In an important and disturbing piece (registration required) by staff reporter Charlie Savage, the Boston Globe today reveals that, "Since taking office in 2001, President Bush has issued signing statements on more than 750 new laws, declaring that he has the power to set aside the laws when they conflict with his legal interpretation of the Constitution."
In contrast, President George H.W. Bush in four years challenged 232 statutes, while Bill Clinton in eight years "only" challenged 140. George W. Bush has set aside more than 750 laws in only five years, effectively turning the Congress into a kind of Saddam-era Iraqi Parliament that only gets to make suggestions to the Usurper In Chief.
Here are some outrageous examples from the Globe story:
March 9: Justice Department officials must give reports to Congress by certain dates on how the FBI is using the USA Patriot Act to search homes and secretly seize papers.
Bush's signing statement: The president can order Justice Department officials to withhold any information from Congress if he decides it could impair national security or executive branch operations.Dec. 30, 2005: US interrogators cannot torture prisoners or otherwise subject them to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.
Bush's signing statement: The president, as commander in chief, can waive the torture ban if he decides that harsh interrogation techniques will assist in preventing terrorist attacks.
Aug. 8: The Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and its contractors may not fire or otherwise punish an employee whistle-blower who tells Congress about possible wrongdoing.
Bush's signing statement: The president or his appointees will determine whether employees of the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can give information to Congress.
Dec. 23, 2004: Forbids US troops in Colombia from participating in any combat against rebels, except in cases of self-defense. Caps the number of US troops allowed in Colombia at 800.
Bush's signing statement: Only the president, as commander in chief, can place restrictions on the use of US armed forces, so the executive branch will construe the law ''as advisory in nature."
Between a president that ignores the laws and a Roberts Supreme Court that could turn out to the most reactionary activists in the history of the country, the US Congress may well be the most irrelevant legislative body in the world. I know it sounds like a cliche, but it is long past time for we the citizens to take our government back.