June 29, 2014

After Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace actually asked former Bush adviser Karl Rove if his old boss was guilty of abusing his executive powers during a discussion on John Boehner's announcement that he plans to sue the White House for Obama's use of signing statements, Rove actually had the audacity to call President Obama an "imperial president" and to say he has been acting like King George III.

President Obama did go back on his promise not to use signing statements to circumvent the law, and we can argue about whether he would have resorted to using them or not if he wasn't dealing with a completely obstructionist Congress that has absolutely no interest in governing, but just scoring cheap political points at every move instead.

Pardon me if I don't want to hear from a single hypocrite from the Bush administration on this one. Contrary to Rove's remarks here, "78 percent of President Bush’s more than 150 signing statements have raised constitutional or legal objections." Bush's presidential signing statements were used to nullify laws, to the tune of about 30 percent of them.

And if anyone needs a reminder of what they were used for, here you go:

A panel of legal scholars and lawyers assembled by the American Bar Association is sharply criticizing the use of "signing statements" by President Bush that assert his right to ignore or not enforce laws passed by Congress.

In a report to be issued today, the ABA task force said that Bush has lodged more challenges to provisions of laws than all previous presidents combined. [...]

The report seemed likely to fuel the controversy over signing statements, which Bush has used to challenge laws including a congressional ban on torture, a request for data on the USA Patriot Act, whistle-blower protections and the banning of U.S. troops in fighting rebels in Colombia.

Administration officials describe them as a part of routine presidential practice.

"Presidents have issued signing statements since the early days of our country," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said yesterday. "President Bush's signing statements are consistent with prior administrations' signing statements. He is exercising a legitimate power in a legitimate way."

Bush has vetoed only one bill since taking office, a bill approved by Congress last week relaxing his limits on federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research. But he has on many occasions signed bills, then issued statements reserving the right not to enforce or execute parts of the new laws, on the grounds that they infringe on presidential authority or violate other constitutional provisions.

Perhaps the most prominent example was legislation last year banning cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of prisoners at U.S. detention centers. Bush signed the bill into law after a struggle with Congress, then followed it with an official statement indicating that he might waive the ban under his constitutional authority as commander in chief, if necessary to prevent a terrorist attack.

But it's President Obama that's acting like George III. Spare me. Here's a list of President Obama's signing statements since he took office for anyone that wants to wade through them. There are 27 of them to Bush's 162.

Full transcript via Fox.

WALLACE: Karl, I think it's fair to say you worked at a White House that took a pretty expansive view of executive powers, whether it was signing statement s by President Bush when he was signing bills into law or the way he waged the war on terror. Can you honestly say that you believe this president is going further than President Bush did in exercising his executive powers?

ROVE: Absolutely.

First of all, let's divorce international. The president is given under the Constitution broad authority in waging war independent of the Congress. But when it comes to the execution of the laws passed by Congress, the statutes, a president must first and foremost look whenever they take an executive action, an executive order, for example, they must look for, is there a statutory basis to do so? I remember plenty of times as we discussed executive orders, the counsel's office and other legal authorities inside the administration were weighing in on what was the statutory authority for the president to take his action.

One of the instants was we reviewed, does the president have authority to take a class of individuals and exempt them from the enforcement of immigration laws? And the lawyers came back and said, you have an ability to exempt individuals but no ability to exempt a class. And yet, this president has exempted a class of people from enforcement of immigration laws.

Where -- I actually read the Affordable Care Act. I can find little or no authority at all for the 39 exemptions that he's gotten. There's no statutory in the law that says the president can delay the individual mandate, delay the employer mandate.


WALLACE: What about (INAUDIBLE) that you hear from Congressman Becerra that this is the implementation of law?

ROVE: Look, look, the Constitutions says, Article 1, the legislative branch is the Congress. The legislative power is embodied in the House of Representatives in the United States Senate. It does not say the legislative power is shared between the president and the Congress.

Now, there's been this tension for 200-some odd years, but this president, again, where -- he delayed in the employer mandate, not only the employer mandate, but the tax that is collected as a result of this. This is imperial power. This is George III. This is some monarch to say I am the law.

And, frankly, the House suit, which will not be a Republican suit, it will be a suit on behalf of the institution of the House, saying our authority under the first article of the Constitution is being impaired by the president's actions I think is going to be important for the country over the long term.


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