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The New York Times is going to great length to try to explain how, when Obama will use signing statements to set himself above laws like W did, it will be a good thing. Starting with the title

Obama Looks to Limit Impact of Tactic Bush Used to Sidestep New Laws

See, he’ll jump the laws too, but way less! Hooray!

And here comes the doozy:

But Mr. Obama also signaled that he intended to use signing statements himself if Congress sent him legislation with provisions he decided were unconstitutional.

Well, he already declared that he can decide what cases the courts can take and what not, now he decides constitutionality – all of his own self. Why not, he is a Constitutional Law Professor after all????Ok, I learned in my constitutional Law classes about the separation of powers and how assessing constitutionality would be a matter for the courts to decide, but what do I know? I am not a scholar.

And besides, he promised he won’t indulge it very much

“In exercising my responsibility to determine whether a provision of an enrolled bill is unconstitutional, I will act with caution and restraint, based only on interpretations of the Constitution that are well-founded,”

So, what can go wrong with that? Right? Right? As New York Times splains it to us:

He promised to take a modest approach when using the statements,

Now, who can be against modesty? We now can talk about Bush doing it

The American Bar Association declared that such signing statements were “contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional separation of powers,” and called on Mr. Bush and future presidents to stop using them and to return to a system of either signing a bill and then enforcing all of it, or vetoing the bill and giving Congress a chance to override that veto.

And in passing, we can even mention Reagan using it

Since the 19th century, presidents have occasionally signed a bill while declaring that one or more provisions were unconstitutional. The practice became more frequent with the Reagan administration, but it initially drew little attention.

Must have been the teflon coat hiding it, right, media?

But in light of Obama’s modesty, New York Times finds some virtues even in Bush’s signing statements

The Bush administration defended its use of signing statements as lawful and appropriate. And other legal scholars, while critical of Mr. Bush’s use of the device, said the bar association’s view was too extreme, because Congress sometimes passed important legislation that had minor constitutional flaws. They said it would be impractical to expect a president to veto the entire bill in such instances.

Mr. Obama’s approach may be geared to that kind of legislation.

As long as he follows Bushes example.  Modestly, of course. Because he’s Obama.

Of all senators, it was Arlen Specter only fending for the law

“I think the Constitution is explicit as to how you handle these situations, and if the president thinks something is unconstitutional, then he ought to veto it,” said Mr. Specter, an outspoken critic of Mr. Bush’s signing statements.

He called the practice a “dodge” and “a disregard for the separation of powers and co-equal branches of government.”

“It’s just insulting,” Mr. Specter said, “and there is no reason why we can’t follow the Constitution even if it takes a few days more.”

And the New York Times makes the point to even tell us that

Mr. Obama’s directive was consistent with what he said in the 2008 presidential campaign, when he criticized Mr. Bush’s use of signing statements as an abuse. He said he would use them in a more restrained manner. By contrast, the Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain of Arizona, pledged never to issue a signing statement

Really? Maybe in Mr Benchley’s Bob Boudelag world “And it’s too consistent, so stop saying that!”

Yeah, the fact only non-Obama signing statements are bad – he said so himself:

n his directive, Mr. Obama said any signing statement issued before his presidency should be viewed with doubt, placing an asterisk beside all of those issued by Mr. Bush and other former presidents.

Simple enough for everyone: Obama – good. Everyone else – bad. How very Animal Farm Orwellian!


No sooner did New York Times justified the practice, that Obama put it in action in restricting Congress’s powers of the purse

Therefore, although my Administration will notify the relevant committees before taking the specified actions, and will accord the recommendations of such committees all appropriate and serious consideration, spending decisions shall not be treated as dependent on the approval of congressional committees.

4bfb92f65401189a5e1e35295f445596.gif picture by Robbedvoter

Not Your Sweetie

March 2009