Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Bringing down the New Imperial Presidency

Democrats in Congress are starting to look at the Bush administration's dubious use of signing statements, according to McClatchy's Washington bureau:
"One has the distinct feeling that this is really a policy debate," said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the committee's ranking Republican. "If critics of signing statements agreed with the president on policy, we simply would not be here today."

Some legal experts disagree, saying that Bush's assertion of this arguable executive authority undercuts Congress and enhances the power of the president beyond the limits set by the Constitution.

"The potential for misuse in the issuance of presidential signing statements has reached the point where it poses a real threat to our system of checks and balances and the rule of law," said Karen J. Mathis, president of the American Bar Association. The ABA approved a resolution last August condemning the way Bush uses signing statements and their frequency.
When Democrats talked during the election about reviving the Congress to perform its Constitutional role, this is a good example.

You simply cannot allow the president to take duly passed laws and re-define them as he sees fit. Republicans can put whatever fancy language they want on it; "unitary executive" basically means "monarch."

The American people will not accept unlimited executive authority.

Doubtless the administration and its supporters will try to spin this as some kind of huge national security issue, but nobody is arguing that a president cannot respond to immediate threats. Really, we've been here before with the so-called Imperial Presidency of Richard Nixon. Same song, same twisted Nixonian movement. In many cases the same people.

Ultimately, we have to drive a stake through the heart of Nixonism once and for all in this country. To be clear, there will always be some small percentage of people who are perfectly willing to throw the Bill of Rights out the window, but hopefully that position will become politically untenable.

The simplistic idea that "if you're not hiding anything you don't have anything to worry about" shouldn't (and doesn't) cut it. Anyone with even a basic knowledge of the Bill of Rights knows it doesn't exist to protect the majority, it exists to provide protection against abuse of government power.

There are signs that some Republicans are starting to stand against the New Imperial Presidency. We applaud that development and hope more individuals and groups, whether inside the GOP or not, will join in questioning and exposing the blatant misuse of signing statements by this administration.

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