State of Union Came With a Signing Statement

By David Swanson

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?

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