in spite of progress, the tragedy continues…

Posted on Tuesday 29 January 2008

President Bush yesterday signed the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act after initially rejecting Congress’s first version because it would have allegedly opened the Iraqi government to “expensive lawsuits.” Even though he forced Congress to change its original bill, Bush’s signature yesterday came with a little-noticed signing statement, claiming that provisions in the law “could inhibit the President’s ability to carry out his constitutional obligations.” CQ reports on the provisions Bush plans to disregard:

  1. One such provision sets up a commission to probe contracting fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  2. Another expands protections for whistleblowers who work for government contractors.
  3. A third requires that U.S. intelligence agencies promptly respond to congressional requests for documents.
  4. And a fourth bars funding for permanent bases in Iraq and for any action that exercises U.S. control over Iraq’s oil money.
In his Memorandum of Justification for the waiver, Bush cited his Nov. 26 Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship between Iraq and the United States. This agreement has been aggressively opposed by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress as not only unprecedented, but also potentially unconstitutional because it was enacted without the agreement of the legislation branch.

This is the Signing Statement:

Today, I have signed into law H.R. 4986, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008. The Act authorizes funding for the defense of the United States and its interests abroad, for military construction, and for national security-related energy programs.

Provisions of the Act, including sections 841, 846, 1079, and 1222, purport to impose requirements that could inhibit the President’s ability to carry out his constitutional obligations to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, to protect national security, to supervise the executive branch, and to execute his authority as Commander in Chief. The executive branch shall construe such provisions in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President.

January 28, 2008.

Since coming into office, President Bush has issued 151 Signing Statements. They’re all the same, really. They essentially say that he’s not going to uphold any law passed by Congress that in any way limits his powers. It’s a legal argument – part of something called the Unitary Executive Theory. Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe won a Pulitzer prize for his work on Signing Statements. It’s apparently the brainchild of John Yoo and David Addington, the duo that brought us Torture and other odious things.

While the legal harangues are tortured, the truth of the matter is that it comes down to belief in our system of government, and acting in good faith. To the Bush Administration, such considerations are immaterial. They so twist and turn the Constitution and its meanings that it becomes unrecognizable. Congress is either unable or unwilling to do anything about this state of affairs. In practice, about the only thing they could do is impeach President Bush and Vice President Cheney – a move that’s beyond justified based solely on these Signing Statements, not to mention a lot of other things. But there’s no viable move for Impeachment. Probably the single most important issue on the table in America is why not impeach Bush and Cheney? Why are people not running all over each other’s feet to institute articles of impeachment, whether Bush and Cheney would be convicted by the Senate or not?

I do not know the answer to that question…

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