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Torture, By Any Other Name

Writes Baker: "Wednesday, for example, he attacked Democrats for voting last week against legislation authorizing warrantless telephone and e-mail surveillance.

"'One hundred and seventy-seven of the opposition party said, 'You know, we don't think we ought to be listening to the conversations of terrorists,' ' Bush said at a fundraiser for Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) before heading to Colorado for gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez.

"Asked about the president's statement, White House aides could not name any Democrat who has said that the government should not listen in on terrorists. Democrats who voted against the legislation had complained that it would hand too much power to the president and had said that they wanted more checks in the bill to protect civil liberties. . . .

"White House spokeswoman Dana Perino defended Bush's remark as a reasonable extrapolation of the Democratic position. 'Of course, they aren't silly enough to say they don't want to listen in on terrorists, but actions speak louder than words, and people should know what the Democrats' voting record is,' she said."

Signing Statements as Power Grab

Is Charlie Savage the only newspaper reporter who cares about Bush's signing statements?

Savage has been a one-man band on the issue.

In this morning's Boston Globe , Savage writes: "President Bush's frequent use of signing statements to assert that he has the power to disobey newly enacted laws is 'an integral part' of his 'comprehensive strategy to strengthen and expand executive power' at the expense of the legislative branch, according to a report by the non partisan Congressional Research Service.

"In a 27-page report written for lawmakers, the research service said the Bush administration is using signing statements as a means to slowly condition Congress into accepting the White House's broad conception of presidential power, which includes a presidential right to ignore laws he believes are unconstitutional.

"The 'broad and persistent nature of the claims of executive authority forwarded by President Bush appear designed to inure Congress, as well as others, to the belief that the president in fact possesses expansive and exclusive powers upon which the other branches may not intrude,' the report said. . . .

"Despite such criticism, the administration has continued to issue signing statements for new laws. Last week, for example, Bush signed the 2007 military budget bill, but then issued a statement challenging 16 of its provisions.

"The bill bars the Pentagon from using any intelligence that was collected illegally, including information about Americans that was gathered in violation of the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable government surveillance.

"In Bush's signing statement, he suggested that he alone could decide whether the Pentagon could use such information. His signing statement instructed the military to view the law in light of 'the president's constitutional authority as commander in chief, including for the conduct of intelligence operations, and to supervise the unitary executive branch.'"


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