What were once constitutional views are now idiosyncratic views
If Dick Cheney clutches to life like he clutches at power he may never die:
The office of Vice President Dick Cheney routinely reviews pieces of legislation before they reach the president’s desk, searching for provisions that Cheney believes would infringe on presidential power, according to former White House and Justice Department officials.
The officials said Cheney’s legal adviser and chief of staff, David Addington , is the Bush a dministration’s leading architect of the “signing statements” the president has appended to more than 750 laws. The statements assert the president’s right to ignore the laws because they conflict with his interpretation of the Constitution.
The Bush-Cheney administration has used such statements to claim for itself the option of bypassing a ban on torture, oversight provisions in the USA Patriot Act, and numerous requirements that they provide certain information to Congress, among other laws.
Previous vice presidents have had neither the authority nor the interest in reviewing legislation. But Cheney has used his power over the administration’s legal team to promote an expansive theory of presidential authority. Using signing statements, the administration has challenged more laws than all previous administrations combined.
“Addington could look at whatever he wanted,” said one former White House lawyer who helped prepare signing statements and who asked not to be named because he was describing internal deliberations. “He had a roving commission to get involved in whatever interested him.”
Knowing that Addington was likely to review the bills, other White House and Justice Department lawyers began vetting legislation with Addington’s and Cheney’s views in mind, according to another former lawyer in the Bush White House.
All these lawyers, he said, were extremely careful to flag any provision that placed limits on presidential power.
“You didn’t want to miss something,” said the second former White House lawyer, who also asked not to be named.
“In every administration, Democratic and Republican, there are officials with strongly held constitutional views, including somewhat idiosyncratic views,” said Lederman, now a law professor at Georgetown University. “What is new is that the extremely idiosyncratic and aggressive constitutional views are being adopted by the vice president and, therefore, by the administration.”
The use of signing statements was rare until the 1980s, when President Ronald W. Reagan began issuing them more frequently. His successors continued the practice. George H. W. Bush used signing statements to challenge 232 laws over four years, and Bill Clinton challenged 140 over eight years, according to Christopher Kelley , a political science professor at Miami University of Ohio.
But in frequency and aggression, the current President Bush has gone far beyond his predecessors.
All previous presidents combined challenged fewer than 600 laws, Kelley’s data show, compared with the more than 750 Bush has challenged in five years. Bush is also the first president since the 1800s who has never vetoed a bill, giving Congress no chance to override his judgments.
Douglas Kmiec , who as head of the Office of Legal Counsel helped develop the Reagan administration’s strategy of issuing signing statements more frequently, said he disapproves of the “provocative” and sometimes “disingenuous” manner in which the Bush administration is using them.
Kmiec said the Reagan team’s goal was to leave a record of the president’s understanding of new laws only in cases where an important statute was ambiguous. Kmiec rejected the idea of using signing statements to contradict the clear intent of Congress, as Bush has done. Presidents should either tolerate provisions of bills they don’t like, or they should veto the bill, he said.
“Following a model of restraint, [the Reagan-era Office of Legal Counsel] took it seriously that we were to construe statutes to avoid constitutional problems, not to invent them,” said Kmiec, who is now a Pepperdine University law professor.
By contrast, Bush has used the signing statements to waive his obligation to follow the new laws. In addition to the torture ban and oversight provisions of the Patriot Act, the laws Bush has claimed the authority to disobey include restrictions against US troops engaging in combat in Colombia, whistle-blower protections for government employees, and safeguards against political interference in taxpayer-funded research.
9/11 has been the gift that keeps on giving to this administration, because nobody, not even Halliburton, has benefitted more from it.
Who knew Memorial Day would be a time to reflect upon the untimely passing of the Constitution.