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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Friday, March 24, 2006

You can't make me...

Like a petulant child insistent on getting his own way, George Bush insists he is the law and will do whatever he wants. The question is whether anyone in Congress or the courts have the courage to stop him.

The latest example of his determination to say he knows best (and we certainly have plenty of examples to show that he does not) is a "signing statement: where he tells Congress he doesn't need meet the congressional reporting requirements contained in the Patriot Act.

Another glaring example of this above-the-law attitude is his flouting of the FISA statute that requires him to seek judicial approval (even after the fact) for all domestic wiretaps of suspected terrorists. And of course he told Congress (and John McCain) that he could torture anyone he wants, whenever he wants.

For a man with the courage of his convictions, Bush chose his own stealth route -- signing the statement in an undisclosed location after the media and congressional "leaders" had departed the Patriot Act signing. It read in part:

''The executive branch shall construe the provisions . . . that call for furnishing information to entities outside the executive branch . . . in a manner consistent with the president's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to withhold information . . . "
The most important question is: does anyone plan to do anything about it?

Vermont Democrat Pat Leahy has thought about it (as has Russ Feingold through his hotly debated censure resolution).

''The president's signing statements are not the law, and Congress should not allow them to be the last word," Leahy said in a prepared statement. ''The president's constitutional duty is to faithfully execute the laws as written by the Congress, not cherry-pick the laws he decides he wants to follow. It is our duty to ensure, by means of congressional oversight, that he does so."
The most interesting question is will a Republican Congress that has behaved like a puppy in need of a tummy scratching finally stand up to this bald-faced challenge to its constitutional perogative to write the law and have the president "faithfully execute" them?

Fearing for their re-election prospects, a handful of senators and representatives have taken the first steps to standing up to Bush's bullying -- sinking the Dubai Ports deal. But I'd be pessimistic there will be a groundswell of courage in the Capitol.

And that leads up back, eventually, to the Supreme Court, where Sam Alito has made a judicial career of backing unfettered executive authority. Add that the power grab contained within Bush v. Gore you have a very scary scenario.

Republican actions during the Clinton years -- including impeachment -- represented nothing more to some than an attempt at a bloodless coup. The more conspiracy minded among us could ask if Bush can flout the Constitution as he sees fit, why would he feel compelled to leave office in 2009?

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