That's the question that springs to mind upon reading Charlie Savage's front-page report in Sunday's Globe detailing the president's sotto voce assertion that he can disregard laws if he thinks they impinge on his constitutional powers.In the article, Savage notes that while Bush has never vetoed a bill, he has unilaterally declared that he won’t uphold 750 different laws by using a bureaucratic maneuver called a “signing statement.”
I’m going to be doing some more blogging on this topic and Savage’s incredible story, but first I want to highlight Lehigh’s comments.
Because so much of what this administration does is shrouded in secrecy, it's hard to know which laws are being followed and which are being ignored.If Bush doesn’t like a law, he can veto it. But vetoing creates problems for a President Who Would Be King. A veto can be overridden by Congress. Even if Congress fails to get the necessary votes to overturn a veto, though, the issue is still in the public eye. There would probably be messy debate and, perhaps, people might even watch what the administration is doing. Openness leads to consequences, and this seems to be an administration that wants, above all, to duck responsibility for just about everything it has done.
That makes it difficult for matters to ripen into a court challenge, notes Boston attorney Harvey Silverglate. ''He is setting it up so that the people hurt by what this administration is doing are unable to get to court, because it is secret," Silverglate says.
But the president shouldn't be allowed to quietly disregard or reinterpret provisions of a law he dislikes, for in doing so, he is not protecting his own authority, but rather usurping the legitimate power of Congress. Further, his assumption that it is within his purview to decide whether a law is constitutional treads on ground that is the clear province of the Supreme Court.And that, my friends, is the definition of a constitutional crisis.
In other words, the president who is sworn to uphold the Constitution is gutting it. In doing so, Bush is undermining our form of government and turning the Constitution into nothing more than an old piece of paper. He is destroying the system of checks and balances he pledged to uphold when he was sworn into office, and that, is a threat to all of us.