Saturday, May 06, 2006

When the president's word is law

Glad to see this story get some legs. The NYT editorializes on the Boston Globe's piece about Bush's signing statements. It adds its own strong condemnation of our power hungry president and reminds me that I didn't address the Alito connection in my earlier post. From the editorial:
The founding fathers never conceived of anything like a signing statement. The idea was cooked up by Edwin Meese III, when he was the attorney general for Ronald Reagan, to expand presidential powers. He was helped by a young lawyer who was a true believer in the unitary presidency, a euphemism for an autocratic executive branch that ignores Congress and the courts. Unhappily, that lawyer, Samuel Alito Jr., is now on the Supreme Court.
I said from the beginning that Roe v. Wade was a red herring and the wrong litmus test to be using to raise objections to Alito's confirmation. I raised the alarm then about the unitary executive theory but no one listened. No one believed then, what I've been saying for at least three years. This is a malovelent administration bent on creating a fascist dictatorship and they're willing to go to any lengths to destroy our democratic form of government. It doesn't sound so far fetched now, when you consider this.
Since the Reagan era, other presidents have issued signing statements to explain how they interpreted a law for the purpose of enforcing it, or to register narrow constitutional concerns. But none have done it as profligately as Mr. Bush. (His father issued about 232 in four years, and Bill Clinton 140 in eight years.) And none have used it so clearly to make the president the interpreter of a law's intent, instead of Congress, and the arbiter of constitutionality, instead of the courts.
Now the price for our "opposition" party's complacency will become apparent. If the Democratic Party manages to flip control of the legislative branch and bring the presidential excesses before the courts, it seems certain Alito will rule in favor of a power grab which he authored himself. Here's hoping he's not very persuasive behind the chamber doors or that distant sound you'll be hearing will be the gears of our system of checks and balances grinding to a halt.
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