March 26, 2006

The Claim: Unlimited Power

I have blogged on this, written letters to the editor, and have pretty much been watching in horror as the Bush administration lays claim to the notion that they can pretty much do whatever they want, that all power lies in the hands of the Executive Branch, the Courts and Congress be damned. But no one writes more cogently on this than Glenn Greenwald.

Question number (5) from the Committee Republicans asked "whether President Carter's signature on FISA in 1978, together with his signing statement," meant that the Executive had agreed to be bound by the restrictions placed by FISA on the President's powers to eavesdrop on Americans. This is how the DoJ responded, in relevant part:


The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and any statutes inconsistent with the Constitution must yield. The basic principle of our system of government means that no President, merely by assenting to a piece of legislation, can diminish the scope of the President's constitutional power. . . .

Just as one President may not, through signing legislation, eliminate the Executive Branch's inherent constitutional powers, Congress may not renounce inherent presidential authority. The Constitution grants the President the inherent power to protect the nation from foreign attack, and Congress may not impede the President's ability to perform his constitutional duty.“ (citations omitted).
Can that be any clearer for you - Congressmen, Senators, journalists? The President is bestowed by the Constitution with the unlimited and un-limitable power to do anything that he believes is necessary to "protect the nation." Thus, even if Congress passes laws which seek to limit that power in any way, and even if the President agrees to those restrictions and signs that bill into law, he still retains the power to violate it whenever he wants.

Thus, Sen. DeWine can pass his cute little bill purporting to require oversight, or Sen. Specter can pass his, or they can do nothing and leave FISA in place. None of that matters, because no matter what Congress or even the President do with regard to the law, the law does not restrict what the President can do in any way. They are telling the Congress to its face that all of the grand debates it is having and the negotiations it is conducting are all irrelevant farces, because no matter what happens, the President retains unlimited power and nothing that Congress does can affect that power in any way.

The reality is that the Administration has been making clear for quite some time that they have unlimited power and that nothing -- not even the law -- can restrict it. But here, they are specifically telling Congress that even if Congress amends FISA and the President agrees to abide by those amendments, they still have the power to break the law whenever they want. As I have documented more times than I can count, we have a President who has seized unlimited power, including the power to break the law, and the Administration -- somewhat commendably -- is quite candid and straightforward about that fact.

In commenting on Bush's "signing statement" issued after signing the reauthorization of the Patriot Act in which the Administration said, once again, that even though the President is signing this legislation, he is under no obligation to abide by it, Greenwald remarks:
This is not theory. The Administration is not saying these things as a joke. We really do live in a country where we have a President who has seized the unlimited power to break the law. That's not hyperbole in any way. It is reality. And the Patriot Act signing statement only re-iterates that fact.

[...]

Put another way, the Administration has seized the power of Congress to make the laws, they have seized the power of the judiciary to interpret the laws, and they execute them as well. They have consolidated within themselves all of the powers of the government, particularly with regard to national security.


To keep from making this post too long, just go read Glenn Greenwald's post: Administration tells Congress (again) - We won't abide by your "laws"

Glenn Greenwald is a national treasure.

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