Grabbing All The Power You Can, While You Can

Posted by Dan Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Since I promised you all more snark...

See, no matter how badly the United States government performs, In four years time... maybe eight if we're really unlucky, the balance of power will shift. We'll have a new leader, new policies, new priorities. Every four years we upset our leadership without firing a shot. That is why The United States is the greatest country on the planet. But...

What happens when the current leader decides he wants more than what we gave him when we elected him? What happens when he decides to start looking out for his own best interests and not ours like he's supposed to?

So, there's quite a few things that are bothering me about this president, (and I do mean above and beyond the way he was elected into office this term.) I'd heard rumours that President Bush has a nasty habit of attaching signing statements to legislation he's passed, little McNuggets of presidential wisdom that state in no uncertain terms his interpretation of the new law. He's certainly not the first president to do this, but...

There's a really frightening article from the Boston Globe here that details President Bush's penchant for interperative law. The scariest part of this article is the dastardly amount of times he states that the law in question applies to everyone but him.

President Bush has set himself up as the ultimate interpreter of the U.S. Constitution. He has taken upon the office of the Presidency, the bailiwick that that very same constitution reserves for the U.S. Judicial System. Every schoolchild in the U.S.'s poorly funded educational system knows how the three branches of government are divided and what the job of each branch entails. (Okay, you're right, stop laughing so hard. You'll start breaking furniture.)

Just so we're all clear here (because obviously our current President isn't) I'll break it down for everybody. The legislative branch of our government which consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives, makes the laws. The executive branch which consists of the president, the vice president, and the presidential cabinet are there to enforce the laws. The judicial branch which is made up of the federal courts system, including the U.S. Supreme Court, are there to interpret the laws. It's the job of the judicial system to determine whether or not a law works within the framework of our constitution. It's the job of our judicial system to decide to whom the law applies, not the President's.

Bush is the first president in modern history who has never vetoed a bill, giving congress no chance to override his judgements. 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.

This is a president who feels it's necessary to use sychophantic duplicity to work around laws crafted by a congress that is currently controlled by his own party.

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.

All of these signing statements are available for anyone to read in the federal register. The globe article goes on to cover some of the more frightening ones.

This President obviously feels that he is above the law. With a Republican controlled congress, and a predominately conservative Supreme Court, is there no one willing to tell him no? Obviously not, because he's done this with more than 750 laws during his one and a half terms in office. With no one willing to tell him no (even the "liberal media" buried this story) shame on him, and shame on us for setting him up to be able to do this in the first place. Oh wait... that's right, we didn't. Kinda makes a good case for getting rid of that whole antiquated electoral college doesn't it.

5 comments

  1. Laura Says:
  2. I guess my question is this: How the fuck is it LEGAL for a president to attach signing statements of this nature, and are they enforceable and binding (and constitutional)?

    "Every four years we upset our leadership without firing a shot. "

    If only this were really true. It's getting harder and harder to tell the parties apart. Republicrats are taking over both parties to the point where we will have a defacto dictatorship soon.

    "What happens when he decides to start looking out for his own best interests and not ours like he's supposed to?"

    In most countries - upheaval. Unfortunately, we Americans (and I include myself in this group) have grown too complacent to let someone else make decisions for us. It's too much work to actually understand the world outside of 30 second sound snippets.

    As Jello Biafra once said:

    "If the Communists can do it, why can’t we? Throw the bastards out and try some real Democracy.

    Run rot by rich people. Run not by military people. Run not by sons of senators sons of senators sons of senators sons.

    Have you noticed the more they dole out Democracy over there, the more they take it away over here?"

     
  3. Dan Says:
  4. Well, since nobody has ever challenged him on any of these, I'd say yeah, they're legal to a point. The signing statement is there so that when the federal bureaucracy gets the law, they have a guideline on how the presidential office wants that law enforced. Thomas Jefferson was notorious for doing this same thing, so Bush isn't the first President to use this tactic.

    It's too much work to actually understand the world outside of 30 second sound snippets.

    I have a new theory that any media story that isn't constantly drilled into our heads through continual 30 second sound snippets for at least three weeks, qualifies as supressed.

