Tuesday, May 02, 2006

How Does Bush Get Away with Disobeying Laws?

America is fundamentally broken. I'm pretty confident the cause lies somewhere between money and apathy. It's impossible to say which of these two powerful forces contributes more to the stifling of America's liberties.

Wanna get angry? Read Charlie Savage's Boston Globe column entitled "Bush Challenges Hundreds of Laws."

The article is an expose disclosing how "President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution."

Sadly, no one seems to care -- not the public, nor the Congress, not even the courts.

The scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty 'to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.' Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to 'execute' a law he believes is unconstitutional.

Far more than any predecessor, Bush has been aggressive about declaring his right to ignore vast swaths of laws -- many of which he says infringe on power he believes the Constitution assigns to him alone as the head of the executive branch or the commander in chief of the military.

Many legal scholars say they believe that Bush's theory about his own powers goes too far and that he is seizing for himself some of the law-making role of Congress and the Constitution-interpreting role of the courts. Bush and his legal team have been quietly working to concentrate ever more governmental power into the White House.

Bush is the first president in modern history who has never vetoed a bill, giving Congress no chance to override his judgments. Instead, he has signed every bill that reached his desk, often inviting the legislation's sponsors to signing ceremonies at which he lavishes praise upon their work.

Then, after the media and the lawmakers have left the White House, Bush quietly files 'signing statements' -- official documents in which a president lays out his legal interpretation of a bill for the federal bureaucracy to follow when implementing the new law. The statements are recorded in the federal register.

In his signing statements, Bush has repeatedly asserted that the Constitution gives him the right to ignore numerous sections of the bills -- sometimes including provisions that were the subject of negotiations with Congress in order to get lawmakers to pass the bill. He has appended such statements to more than one of every 10 bills he has signed.

The statements serve as public notice about how the administration is interpreting the law. But, the documents are being read closely by one key group of people: the bureaucrats who are charged with implementing new laws. Lower-level officials will follow the president's instructions even when his understanding of a law conflicts with the clear intent of Congress. Years down the road, people will not understand why policy doesn't look like the legislation.

Congress can check a president who goes too far. But oversight gets much reduced in a situation where the president and Congress are controlled by the same party. Bush has essentially said that "We're the executive branch and we're going to carry this law out as we please, and if Congress wants to impeach us, go ahead and try it." Although the president is daring Congress to act against his positions, they're not taking action because they don't want to appear to be too critical, given that their own fortunes are tied to the president's because they are all Republicans.

A president who ignores the court, backed by a Congress that is unwilling to challenge him, can make the Constitution simply 'disappear.' The American system of government relies upon the leaders of each branch 'to exercise some self-restraint.' But Bush has declared himself the sole judge of his own powers, and then ruled for himself every time. This attempt by the president to have the final word on his own constitutional powers, which eliminates the checks and balances that keep the country a democracy, is moving us toward an unlimited executive power.


Anonymous Robert Pearson said...

I agree with you 100%. I was so inspired by your commentary I fired off an email to Huffington Post imploring them to recruit you for publication on their site, or at least refer to your site.

Here is my letter---

Some very interesting commentary at Jeff Tash's Blog---


I recommended to Jeff in a comment on his Blogs that he needs
to be published on the Huffington Post. I do not know him
personally. That is just my opinion.
You may feel otherwise and Jeff may be like the proverbial
horse, "You can lead them to water but you can't make them
He seems to have a very strong mind of his own.

I would like to know what Bill Maher thought of Stephen
Colbert's unscheduled "roast" of former President and
now, self anointed, King George.

I thoroughly enjoy the outrageous Dr. Peter Rost.
Love the pictures!
Keep up the good work!

I answered my own Bill Maher question---

[Begin very long URL]
[End very long URL]

Applause, applause. And now, ladies and gentlemen, the bone-dry satire
of Stephen Colbert.On the phone Wednesday, Bill Maher, host of HBO's
"Real Time With Bill Maher," didn't express much interest when asked
if he was going to talk about the Colbert debate on his show tonight.
Nor had he seen Colbert's appearance, though he could intuit it as
another corporate date in which the edgy comic invariably ends up
offending the very folks who brought him in to lend edginess to an
otherwise politically correct evening.

Maher appeared at the correspondents dinner during the Clinton years
and vaguely recalled running afoul of the comedy police for a joke
about then-Texas Sen. Phil Graham's wife.

"I remember sitting in my backyard with 'Access Hollywood,' or whoever
it was," he said.

This week, it was the Web that crackled. Still, as Maher sees it, the
rules of engagement — lend us a panache of cool, make us laugh, but
don't offend us — haven't much changed.

"I'm telling you," Maher said of the dinner, "they should get a juggler."

Sometimes Bill can be too subtle. Sometimes you spend a lot of time
looking for the subtle message and it is not there. I guess he does not
have an opinion he wishes to share. I think it is professional jealousy.

Now if you could only get Andrew Marlatt to contribute to Huffington
Post. Andrew is the guy who created and ran SatireWire until the political
insanity got personal. He claims "burnout" because the insanity was no
longer ridiculous or even ludicrous. It was too frighteningly real.
Those guys believed what they were saying and doing.


Anybody know what happened to "Freedom of expression?".


1:32 AM  

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