State of Union Came With a Signing Statement + Signing Statement Silence By David Swanson

Updated: Jan. 30, 2008

Dandelion Salad

By David Swanson
After Downing Street
Tue, 2008-01-29 20:25

On the day of the State of the Union, apparently hoping nobody would notice, President George W. Bush posted a statement on the White House website announcing his intention to violate major sections of the Defense Authorization bill that he just signed into law.

For their part, the Democrats in Congress have chosen not to push for a just and decent economic stimulus plan, because they want to work amicably with Bush. They’ve chosen not to vote on contempt citations for Harriet Miers and Joshua Bolten in order to work more amicably on the economic stimulus package. They’ve scratched impeachment out of the Constitution, and Congressman Dennis Kucinich even backed down on his plans to introduce articles of impeachment on Monday. And of course, Congress is committed to throwing every possible dime down the blackhole of the Iraq occupation. What has been the president’s response to all this bipartisan cooperation?

He’s decided to close the office that handles Freedom of Information requests from Congress. He’s left Blackwater free but jailed citizens who reenact its crimes. He’s rewritten government reports on global warming. He’s blocked his Justice Departments investigation of political hirings and firings, while the former governor of Alabama begins his eighth month as a political prisoner. He’s delivered a State of the Union address packed with the same contemptuous lies as last year’s, and announced the seizure of new powers (which Congress greeted with applause). And then there’s the latest signing statement.

This statement announces in the by now familiar coded language of the “unitary executive” Bush’s intention to violate four key sections of a bill he is simultaneously making “law.”

CQ Today sums up these sections as follows:

“One such provision sets up a commission to probe contracting fraud in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another expands protections for whistleblowers who work for government contractors. A third requires that U.S. intelligence agencies promptly respond to congressional requests for documents. And a fourth bars funding for permanent bases in Iraq and for any action that exercises U.S. control over Iraq’s oil money.”

Did you get that? Bush gives himself the right not to probe contracting fraud. Is it HIS money? Is it HIS blood?

He gives himself the power to not protect whistleblowers. Of course, he already behaved that way and nobody did anything about it, so why shouldn’t he? The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee wrote a book about it before becoming chairman and won’t impeach, so why shouldn’t Bush flaunt his freedom to exact retribution on anyone who speaks out?

Bush gives himself the right not to provide Congress with documents. Did the impeachmentless Congress believe Bush lacked that right? Did Congress Members believe that a new law (signing statemented or not) would change anything?

And, finally, Bush gives himself the right (this is at least the fourth time he’s done this) to build and maintain permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq.

And do you hear a peep out of the Congress?

I’m straining my ears and not hearing the faintest squeak.

The CQ article quotes Senator Carl Levin and cites Senator Jim Webb as the leading sponsor of the contractor waste provision. Do you think either of them will back impeachment any more than Senator John McCain did when Bush signing statemented a torture ban.

CQ claims that Bush simply uses signing statements more frequently than any previous president. Nonsense. No previous president EVER used signing statements to announce the intention to violate laws, and then proceeded to violate them. A Government Accountability Office study last year found that in a sample of Bush signing statements he had already violated 30 percent of the laws he granted himself the power to violate.

The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on signing statements in January 2007 at which a Justice Department official effectively claimed the right for the president to violate any law until the Supreme Court rules on it. We’re going to need a younger Supreme Court if we expect it to keep up and function in the absence of any Congress willing to display a spine.

Nancy Pelosi, John Conyers, Jerrold Nadler, at long last, have you no decency?


President Bush Signs H.R. 4986, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 into Law

by George W. Bush

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 28, 2008

Today, I have signed into law H.R. 4986, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008. The Act authorizes funding for the defense of the United States and its interests abroad, for military construction, and for national security-related energy programs.

Provisions of the Act, including sections 841, 846, 1079, and 1222, 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. The executive branch shall construe such provisions in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President.



January 28, 2008.


Updated: Jan. 30, 2008

Signing Statement Silence

By David Swanson

Every major pseudo peace movement organization in the country, afraid to actually urge Congress to cut off the money for the illegal occupation of Iraq, believed it was really important to set up a commission to probe contractor waste in Iraq, and to once again ban the construction and maintenance of permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq. Every open-government and whistleblowers group backed the expansion of protections for whistleblowers and the requirement that intelligence agencies promptly respond to congressional requests for documents.

This week President Bush signed the Defense Authorization bill into law, and then added a statement announcing his right to violate these four provisions. And the silence is deafening.

The Guardian newspaper in England, and the Boston Globe wrote serious reports.

The Associated Press wrote an article that touched on the topic but missed the point.

The Virginian Pilot wrote an article that followed Senator Jim Webb’s lead and avoided the central problem.

Senators Casey, Levin, and Webb made remarks that failed to challenge Bush’s abuse of power or mention the word “impeachment.”

The House of Representatives maintained a total and absolute silence.

And activist groups followed suit.

And they look like fools or hypocrites. All of them.

Yes, previous presidents have written signing statements, but never to announce their right to violate laws, only to express opinions about the laws that they were going to, as a matter of their essential duty as president, enforce.

Yes, a signing statement announcing the right to violate a law, and the actual violation are two different things.

Yes, a signing statement should be meaningless.

But the Supreme Court cites them and the Bush-Cheney administration acts on them. This is not the first time Bush has given himself the right to violate bans on permanent military bases, and he has continued to violate those bans. Bush and Cheney routinely refuse to provide Congress with information, to sanction contractor abuse, and to punish whistleblowers. These behaviors will continue, just as will torture and warrentless spying and various other activities that this administration derives the right to engage in from signing statements.

The Government Accountability Office found last year that in a small sample of these signing statements the Bush-Cheney administration had already followed through on violating 30 percent of the laws it claimed the right to violate. The corporate media now spins this as glass-half-full news (more than half the time he doesn’t mean it! hurray!).

Last January the House Judiciary Committee held hearings on the matter, laying bare the violation of constitutional separation of powers. A Justice Department official testified that the president could violate any law he liked until the Supreme Court told him to stop.

Any fourth grader who has seen the Constitution could tell you he was wrong. Sadly, in our new reality, he was right.
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Bush Issues Signing Statement On Defense Act, Waiving Ban On Permanent Bases In Iraq