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The Collective
Thursday, October 12, 2006
By Dr. Steven Taylor

In commenting on my post from earlier today on signing statement, Matthew Shugart observes

What is the big deal about a president claiming a bill is unconstitutional? The big deal is that if the president really believes that provision of a bill are unconstitutional, he has a right–no, a duty–to veto the bill. In our system, that means the entire bill. He has no constitutional right to sign the bill and then claim that parts of it are not binding on the executive branch, for any reason. [emphasis his]

That is something that I talked around in my post, but did not directly say.

Really: when one thinks about it, it is an especially odd behavior on the part of President Bush, that he would feel the need to regularly object to laws that he is signing, and object because he believes that the law is curtailing his ability to protect and defend the United States. However, if he truly believed that was true, why not just veto the bill and tell Congress to do a better job? Either he believes that Congress won’t do what he asks (which is odd, given that, as Matthew notes, this Congress has been quite compliant) or he knows that what he wants to do is potentially objectionable, so better to address in an obscure and nebulous way (i.e, via signing statements). Neither interpretation speaks all that well of the President’s character-because either he knows is he is doing something wrong (the latter interpretation) or he doesn’t have the courage of his convictions to truly fight in public for what he believes in (the former interpretation). A third interpretation, which isn’t pretty either, is that he is egotistical enough to think that what he is doing is right, so the heck with the Congress and anyone else who objects.

Any other possibilities?

And another question to the strict constructionists in the audience: how can mainstream conservative jurisprudence allow for this interpretation of signing statements and presidential power that this administration seems to have?

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1 Comment

  1. It’s a stealth (or it was stealth) campaign to increase executive power-it’s the so-called “unitary” (really, unilateral) executive conception that has been around in certain GOP quarters since at least the 1980s, and which Alito and other GOP judges subscribe to. This is not Congress vs. President. It is the ideological core of the GOP (and its affiliated interest groups) against all else.

    Some parties (and the interests they represent) really do prefer a model in which legislation only sets broad parameters and the executive has the discretion to implement as he sees fit.

    That is, the explosion of the use of earmarks and the explosion of the use of signing statements are two sides of the same coin: A legislature involved more in pork than in policy detail, alongside a unilateral presidency.

    (This is the theme I have developed over the last 11 months in my “Executive powers” posts.)

    Comment by MSS — Friday, October 13, 2006 @ 9:49 am

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