If the President Signs It, That Means It Is Not Illegal

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Jesse Walker's foe (if only for a couple hours last night) James Bovard has a comprehensive piece on President Bush's use of "signing statements" up at the American Conservative.

Americans may have to wait many years to learn what the rule of law meant in 2006. The truth may be suppressed until Bush's aides begin publishing their memoirs or until the Supreme Court has a change of mood and decides that the executive branch is not entitled to boundless secrecy. In the meantime, don't count on the legislative branch to right the balance: Bush has encountered almost no effective resistance in his own party to his power grabs. One Republican senator recently told author Elizabeth Drew: "We've got to hang with the president because if you start splitting with him or say the president has been abusing power we'll all go down." Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, recently denounced criticism of the NSA warrantless wiretapping as "insulting" to the president, Drew reported. Apparently, some prominent Republicans believe that the president cannot be criticized even after he admits breaking the law.

Jacob Sullum touched on this issue last month, and Matt Welch had a longer take back in January.

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  1. Apparently, some prominent Republicans believe that the president cannot be criticized even after he admits breaking the law.

    Wouldn’t the president actually have to admit breaking the law for this to be an accurate conclusion?

  2. I would ask why James Bovard hates America, but that’s already been asked so many times it’s futile at this point.

  3. The inclusion of the word “republican” in the name of that party is becoming more and more ironic with each passing day.

    Remember when “republican” meant “opposed to monarchy and its variants?” Contemporary Republicans seem to believe that the President has the powers of a king when it comes to matters of national security, and that the President has both initial and final say as to when something is a matter of national security.

    Real “republican,” fellas.

  4. 914 days till we have a new president…

  5. One Republican senator recently told author Elizabeth Drew: “We’ve got to hang with the president because if you start splitting with him or say the president has been abusing power we’ll all go down.”

    A Conservative without a conscience.

  6. Ooops!

    A conservative without a conscience.

  7. crimethink,

    if you’re optimistic, impeachment would make the term shorter.

  8. And if you’re pessimistic, who’s to say there will be another election?

  9. And if you’re really pessimistic, who’s to say that the next guy elected won’t be even worse than Dubya.

  10. and if you’re a realist, you know the next president will be either the same or worse.

  11. This whole situation is exposing a deep flaw in our constitution – namely that the constitution counts on a system of checks and balances between the three major branches of federal government. However, in the current situation, party loyalty is more important than branch affiliation. As a result, we’re losing controls on executive authority. Our system just doesn’t deal with political parties well. I’m starting to wish that we had a parliament.

  12. “We’ve got to hang with the president because if you start splitting with him or say the president has been abusing power we’ll all go down.”

    What happens when everyone realizes that the emperor was naked, toots? …and that you-know-who was going on about his amazing new clothes?

  13. We can hang together or hang separately. Actually I wouldn’t mind if Bush had the same powers as the Queen of England.

  14. Maybe I should attach a “signing statement” to my tax return next year, explaining that I’ll interpret the tax code in a manner consistent with the limits on government as outlined in the Constitution. Which means I’m not paying a dime.

  15. crimethink,

    We just need about twenty million taxpayers to do the same thing: “Sorry, no liberty, no payee.”

  16. I wish with all my heart that we could elect a new President tomorrow. I am unable to be a pessimist, thinking that we could do worse. Had ANY non-Republican candidate been elected, he/she would at least been held in check by congress.

    As it is, I must settle for doing my best to encouage a completely new slate in the mid-term elections. That, at least, appears to be entirely doable at this point.

  17. I agree with APL. Hopefully the November elections put the President in check.

  18. “Apparently, some prominent Republicans believe that the president cannot be criticized even after he admits breaking the law.”

    To which Huh responds:

    “Wouldn’t the president actually have to admit breaking the law for this to be an accurate conclusion?”

    I don’t know if Huh has read the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act; if not perhaps he should. The act is explicitly directed at interceptions of communications one end of which is in the U.S., involving terrorists or foreign enemies, and sets up procedures for intercepting such communications. It makes interception that does not follow those procedures–i.e. without a warrant from the FISA court–a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. It also makes the use of information obtained by such interceptions a felony with the same punishment.

    Bush has publicly admitted to using information that he knew was obtained by such warrantless wiretaps. That makes him an admitted felon.

  19. Is your middle name really “Director?”

    If so, do the other anarchists tease you about it?

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