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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bush Throws Another Log Onto the Pyre of his "Legacy"

By Michael Linn Jones

Ever notice how a word or phrase starts to creep into the language? In listening to Rudy Giuliani endorse Sen. John McCain yesterday, I heard a phrase that has become disturbing. Even more disturbing, it passed by without comment.

Giuliani said that John McCain was the best-qualified candidate to be “the Commander-in-Chief of the United States.” Call me crazy, but I thought the Constitution specifies that the President is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the United States.

I’ve argued for several years now that the semantic placing of the presidency with the word “commander” is a leap into the abyss of strongman rule. It is, in essence, no different than those dictatorships that exist around the world, where the people, like children, need a strong father (or mother) figure to take care of them.

So I come across this in the Boston Globe: Bush asserts authority to bypass defense act.

WASHINGTON - President Bush this week declared that he has the power to bypass four laws, including a prohibition against using federal funds to establish permanent US military bases in Iraq, that Congress passed as part of a new defense bill.

Bush made the assertion in a signing statement that he issued late Monday after signing the National Defense Authorization Act for 2008. In the signing statement, Bush asserted that four sections of the bill unconstitutionally infringe on his powers, and so the executive branch is not bound to obey them.

“Provisions of the act . . . 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,” Bush said. “The executive branch shall construe such provisions in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President.”


The Bush administration is negotiating a long-term agreement with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The agreement is to include the basing of US troops in Iraq after 2008, as well as security guarantees and other economic and political ties between the United States and Iraq.

The negotiations have drawn fire in part because the administration has said it does not intend to designate the compact as a “treaty,” and so will not submit it to Congress for approval. Critics are also concerned Bush might lock the United States into a deal that would make it difficult for the next president to withdraw US troops from Iraq.

Obviously I am not an expert in Constitutional law, but it confuses me when someone swears an oath to “faithfully execute the laws of the United States” but then says he’s not going to execute a law of the United States because it would interfere with his ability to faithfully execute a law of the United States. Perhaps I need to further my education, and to borrow a phrase from President Bush, Citizens does learn.

Problem is, the learning curve is sharp and irreversible. This goes way beyond George W. Bush. I have argued with supporters of Bush that this is a constitutional issue, not a political one. Yet in today’s America, the two have become one.

I also was not aware that a president is empowered to declare laws to be unconstitutional. I thought that was what the courts were for. And, that if a president disagrees with a law passed by both chambers of Congress, he or she is granted a veto by the constitution.

This particular signing statement is bogus, and one doesn’t need a law degree to see why. In the statement President Bush says that he needs the latitude he demands in order to “protect national security.” There are laws in existence…been there for decades…that require a careful monitoring of who enters the United States. Yet in over seven years Bush has ignored those laws because they conflict with an agenda that he has never really spelled out.

What IS clear is that in less than one year a new president will be in office, inheriting all of the expansion of executive power vacuumed up by George W. Bush.

Is is said that we “are a nation of laws, not men.”

George W. Bush’s legacy will be proof that the opposite is true.

Originally posted at

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