We’ve certainly noted Barack Obama’s sudden affinity for presidential signing statements after taking office on several occasions, having vented his spleen at George W. Bush’s habit of challenging Congressional legislation without offering a veto. This is just one example:
Q: When Congress offers you a bill, do you promise not to use presidential signage [sic] to get your way?
OBAMA: Yes. [Applause] Let me just explain for those who are unfamiliar with this issue. You know, we’ve got a government designed by the founders so that there’d be checks and balances. You don’t want a President that’s too powerful or a Congress that’s too powerful or courts that are too powerful. Everybody’s got their own role. Congress’ job is to pass legislation. The President can veto it, or he can sign it. But what George Bush has been trying to do is part of his effort to accumulate more power in the Presidency, is, he’s been saying, “Well, I can basically change what Congress passed by attaching a letter that says ‘I don’t agree with this part’ or ‘I don’t agree with that part.’ I’m going to choose to interpret it this way or that way.” Uh, that’s not part of his power. But this is part of the whole theory of George Bush that he can make laws as he’s going along. I disagree with that. I taught the Constitution for ten years, I believe in the Constitution, and I will obey the Constitution of the United States. We’re not going to use signing statements as a way of doing an end run around Congress.
We already knew that Obama would act as if he’d never made this promise and issue a signing statement when he signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law, which Obama did over the holiday weekend while on vacation in Hawaii. But the signing statement itself is a real piece of work, especially in light of the lecture above from the so-called Constitutional scholar. Obama didn’t just object to one passage in the large and complex bill. Obama declared seventeen entire sections to either violate the constitutional separation of powers or interfere with the prerogatives and duties of the executive. Yes, you read that right — seventeen sections, all of which Obama declared that he will “interpret” to his own perspective, even though signing statements give him no such power.
Er, that’s the reason the founders gave you the veto, champ. One section in an otherwise vital bill perhaps might be understandable, but griping that seventeen violate the Constitution and/or separation of powers and then signing the bill is a splendid demonstration of sheer impotence, as well as hypocrisy … two of Obama’s signature characteristics.
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