So when Bush signed the bill on Friday which renewed the Patriot Act, he included a cute little note saying that the president is above the law.
Y’see, there are two main theories of how the US presidency works. The first theory is that the president is the head of the executive branch, one of three governmental branches that keep each other from getting too powerful (or, as a cynical part of my brain has decided, “the theory that the government works best when its branches are so busy fighting each other for power that they don’t have time to come after us”).
The other theory, favored by the Bush administration, is that we are all his bitches.
Long story short, Bush feels that the Constitution endows the president with the responsibility to protect the American people, and that this Constitutional duty supercedes mere laws. In this particular instance, the renewed version of the Patriot Act says that the White House has to regularly update Congress about how law enforcement is using their new Patriot Powers. And Bush’s “signing statement” essentially says “yeah, I’ll do that, unless I think that doing so threatens America.” Congress passed a law telling the president what to do, and the president signed it, and now the president says that he’s free to violate it. And being above the law, as mentioned in this article’s title, makes him a vigilante. Or an emperor, take your pick.
And it does get slightly worse. It’s one thing for Bush to claim his magical immunity, but apparently the Justice Department, headed by Bush pal Alberto Gonzalez, agrees.
Back in February, the House Judiciary Committee sent a bunch of questions to the Justice Department relating to the legality of Bush’s domestic spying program. One of the answers included this doozy:
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.
Translation: “no law can limit the president’s power, if he is protecting the nation from foreign attack (or pretending to protect the nation from foreign attack)”.
So there you go, V is for W, or King George the II.
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