The President Often Intends to Obey the Law

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Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on President Bush's promiscuous use of "signing statements" to indicate that he will obey acts of Congress only when he feels like it. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Michelle Boardman testified that such finger-crossing weasel words–which Bush much prefers to the more forthright (and clearly constitutional) veto, a tool he has never used–are "not an abuse of power." Sometimes the president has no particular contingency in mind, she explained, and is just trying to anticipate unconstitutional applications of a law that might arise in the future. "It is often not at all the situation that the president doesn't intend to enact the bill," she said. But usually it is? With reassurances like this, who needs anti-Bush hysteria?

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  1. Don’t worry – the Republicans in Congress will vigorously defend the Constitution, as well as their own oversight and legislative powers, and they will vigorously use their oversight power to…..

    BWAHAHAHAHA! Damn, I thought I could type that with a straight face. Guess not.

    Of course, if he were to get a blowjob from an intern, that would be serious enough for them to do something about….

  2. Put me down as a libertarian/conservative Republican who knows that this administration is outa control. Non-adherence to our constitution is quite non-conservative.

  3. Personally, I prefer this line :

    Defending Bush, a Justice Department lawyer said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks had made it prudent for the president to protect his powers with signing statements more than did his predecessors.

    “Even if there is modest increase, let me just suggest that it be viewed in light of current events and Congress’ response to those events,” said lawyer Michelle Boardman. “The significance of legislation affecting national security has increased markedly since Sept. 11.”

    I guess that on 9/11, the true target was the power of the Executive branch and that Bush is thwarting terrorists by expanding the authority of the Executive in this way.

  4. Nixon’s imperial presidency was less so than this one, and I voted for Bush both elections.

  5. “‘It is often not at all the situation that the president doesn’t intend to enact the bill,’ she said.”

    Did a committee write this sentence?

  6. Hey, lay off of Michelle Boardman. She’s just doing her job. In real life, she’s a libertarian (used to post at the Volokh Conspiracy). Oh, and she looks like this:
    http://www.law.gmu.edu/faculty/bio.php?fac=8

  7. “In real life, she’s a libertarian ”

    Now that’s funny.
    Libertarian…real life…that’s just rich…really rich…

  8. Steve wrote: “Oh, and she looks like this:
    http://www.law.gmu.edu/faculty/bio.php?fac=8

    Oooh, I like! Any chance she might be up for a little girl-on-girl action with that State Department hottie whose picture was posted here a few months ago?

  9. Do signing staements even have any force of law? If he signs the bill it’s signed, no matter what he writes in the margin, and is the law.

  10. “Do signing staements even have any force of law? If he signs the bill it’s signed, no matter what he writes in the margin, and is the law.”

    They don’t appear to have any weight at all. All they are is evidence of premeditation of lawbreaking. Of course such evidence is ignored by the “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” legislature.

  11. “Do signing staements even have any force of law? If he signs the bill it’s signed, no matter what he writes in the margin, and is the law.”

    They don’t appear to have any weight at all. All they are is evidence of premeditation of lawbreaking. Of course such evidence is ignored by the “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” legislature.

  12. There was a useful article about signing statements several months ago in Slate : http://www.slate.com/id/2134919/

  13. DOES IT REALLY MATTER WHAT MICHELLE BOARDMAN LOOKS LIKE?????

    srsly.

  14. Do signing staements even have any force of law? If he signs the bill it’s signed, no matter what he writes in the margin, and is the law.

    The theory is that they are a species of legislative history, just like the House and Senate committee reports accompanying a bill, which are written by staffers and are read by next to none of the Members of Congress who actually vote on the bill, but which are deemed to indicate the intent of those same Members.

  15. Thanks, Peachy, for the link to the January 2006 Slate story, which ends, “These declarations promote a view of the law that may have no merit in the courts but may never have the chance to be resolved there in the first place.” The pragmatics are frightening, since non-enforcement of the law doesn’t seem to give you a hook onto which to hang a legal challenge.

    To Rick Barton: You’re right. If conservatives were truly conservative, they’d have some reverence for the Constitution and the rule of law. (I.e., they’d be libertarians.)

    Let’s remind ourselves that these tiffs between Bush and Arlen Specter, et al., are not about our rights, they’re a turf war over which branch of government has the proper authority to violate them. Specter was a proponent of the flag amendment. His proposed revisions of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act would weaken our constitutional protections. The Republican agenda to “codify the American character” includes (unconstitutionally, as far as I can see) barring any court from hearing any legal challenge involving the Pledge of Allegiance. And the list goes on.

  16. Richard-

    I have no illusions that members of Congress who fight for turf are doing so for the sake of our liberty. But just as the baker feeds us out of selfishness rather than benevolence, so too the turf wars keep the government in check because the public officials are power-hungry rather than benevolent.

  17. Mr. Steven Crane:

    ya aprntly.

  18. I’m a gridlock man myself, Thoreau. Unfortunately I don’t think it will work very well with a stacked judiciary, the White House and Congress occupied by the same party, and a president who doesn’t obey the law anyway.

    Others please note: When someone Googles “Michelle Boardman blowjob” this page will come up.

  19. “that State Department hottie whose picture was posted here a few months ago?”

    That would be Janelle Hironomous: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/63020.htm

  20. Sorry, her surname should be spelled “Hironimus”.

  21. New wording of the Oath of Office:

    Do you faithfully swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States,if you feel like it?

  22. DOES IT REALLY MATTER WHAT MICHELLE BOARDMAN LOOKS LIKE?????

    Of course it does. And it always will.

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