The Royal George

Okay, what does Bush mean by it?

President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution…Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush’s assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ”to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ”execute” a law he believes is unconstitutional.

Because – why? Because he’s a constitutional scholar? Because even if he’s not a scholar he knows more than most people about what’s constitutional and what isn’t? Because he knows anything at all about what is constitutional? Because it says in the Constitution that if a president ‘believes’ a given law is not constitutional he can just ignore it? Because the US president has unlimited, monarchical powers? Because magical powers to interpret the Constitution correctly pass to the new president the moment CBS news says who won Ohio? Because presidents who are elected because their father was president sometime in the previous decade have special rights to ignore laws whenever they dang well feel like it? Because presidents who have signed more death warrants than anyone else in the country are empowered to bypass laws? Because presidents who are in office when people fly airplanes into buildings are permitted to tear up all laws that they find pesky?

No, none of those reasons, I don’t think, on account of how none of those are true. So, why, then?

Far more than any predecessor, Bush has been aggressive about declaring his right to ignore vast swaths of laws — many of which he says infringe on power he believes the Constitution assigns to him alone as the head of the executive branch or the commander in chief of the military. Many legal scholars say they believe that Bush’s theory about his own powers goes too far and that he is seizing for himself some of the law-making role of Congress and the Constitution-interpreting role of the courts.

Well that certainly is what it sounds like.

Bush administration spokesmen declined to make White House or Justice Department attorneys available to discuss any of Bush’s challenges to the laws he has signed. Instead, they referred a Globe reporter to their response to questions about Bush’s position that he could ignore provisions of the Patriot Act. They said at the time that Bush was following a practice that has ”been used for several administrations” and that ”the president will faithfully execute the law in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution.” But the words ”in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution” are the catch, legal scholars say, because Bush is according himself the ultimate interpretation of the Constitution. And he is quietly exercising that authority to a degree that is unprecedented in US history.

Gee – here was I thinking the ultimate interpretation of the Constitution was supposed to be a Supreme Court thing, not a president thing. I must have done more sleeping in government class than I thought.

Bruce Fein, a deputy attorney general in the Reagan administration, said the American system of government relies upon the leaders of each branch ”to exercise some self-restraint.” But Bush has declared himself the sole judge of his own powers, he said, and then ruled for himself every time. ”This is an attempt by the president to have the final word on his own constitutional powers, which eliminates the checks and balances that keep the country a democracy,” Fein said. ”There is no way for an independent judiciary to check his assertions of power, and Congress isn’t doing it, either. So this is moving us toward an unlimited executive power.”

There’s something deeply enraging about the whole thing. Who does that man think he is? (God’s chosen, I know. Don’t remind me.)

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