Video: Signing statements, then and now

posted at 8:03 am on March 13, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

On the campaign trail, candidate Barack Obama railed against the use of signing statements as an abuse of presidential authority. Obama appears here in May 2008 in Grand Junction, Colorado, answering a question from the crowd about Bush’s signing statements. He goes into Constitutional professor mode, lecturing the crowd on the role of the president regarding legislation, and noting that presidents can either sign legislation or veto bills, but says that attempting to change bills through signing statements is a power grab:

President Barack Obama, on the other hand, has no problem with such “power grabs”, adding a significant one to the omnibus bill:

At the same time, after Democrats criticized former President George W. Bush’s signing statements, Mr. Obama issued one of his own, declaring five provisions in the spending bill to be unconstitutional and nonbinding, including one aimed at preventing punishment of whistleblowers.

Presidents have employed signing statements to reject provisions of a bill without vetoing the entire legislation. Democrats and some Republicans have complained that Mr. Bush abused such statements by declaring that he would ignore congressional intent on more than 1,200 sections of bills, easily a record. Mr. Obama has ordered a review of his predecessor’s signing statements and said he would rein in the practice.

“We’re having a repeat of what Democrats bitterly complained about under President Bush,” said Sen. Arlen Specter (R., Pa.), who drafted legislation to nullify Mr. Bush’s signing statements.

Not only did Obama object to signing statements on the campaign trail, he specifically told the Boston Globe (reported by the Washington Post) that objections on constitutional grounds are particularly inappropriate for signing statements:

“The problem with this administration is that it has attached signing statements to legislation in an effort to change the meaning of the legislation, to avoid enforcing certain provisions of the legislation that the President does not like, and to raise implausible or dubious constitutional objections to the legislation,” Obama answered.

If a President believes a bill to be unconstitional, John McCain argued, he has a duty to veto it. Obama apparently agreed … in 2008. By Obama’s own definition, he’s become power-mad after only seven weeks on the job.

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Wow! Change we can believe in!

This is what he wanted all along…power!

JAM on March 13, 2009 at 11:16 AM

This Pres. has and will continue to prove that for liberals understanding our Constitution in no way equates to even a twinkling of respect for that instrument of liberty.

Speakup on March 13, 2009 at 11:26 AM

Hmmm…I thought the power to declare laws unconstitutional was vested in the Supreme Court. Silly me.

Who needs a Supreme Court when we have a Supreme Being?

Steve Z on March 13, 2009 at 11:40 AM

“Best if used before Jan 19 2009”

BobMbx on March 13, 2009 at 11:41 AM

Let’s face it: Obama means what he said on the campaign trail except when he doesn’t.

Like he has always said, he brings “change” to Washington. Including from himself.

Steve Z on March 13, 2009 at 11:42 AM

Obama lies, he lies all the time.

jukin on March 13, 2009 at 11:47 AM

Chomsky must be proud of his country for the first time.

On a side note, I just ordered a *#&^ Obama shirt. I know it doesn’t furthur any cause or debate, but damn, it makes for a pleasurable and cathartic experience.

daesleeper on March 13, 2009 at 12:01 PM


These rare moments can be identified by his walking and looking around, addressing the whole room instead of only looking left or right at a 45 degree angle where the prompter is.

Thanks, this was a momentous ad lib…

Does anyone remember the controversy when GWB was purportedly wearing an earpiece for Rove to whisper answers into?
Now BHO blatantly reads from a teleprompter at PRESS events!
Why not just aim the screen at the audience, we can read faster than he can talk…


LonestRangerr on March 13, 2009 at 1:10 PM

Barry was caught shuckin’ and jivin’ again? What a surprise!

omnipotent on March 13, 2009 at 1:34 PM

He has criticized President George W. Bush for often using such statements to claim the right to ignore portions of new laws, and on Monday he said his administration wouldn’t follow those issued by Bush unless authorized by the new attorney general.

White House officials have accused Bush of using the statements to get around Congress in pursuing anti-terror tactics.
Of course Bush understood that we were at war. Obama on the other hand:

Obama’s signing statement said he wouldn’t be bound by provisions of the bill in five areas. They involved negotiations with foreign governments, limits on using U.S. troops in U.N. missions, protections for government whistleblowers, a congressional claim of authority over the spending of money already approved by Congress and congressional demands that the administration submit budget requests in certain forms.

It’s all about power, not keeping Americans safe. Not that I disagree with the balance, but the hypocrisy is all about the war.

LifeTrek on March 13, 2009 at 5:46 PM

Hmmm…I thought the power to declare laws unconstitutional was vested in the Supreme Court. Silly me.

Who needs a Supreme Court when we have a Supreme Being?

Steve Z on March 13, 2009 at 11:40 AM

No, no, no, no, a thousand times no.

SCOTUS declared themselves the emperors of America. Nothing in the constitution itself confers this power upon the Court. In fact, it is a disturbing trend for members of Congress to roll out legislation which they believe to be unconstitutional, figuring that SCOTUS can always overrule them. What a farce.

Signing statements are actually sensible in that they demonstrate whether or not the legislative and executive branches are in agreement on a particular point. Ordinarily, before they were kings, SCOTUS used to give more deference to laws which were considered constitutional by both of the other two branches. Of course, that was before those pedophile-loving “jurists” decided terrorists deserve more protection than victims of child rape. Congress and President Bush worked together to create a system for dealing with the Gitmo problem, only to have SCOTUS shove their pointy noses into the mix and “enlighten” us all.

Conservatives must wake up and smell the coffee on constitutional issues. True conservatism, on the national level, is about restraining all three branches of federal government because the constitution demands restraint. Our federal government stands in high treason right now due to its failure to protect and defend the highest law in the land. Will anyone stand up for the law?

cackcon on March 13, 2009 at 11:24 PM

“We’re having a repeat of what Democrats bitterly complained about under President Bush,” said Sen. Arlen Specter (SOCIALIST DEMOCRAT., Pa.), who drafted legislation to nullify Mr. Bush’s signing statements.


DannoJyd on March 14, 2009 at 12:25 PM

Obamanazi at his worst as usual…Obama is a NAZI, just read the Nazi Party Platform written by Adolf Hitler

NOW, compare it to Obamanazi’s platform;


nelsonknows on March 14, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Comment pages: 1 2