During an interview with George W. Bush which aired on C-SPAN's Q&A discussing his book Decision Points at the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, the former president was asked if he was "concerned that legislation that you passed such as the Patriot Act opens the door for potential abuse by future presidencies?". Never mind the abuses during his presidency that failed soundly.
He followed it up by saying that he was glad the Congress decided to pass The Patriot Act and renew it again no matter which party was in the majority and defended his administration's spying and torture, or as he called it "enhanced interrogation" that he claimed was necessary to keep us safe from terrorism. He also claimed that The Patriot Act assured that civil liberties were not undermined.
Nothing like some major revisionist history from Bush with no one there to push back during this softball forum from C-SPAN.
CAMERATO: Good morning Mr. President. My name is C.J. Camerato and I’m from Boston Massachusetts and I’m curious, were or are you concerned that legislation that you passed such as the Patriot Act opens the door for potential abuse by future presidencies?
BUSH: Great question. The law that was passed twice by the Congress, once when Republicans controlled the Congress, when we controlled the Congress and once after the ’06 election when we got soundly thumped, guarantee civil liberties and there’s a lot of safeguards in the law. And I don’t think a president can… can, through executive order preempt the safeguards in the Patriot Act. There are plenty of checks and balances in our system and throughout the book and historians will note throughout my presidency that I worked assiduously to make sure that civil liberties were not undermined.
And at the same time, provide the tools necessary for a president, future presidents to be able to protect the homeland and um… look, there’s some very controversial… the Patriot Act was one of the least controversial things I did initially. And then it became a… both parts of the political spectrum became a touchstone of too much government and yet the experts will tell you that the tools inherent in the Patriot Act were necessary to disrupt terrorist’s attacks.
And another interesting point in the book, I learned from history was that a lot of the actions that Harry Truman took made my life easier as president and therefore many of the decisions I made through executive order are the most controversial decisions I made through executive order, such as listening to the phone calls of people who might do us harm, or enhanced interrogation techniques, became the law of the land.
In other words, after the ’04 elections and after the ’06 elections, I went to Congress and said we need to ratify through legislative action that which I had done within the Constitution by executive order. And so the Congress, in spite of the fact that we had been dumped, passed law that now enables a president to have these certain tools.
People say why didn’t you just leave it under executive order? And the reason why is in some cases it might be too hard politically for a president to put out an executive order that for example our authorized enhanced interrogation techniques.
But if that were law of the land as passed by a legislative body it might be easier for that person to use that technique and it was… and so one of the… I think I saw as an accomplishment was to get the Congress to pass much of what I’d done by executive order and in so doing there was embedded in law, concern for civil liberties.