    Communism... hmmmm nice idea on paper, not so much when you factor in human nature.

    Have you noticed the more they dole out Democracy over there, the more they take it away over here?

    My biggest gripe about trying to force feed "Democracy" to Iraq is that these people don't want it. Freedom, yes...a strong working economy, you betcha... democracy is an alien concept to most Iraqis, and not a concept most of them are comfortable with. We should be setting up a benevolent dictatorship, or a Monarchy. That is something the Middle East understands. Look how well it works for Saudi Arabia. They don't have a democracy and they function just fine.

     
  5. Miranda Says:
  6. Well, I don't agree with everything you've said, but it is nice to see someone objecting to the president's policies while still speaking positively about our democracy.

    The reason we need a judicial branch is because, if laws are unclear, people will read them in different ways. Presidents (not only the current one - almost every one from the time of justice Marshall), tend to try to read laws in the way that is most convenient for them. This is not always the best thing, but it isn't always the scariest thing in the world either. If a president steps over his limits, congress can write new limits and fix the loopholes. If legislation is passed that should not be, judges can rule against it. We do still have a system of checks and balances.

    A president may interpret a law in a way that it should not be interpreted, but this does not mean his interpretation is the offical one.


    Meanwhile, I'm not sure the problem with the president never vetoing a bill is a problem because it cheats congress out of a chance to overrule his veto. Congress has a chance to say what it wants before it ever gets to the president. The problem is not that the president has too much power, it is, if anything, that congress does.

    Communism doesn't even seem to me to be a nice idea on paper. It was always meant to be a dictatorship. Those usually don't work well.

    One could also argue that
    Democracy works just fine for us, so they ought to have democracy.

    I don't much like the idea people have that democracy can't work for the middle east. It seems rather racist to me. Our government was created out of an idea that all men were created equal. If we truly believe that, how can we go about saying dictatorships (benevolent or not) are the best answer for some and not others?

    Okay. I'm jumping all over the place here, so I had better stop until I've had some rest and can think clearly.

    But thanks for an enjoyable post.

     
  7. Laura Says:
  8. Actually, that quote refers to the overthrow of the oppressive communist regimes in Europe - RE if they can do it, why can't we.

    Communism doesn't work, it's been tried. Human beings are too self serving for it to work (and I include myself in that statement).

    I like your media theory.

    As for monarchy working well for Saudis, that's debateable. It works well for the royals, I'll give you that one.

    There are no Islamic countries with democracies, and I think that is a very telling thing. The reason is you can't have a country ruled by the laws of humans when you believe the laws of God to be superior and passed down by divine revelation. Problem is, these divine laws have been interpreted and re-interpreted by people wanting particular political powers for themselves.

    There is no separation of church and state in these countries. SOme can argue that that wall is being torn down here as well (I think it is). You can't have our form of democracy when the laws of humans contradict the "laws" of God.

     
  9. Tom Cullen Says:
  10. This President obviously feels that he is above the law.

    Damn straight he does. He’s been brought up as American Royalty. You only need to be bailed out of trouble so many times, be handed power so many times, before it starts going to your head. I don’t blame the Boy King for some of his behavior during his reign…I think he seriously believe he’s doing the right thing. (Then again, I know some middle-eastern pilots that also felt that way…)

    With a Republican controlled congress, and a predominately conservative Supreme Court, is there no one willing to tell him no?

    How strongly do you feel about it? Right now, enough people are comfortable saying “not my problem” that those who DO say no aren’t able to build up momentum. Any severe anti-war or anti-Bush press is muffled to a reasonable volume by the masses, those with boys on the front, and if you REALLY raise your voice, well, that’s what the Patriot Act is for. I hate to say it, but Dubya will probably be out of office before we see people starting to take to the streets for his decisions…and by then, it’ll be some NEW president being blamed, endowed with too much power that was never his idea to begin with.
    Then again...who knows. Maybe I'm a cynic.

     

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Dan
Im an essayist, critic, online blogger, short story writer and to borrow a descriptor from Peter David, "Writer of stuff." I love all things pop culture related: Music, Movies, Comics, Books, Politics... if you can label it I probably have an opinion about it, and I love to argue. All informed opinions are welcome here.
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