Another signing statement rears its head

There are probably a few riders on the R8 train this morning wondering about the crazy girl muttering under her breath in disgust as she read the newspaper (my apologies to the poor guy in the trench coat who had to sit next to me, by the way. Although I suspect the regular riders are used to this behavior by now). The headline on the article that prompted my reaction? “Bush asserts power to edit privacy files; He reserved the right to alter data on Homeland Security’s activities.” The law that Congress passed stated, according to the article, that “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.”

But Bush, in one of those now-infamous signing statements, said that he would interpret that section “in a manner consistent with the president’s constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch.”

The position of Chief Privacy Officer (CPO) of the Dept. of Homeland Security is already a weak one. It was created in 2002 to serve as a watchdog over the agency to ensure that privacy was protected in the face of various anti-terror surveillance programs. However, they didn’t give the officer subpoena power. She or he is essentially limited to begging for information.

Nonetheless, the president found it necessary to make sure he could serve as a filter between the CPO and Congress – despite the fact that Congress explicitly included in the law the requirement that no one aside from the CPO had the authority to edit the annual report on privacy.

Will Congress stand up to the president’s blatant attempt to usurp its power? Sadly, I doubt it.

Sara in Philly

8 thoughts on “Another signing statement rears its head

  1. Isn’t it a circular argument Bush keeps using?

    He says that he can do what he wants to within his constitutional authority, but then says *as president* he gets to decide what that constitutional authority is.

    It’s like he isn’t even *pretending* that there are other parts of the government put in place to stop this kind of abuse.

    Someone, anyone, any party… why won’t anyone stand up to him?

  2. I heard today that Bush signed the bill strengthening FEMA. A key provision that Congress included was that that any appointee to head FEMA must have at least five years of emergency management experience, something which Michael Brown wholly lacked. Bush issued a signing statement (and I’m paraphrasing here) saying that such a limitation left him with too small a pool of qualified candidates and that he’d ignore it. He signed the bill with appropriate ceremony during the day to make all the newscasts that night, but issued the signing statement after 8:00 PM so that it would miss the evening newscasts and the morning papers and be buried, if mentioned at all, in later editions. Bush’s hypocrisy just reeks.

  3. Keanus (or anyone), do you have a link to illustrate your post? (Note: I’m not saying it’s untrue… would only like to read more about that, please. Thanks in advance.)

    I think that if there is one word that shouldn’t be used to describe the President or his actions is hypocritcal (or its variations). For he has been wholly consistent throughout his post-Sept 11th presidency in picking and choosing what he believes is best for America and America’s safety and disregarding all else. There may be disagreement about his choices, but he’s hardly wavered. Whether his actions are unconstitutional are another matter entirely.

    Anyway, this just illustrates my point about distrusting all politicians. (Anyone who wants to run a country is not someone who should be running a country.)

    FEMA is a joke. The HSD is a farce. America is no more secure today than it was pre-Sept 11th. We have only lost more personal freedom and allowed the government to intrude further into our daily lives. In a free society–and we’re still mostly free for the time being–it is impossible to totally prevent criminal acts and terrorism. These are the risks we must live with if we are to remain free. There will always be bad people who wish to hurt us for any number of reasons. And sadly, they will succeed eventually. It is inevitable. We all wish it were not so, but it truly is so.

    Unless of course we allow ourselves to become a fascist state where there is no longer any personal freedom, and the government (under the guise of protecting its citizens from harm–much like the Soviet era) can do what it wishes. I do find it highly ironic that Republicans always fought to limit the Federal government’s power while Democrats typically sought to increase it. Now, it’s completely reversed. I suppose that this former conservative idealogy has changed since the Republicans control the House and Senate.

    We really need a better system than what we presently have. Our rights have all but disappeared since the Republicans have become the majority. (I wonder how or if things might have been different if America had a Democratic President and majority in the House and Senate when Sept 11th happened.) Perhaps we should abolish the party system entirely… In these modern times it is perhaps no longer required, and it may in fact be a hindrance to getting things done. On the other hand, the lack of a party system may create even more chaos and nothing would get done.

  4. Bush is standing up for “his” branch of the government. Isn’t he supposed to do that? The idea that Congress might enact a law that uncostitutionally limits his legitimate power as chief executive is not an unreasonable concern. Telling us he is concerned is not unreasonable either.

    If he violates a law sue him. Let the SCOTUS decide if the law is constitutional or not.

  5. I remember the big deal when Bush finally *used* a veto. I guess it makes sense now… why veto the whole thing when you can rewrite the laws yourself and not worry about pesky things like the Constitution. Especially when you can make a public showing of how you support the law before you privately gut it when you’re alone in the dark.

    Should we all pitch in and send a copy of the “Schoolhouse Rocks” DVDs to Mr. Bush so he can review how bills become laws?

    And of course, we have many, many people who don’t see anything wrong with the President making himself the ultimate authority. Let’s not forget the SCOTUS *has* found things that Bush has done illegal.

    Unfortunately, rather than having anyone with the guts to take him to task, the lapdogs and spineless opposition in Congress just try to make the illegal acts retroactively legal.

    Even my young son knows that if there are no consequences for bad acts, there’s no reason to stop doing them. Someone needs to spank Bush. Hard.

  6. RE: Shouldn’t He Veto It?

    Yes, that is a good point. And, CongressCritters shouldn’t vote for laws that they do not reasonably expect will pass constitutional muster.

    HOWEVER, if he does sign it, then “interprets / enforces it consistent with his understanding of his constitutional powers”, I assume that it could still be taken to the supream court. Is that not the case?

  7. Bidge, I don’t have the link handy, but googling it should be easy. There is a site where one can find the entire texts of Bush’s signing statements, including the most recent. As you might expect they are couched in unbelievably convoluted legal language crafted by White House (or more likely Cheney’s lawyers, since he and his acolytes are the source of the unitary executive nonsense) and very difficult to read. But Bush’s intent is clear. He means for nothing—even a bill passed by Congresss—to restrain him from doing what he wishes.

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