A Law Day Unto Himself

By Ruth Marcus
Tuesday, May 1, 2007

President Bush wants to wish you a Happy Law Day.

He wants you, he says in his 2007 Law Day proclamation, to know that "Our Nation is built upon the rule of law."

He wants you to recognize how America's lawyers have "helped make our Nation a shining example of justice."

If only the president would practice what he proclaims.

To be fair, Bush is stuck with this Law Day business. It's been around since 1958. Law Day is one of those ceremonial things presidents have to do, like pardoning turkeys, only less fun.

At least this year's milquetoast theme -- "Empowering Youth, Assuring Democracy" -- isn't quite as uncomfortable for the administration as last year's, "Separate Branches, Balanced Powers." (The American Bar Association picks the theme.) Last year's proclamation was hard to take, with its ode to the "wisdom of the Framers' design" and its warning of "the risks that accompany the concentration of power."

Luckily for Bush, these proclamations tend to be short, so he didn't have to explain how they squared with his warrantless wire-tapping -- despite a statute that requires warrants.

Or a view of presidential power so inflated that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was moved to declare that a "state of war is not a blank check for the President."

Or the blizzard of signing statements asserting presidential authority to ignore whatever law he had just approved.

The most shameful example: Bush's treatment of the anti-torture amendment. The president said he would interpret that "in a manner consistent with" his constitutional authority.

In other words, if he felt like it.

But if last year's theme was particularly ill-suited for the Bush administration, this year's Law Day seems especially ill-timed.

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