Bench Memos

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Signing Statements, Again


In today’s San Diego Union-Tribune, Washington think-tankers Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have a column about President Bush’s signing statements (hat tip: RCP).  It’s a pretty overheated performance—Bush has “clearly” violated the Constitution, his presidency represents a “constitutional crisis,” pardon me while I stifle a yawn—but Mann and Ornstein do make a claim that I’d like to see substantiated.  They write that in some of his statements Bush “has said flatly that he will not enforce, or will use his own interpretation, for specific provisions of the laws.”


That’s actually two different things.  No one could object to a president “us[ing] his own interpretation” of the laws, even if, like Mann and Ornstein, one believed wrongly that the courts are “the final expositor of the Constitution.”  For most executive interpretations of the laws will never be adjudicated, and so who else’s interpretation could possibly be used?


It’s the first thing Mann and Ornstein mention that has me curious.  Has President Bush “said flatly that he will not enforce” any provision of any statute he has signed?  Can anyone supply an example that would fit this description?  FlatlyNot enforce?  Somehow I doubt it.  Creative inferences from things Bush has said will not do.  Anyone got any undeniable inferences, at least?


I’m not saying that, if such examples could be supplied, Mann and Ornstein would be right that we’re in some sort of constitutional crisis.  But accuracy in a debate that is taken so seriously by so many would be the first thing to be serious about.

Tags: Franck


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