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Obama: "I'll overturn laws"


“I would call my attorney general in and review every single executive order issued by George Bush and overturn those laws or executive decisions that I feel violate the constitution,” said Obama

I applaud the sentiment, but I'm appalled by the ignorance:

I mean, the President can't overturn laws.

Bush thought so, but shouldn't a lecturer in Constitutional law know -- and speak -- differently? Especially when the lecturer graduated from Harvard Law, took the oath as a Senator, and is famous for his eloquence and mastery of the well-chosen word?

Or does Obama really believe, with Bush, that the President can overturn laws?

Cue another round of W.O.R.M.!

No votes yet


elixir's picture
Submitted by elixir on

this goes as compared to the OFB latest memo on the Clinton campaign.

BTW, has anyone heard what HRC has been up to recently. Since they began ignoring her (except for when she threatened Obama's life) it's hard to keep up with her campaign.

I love this job!

elixir's picture
Submitted by elixir on

really is tearing it up with policy intiatives - first he's going to overturn some laws (only the one's George Bush voted for) and now he's getting us started on another language. Boy, when does this guy sleep? Does anyone know how to say "yes we can" in Austronesian?

Obama Language: weakness hurts U.S.

THORNTON, Colo. — Democrat Barack Obama said U.S. students must learn a second or even third language or the country will struggle to compete in a global economy.

"We as a society do a really bad job teaching foreign languages, and it is costing us when it comes to being competitive in a global marketplace," the Illinois senator said at a school here Wednesday. Obama speaks a little Spanish and some rusty Indonesian from his childhood, aides said."

I love this job!

Shane-O's picture
Submitted by Shane-O on

Neither Obama nor an attorney general can "overturn" a law. And the statement by Obama does not assert that a president can.

Do you really parse that sentence that way?

If so, this place has gone more crazy than I can believe.

A president can call on his or her AG to investigate laws and EO's. Then there is a process - which, depending on the legal basis for the original law or EO, must be used to "overturn" such laws or EO's.

The Bill of Rights is a born rebel. It reeks with sedition. In every clause it shakes its fist in the face of constituted authority. . . . it is the one guaranty of human freedom to the American people. - Frank Irving Cobb

eric the red's picture
Submitted by eric the red on

"*** overturn those laws ***". Sure it's a misstatement and I am sure he knows better. But the question is, how does this even come out of his mouth? Lawyers don't even talk like this.

"I will seek to withdraw/vacate/retract those executive orders that violate the constitution." That's better.

Submitted by jawbone on

would have meaning and affect his client?

He may write well, but his extemporaneous speaking leaves a lot, a whole lot, to be desired.

Do we have to go through another president with poor speaking skills?

I do miss Bill Clinton! And Hillary, on the whole, does much better off the cuff.

If this is on tape, bet is makes it into a Repub ad in the fall if he's the nom. Or VP.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

Executive orders are not the same as laws passed by congress. They cannot be swept aside entirely, but they are not the same as laws.

If an Executive Order is unconstitutional, such as authorizing torture, that would be grounds for overturning it. Exactly what that process is I do not know.

Incidentally, unlike "signing statements" Executive Orders are a legitimate instrument of state.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

Exec Orders are not laws at all--and are not legal to begin with if they conflict with existing law--they need to all be made illegal in Congress, or court decisions need to make it clear.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

Although he does seem to be making a lot of those lately. None of them have been a very big deal, but Obama has turned into a gaffe a day. Eh, I'm sure the GOP won't notice or in any way use it against him. He's going to change politics, don't you know.

GrandCamel's picture
Submitted by GrandCamel on

You really are going to have a grammatical snit over that? Something that we should all be cheering all the candidates to do and you can't help to let your mind over parse a sentence until... well, I don't even get what the point of this drivel is anymore. Even Strunk and White would go "Dude, chill out".

I've been trying to give this blog the good ol' liberal "I see your point" schtick, but I can't do it anymore. Feh! There doesn't seem to be a point anymore, does there?

Submitted by lambert on

... for the Obama "fans" -- I presume, since Gawd help us if they're supporters -- on this thread.

How is it possible for a lecturer in Constitutional Law, trained as a lawyer, famed for his eloquence, and the putative author of two (2) best selling books, to "mis-speak" on such a basic, basic matter, which is fundamental to his claimed competence?

Doesn't this raise the teeniest sense of cognitive dissonance?MR SUBLIMINAL What, are you kidding?

Is there anything Obama could ever say that wouldn't bring hordes of his defenders out of the wordwork, explaining What Obama Really meant?MR SUBLIMINAL No.

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

myiq2xu's picture
Submitted by myiq2xu on

executive orders anytime he or she wants to. All it takes is a stroke of a pen. As the literal "executive" of the nation, they have that authority. The power and scope of EO's is limited by existing law and the Constitution. Basically, EO's are management instructions to federal employees and policy directives.

Laws and regulations OTOH, can only be repealed, amended or replaced through the legislative process, or can be declared unconstitutional by a federal court.

If a President believes a law is unconstitutional, he or she would have to file suit to challenge it in court.

