Vicky Davis – July 30, 2006
Last week, when the American Bar Association (ABA) held a press conference to announce the release of a set of recommendations to the President and the Congress to avoid a Constitutional crisis, I thought it would set the Internet on fire and that my Inbox would be filled with articles and commentaries about it. It didn’t happen.
The reason I thought that was because Michael Greco, President of the ABA said the threat to our Constitutional form of government is both imminent and real unless immediate corrective action is taken. That’s a powerful statement and we are well advised to sit up and take notice.
The issue that has drawn the concern of the ABA is Presidential Signing Statements. According to Greco, Presidents have used signing statements for many years but over the last 25 years, the statements have gotten increasingly more aggressive. In the last five years, “the nature of the signing statements has changed both quantitatively and qualitatively”. Under the theory of the ‘unitary executive’, President Bush is using the signing statements to pick and choose the provisions in the bills he is signing that he will and will not enforce. In some statements, he states that his belief is that some provisions are unconstitutional and therefore will not enforce them.
The Constitution does not provide for such selectivity. When the President receives a bill from Congress, he has the option to sign it or veto it. If he signs it, it becomes law and he is obligated under the Constitution to enforce it. If he deems that provisions in the bill are unconstitutional he is especially obligated to veto the bill. Failure to do so is a violation of his oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution.
The principle is very simple. When Bush uses a signing statement, he is in effect, rewriting the law – deleting some sections – perhaps adding others. This is a violation of the doctrine of Separation of Powers. He is usurping the authority of Congress to write the laws. When he uses a signing statement to declare some portions of a bill unconstitutional, he is usurping the authority of the Supreme Court to decide what is – and what is not constitutional.
The key to understanding what’s happening with signing statements is the ‘theory of the Unitary Executive’. No doubt scholars could write complete dissertations on what that means but the bottom line is that a Unitary Executive is newspeak for dictator, king, supreme ruler. Examples of Unitary Executives include Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, King George and King Louis the XVI.
Our Constitution specifically denied the President unitary powers. Our three branches of government are co-equal. The powers and duties of each put a check on the others. While the President manages the government agencies, every leader within the military and the government agencies has taken an oath to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies – both foreign and domestic. That oath of office overrides loyalty to a president – and if it doesn’t – then let the hangings begin.
The most frightening words from ABA President Michael Greco were his final words. “The ABA can’t do this alone. We need the help of the media to educate the public”. In other words, it’s up to us. If the media were doing their job at keeping the American public informed, we all wouldn’t be spending so much time on the Internet creating our own news network and I wouldn’t be spending my Sunday morning writing this commentary.