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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 10, 2009 1:52 PM. The previous post in this blog was The same, but not exactly. The next post in this blog is It's Leo Fender Day. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Another Obama letdown

Signing statements. Sheesh.

Comments (20)

I never understood the shock and horror over Bush's signing statements. Of course they were ridiculous -- like so much of his presidency -- and they went beyond any reasonable interpretation of the president's authority. But to me it was sort of a non-event. Signing statements have no force of law, and the only way they'll be taken into account by judges is if the underlying constitutional question is truly ambiguous. There ARE areas of presidential authority where Congress cannot legally intrude.

In some ways, the signing statements add a level of transparency to the process. The idea that a president should veto every bill that contains even one legally questionable provision is impractical. The alternative to signing statements isn't that presidents follow every dictate of every law, even the ones that infringe on their constitutional authority. The alternative is that they just don't tell us. Is that a better outcome?

From my read, the signing statements by Obama are appropriate. The response from Congress, to withhold funding for related and unrelated activities, is also appropriate. Our founding fathers assumed that each branch would act to enhance its own power, and the resulting "balance of power" is what keeps the system working.

Even if you're right (and I don't think you are), Obama told us he wouldn't do this. And now he has. That's bad enough right there.

The main trouble with signing laws, as I see it, the weak-kneed congress and bureaucracies abide by the statements as if they are mandates. All in all they are worthless blogs from the high chief. But if congress remains gutted and cowardly it works.
And so we see the constitution slowly spiral the drain.

The signing statements do represent a broken promise -- something that seems endemic in our electoral process, but still profoundly disappointing.
From the perspective of the incumbent and his or her advisers, it is difficult to roll back power that has been arrogated to the office by a predecessor. Two thoughts come to mind:
1. It is really too bad impeachment for executive excesses (other than those involving the reproductive organs) is used with such great reluctance. It is perhaps the only real potential restraint on usurpation and unconstitutional acts.
2. We train lawyers under our adversarial system to advocate and to aggressively represent and defend their clients' perceived interests. Maybe that's the wrong perspective when the "client" is the most powerful governmental authority. A better standard might be to uphold the law and the constitution. A lot of the mischief in the executive branch seems traceable to legal advice.
As for KISS's comments about the response of congress and the bureaucracies, the remedy for the Congress to use is impeachment and they do seem spineless when they refuse it. But I think it is unrealistic to expect "bureaucrats" -- that is, the President's subordinates in the Executive Branch to do anything other than follow orders or resign.

Its good to be the King.

Obama's dramatic cowardice on health care tells me a lot about his intentions. signing statement restraint is just one more piece of ballast he's jettisoning off the hope boat.

still, I'd choose him over McCain't.

This might not sit well with some, but I think we should legalize the Constitution.

Is anyone surprised at this? Obama has universally adopted Bush legal positions on everything from state secrets privilege, warrantless wiretapping, and indefinite detention. Executive power is certainly in line with this.

I may not be surprised, but I don't understand it. I certainly expected better from a Con Law professor.

I may not be surprised, but I don't understand it. I certainly expected better from a Con Law professor.

Really?

This one?

Why?

Obama told us he wouldn't do this. And now he has. That's bad enough right there.

At least you have to give him points for consistency. I can't think of one promise that he's kept.

Yeah...Promises, promises...

I can't help but wonder...What power does he have to change it? Fiat? Wasn't that how it was created? It seems to me that Congress needs to extract it's thumb from the deep, dark recesse in which it has been placed and make it illegal for the president to do so.

Don't like it? Do something about it, nitwits!

if anyone thought Obama was going to be anything but an arrogant politician they were painfully mistaken...

like sam adams, he did anything he could to get elected, and now that he is on top he is doing anything he wants...

I'm not sure which is more sad to me; Obama's health care collapse, or the mad, dog-slobber rush (blog comments and otherwise) to make blanket condemnations of absolutely everything Obama's done, will do, and might do.

ecohuman, perhaps you should be more "sad" about the leadership Obama lacks that has lead to his (hopefully) "health care collapse" than people exercising their right to free speech in "blog comments and otherwise"....

Godfry, the answer is easy ... since he vowed not to use "signing statements" during his campaign, he can stop the practice by just not using them. Or does the President answer to a higher legal authority?

Just another forgotten promise like closing Gitmo, ending "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," stopping lobbyists, etc.

I didn't vote for Obama, but after he was elected I did have a smidgen of hope that he might keep his word and give me a reason to believe his "Change" mantra. At this point, I'd take an honest politician that I don't agree with most of the time versus the same a crooked fella that says everything I want him or her to say. Obama seems like more of the same.

Power Corrupts etc, etc...

As one who has done many, many legislative histories in my career, I certainly agree with Miles above, that, at least traditionally, "Signing statements have no force of law... But, I do think the danger is that we now have seen presidents from both parties who seem believe, or want to make the argument, that those statements do have the force of law. Seems to me the danger is that judges appointed by those presidents may well hold or adopt the view of the one who appointed them.

Another nail in the coffin our the US constitution.... you can kiss separation of powers good-bye until the court grows a pair...

You should be more outraged at the number of Czar's he has appointed. These people were not elected by anyone yet they bypass congress and wield a great deal of power over your lives.

The Obama administration is proposing to scale back a long-standing ban on tracking how people use government Internet sites with "cookies" and other technologies, raising alarms among privacy groups.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/10/AR2009081002743_pf.html


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