, it could initiate a conflict that may well expand into a full scale constitutional crisis.

I find it ironic and hypocritical that this is the same President who routinely accuses the judicial branch...including the Supreme Court...of judicial activism...a concept characterized to be expanding the interpretation of the constitution beyond its original intent. The fact that he justifies his own activist signing statements simply demonstrates his ideological bias and his willingness to manipulate the constitution in order to achieve whatever serves his agenda.

He has perfected the art of attaching his erosion of the constitution to his efforts to protect the country from terrorism. He has anesthetized many within the country to what would otherwise be met with outrage as a full-scale assault on our long established civil liberties. He has held the loyalty of politicians within his Party by proving that he and his cohorts have constructed a constituency they can maintain and manipulate in order to hold and amass further power. In that success, he has also precluded internal dissention because there hasn't been a viable alternate equation for victory.

As we approach the midterm election, I cannot help but draw one last comparison to the Nixon years. Bob Woodward was instrumental in the toppling of Richard Nixon and his attempts to amass absolute power at the expense of the principles upon which this country was founded. Mr. Woodward has written a new book called "State of Denial" that was just released. The book is also viewed by many as an indictment of this President.

Unfortunately, the comparison to the Nixon years begins to deviate at this key juncture. Before Richard Nixon resigned, the outrage was palpable and it was profound. Yes, there were apologists...but they were overwhelmed by the inherent decency found in the American public. Nixon's actions were viewed as the antithesis of democracy...and that perspective wasn't unique to Democrats...it was an American belief and it held that Nixon's actions diminished all of us...but more importantly they threatened who we were and what we stood for. His removal wasn't a victory for Democrats...it was a victory for Americans.

We have little more than a month until we will once again have an opportunity to speak for the values and principles that make us who we are and what we stand for. The actions of George W. Bush have divided us one from the other...they have undermined our democracy and they have weakened our constitution...but change is within our grasp...the system that has sustained us is once again available to reject those who seek to separate us from that which is most precious...remaining true to all that makes us Americans. It is time to be heard.

Daniel DiRito | October 6, 2006 | 10:42 AM
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Comments

1 On October 11, 2006 at 8:39 PM, Sonja Mitchell wrote —

Reprofitans vs. Demorats. Hard choice; however, a Demorat sweep would at least interrupt the corrupt inertia of the past 6 years. It is time the people divided and conquered their own governance. With a new balance in DC, we will have two years to find a solid, honest, and pro-people independant to elect for president. Is Ross Peirot still available? Ross, can you hear me?

Thought Theater at Blogged

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