As a rule, Law Day, a ceremonial holiday since 1958, goes by largely unnoticed. It was established as a Cold War counterpart to May 1, the biggest day on the socialist calendar. Ever since, presidents have issued proclamations that went by largely unnoticed and unread.
But Bush isn’t just any president, and respect for the rule of law over the last several years is not quite what it was. So, when the White House issued Bush’s Law Day proclamation yesterday morning, it was hard not to appreciate the irony.
The right of ordinary men and women to determine their own future, protected by the rule of law, lies at the heart of America’s founding principles. As our country celebrates the 50th anniversary of Law Day, we renew our commitment to the ideals on which this great Nation was established and to a robust system of ordered liberty.
The American legal system is central to protecting the rights and freedoms our Nation holds dear. The theme of this year’s Law Day, “The Rule of Law: Foundation for Communities of Opportunity and Equity,” recognizes the fundamental role that the rule of law plays in preserving liberty in our Nation and in all free societies. We pay tribute to the men and women in America’s legal community. Through hard work and dedication to the rule of law, members of the judiciary and the legal profession help secure the rights of individuals, bring justice to our communities, and reinforce the proud traditions that make America a beacon of light for the world.
I almost feel bad for the White House communications staffer who had to write this. It must have been kind of embarrassing.
With national attention shifting away from Bush and towards the race to succeed him, today’s Law Day hasn’t drawn too much attention. But a New York Times editorial from a year ago still rings true.
As long as there was a national consensus about the importance of the rule of law, Law Day felt superfluous, like celebrating gravity. But for six years now, the rule of law has been under attack. An array of doctrines has emerged to undermine it, like the enemy combatant doctrine, which says people can be held indefinitely without trial, and the unitary executive doctrine, which insists that a president can do as he wants in many areas, no matter what Congress says. [...]
The less committed a president is to the law, the more need there is for Law Day, which makes it a holiday whose time has come.