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


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.