“Rules are not necessarily sacred,
principles are.”
- Franklin D. Roosevelt

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

He said he would de-criminalize marijuana. Then issued a statement saying "ooops":

A spokesman for Obama’s campaign blamed confusion over the meaning of decriminalization for the inconsistencies, and said that while Obama does not support decriminalization, "we are sending far too many first-time, nonviolent drug users to prison for very long periods of time, and that we should rethink those laws."

So when Obama said "yes" he would de-criminalize marijuana, a shorter and more accurate answer would've been "no."

All of this just confirms my prejudices about Harvard Law School. They let in too many students, the place is basically a factory, and as a result the graduates are not uniformly strong. Now, I formed that opinion having worked with a number of Harvard grads over the years (some fantastic, some awful), but Obama isn't really doing anything to convince me I'm wrong.

And about him being the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review and how that's some qualification to be president or some sign of his brilliant mind.* Susan Estrich was the first female editor of the Harvard Law Review. Enough said.

* NOTE - Don't get me wrong, I don't think Obama is stupid. Quite the contrary, I think he's quite smart, but he doesn't seem smarter than a lot of other folks that I know and have worked with over the years, although admittedly I've been lucky enough to work with some brilliant people. And his constant gaffes about the law, while I think he knows better, are a bit unsettling. I can't imagine saying that I didn't know what de-criminalize meant. Even if it were true, I'd find another explanation. That's just embarrassing.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

Regulations are issued under statutory authority, but are done pursuant to an administrative process. They can be challenged in court for either being unconstitutional or violating the underlying statute (say, by exceeding the scope of the agency's authority), but generally speaking the agency in charge of administering a statute gets deference to its interpretation of the statute (the Constitution is a different matter and would be judged under the relevant standard). Obama would not need Congress to change regulations, agencies could issue new proposed regulations and go through the process that way.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

signing statements, and things like that--not Agency or Department Regulations, like directing them to not discriminate against us gays in hiring, etc. Spying on us wasn't an Executive Order, i don't think--It was simply an instruction to specific agencies, and because the Patriot Act was worded so broadly and they decided to ignore laws like FISA, it was just plainly and clearly illegal--there's no assessment needed on any of the crimes.

Of course, whatever he meant, he's again validating their clear and open criminal acts and their blatant disregard for the laws by stating they need to "looked at" or whatever.

Note also--he didn't say he would immediately order anything stopped.

leah's picture
Submitted by leah on

Some of you need to take a step back, truly you do.

You need to read your own comments, sometime, with the perspective of an intelligent, committed, liberal who simply doesn't agree with you about Obama.

And I agree with DCblogger, all of you should be pleased that one of the two candidates is actually talking about a subject dear to the heart of this blog - constitutional government, and accountability.

It isn't even true that Obama said that "he'd" overturn laws, and he made a distinction in his statement between executive orders and laws.

All of you have missed the most important aspect of his discussion, which came about as the result of a question about his priorities for those first 100 days, to which he replied: “I would call my attorney general in and review every single executive order issued by George Bush and overturn those laws or executive decisions that I feel violate the constitution,” said Obama. I think we can assume that Obama realizes that overturning a law would require the cooperation of the legislature. In fact, I think it fairly obvious that he was giving his potential administration the widest possible latitude for reconsidering the expanded notion of the presidency advanced and acted upon by the Bush administration.

This is exactly the kind of parsing nonsense that the SCLM, goaded and used by the Obama campaign, has used again and again against Hillary. And yes, I can imagine the 527 formerly known as Daily Kos jumping on this remark if Hillary had made it. So what? Time for everybody to grow up.

What is important here is that Obama is apparently willing to run on this idea - to make accountability and at least some semblance of the need for accountability for what has happened during the past eight years something he's willing to present to the electorate, and thus prepare the way for being able to do it when elected. Somewhere else he also mentioned that health care will also be an early priority.

I'm not suggesting that anyone should be overcome with joy, or that what he's said doesn't need filling out. In particular, I would like to see some recognition that such a review needs to be made public, that the information belongs to us, we the people, not to an Obama administration. And we should also want more accountability than is encompassed in this statement.

Amberglow, there is nothing even remotely alike about what George W. Bush has done for the last 8 years and what Obama was talking about. He didn't say anything specific either about the way that Bush has implemented laws, or not implemented them, as per his many signing statements. That is a change Obama can make himself, as President, and that may also have been what he was thinking of. But just because he didn't say it explicitly doesn't mean he isn't aware of it.

I'm not suggesting that any of us relax and let Obama do the heavy lifting on this one. There will be an enormous emphasis, especially if the Democrat wins in November, placed on the 'moving on," trope, not being distracted by the Bush past; that will be the position of the press, you can be sure, and whether it's Hillary or Obama, either will want to implement a change agenda, which mitigates against looking too closely at the recent past.

I've never thought there was a chance in hell that Bush would or could be impeached, and the criticism of Nancy Pelosi strikes me as wrong-headed; impeachment was off the table, not because she took it off, but because politically, it was an impossibility. What made it such was the impeachment of Bill Clinton, and don't think the Republicans weren't aware that they'd bought themselves immunity from impeachment for at least a couple of decades.

We need to find a way to be sure that whichever Democrat wins, there is grassroots pressure for an accounting of the last eight years. Obama has given us an opening for that.

Does it occur to any of you that you might be wrong about Obama? By that I don't mean that every critique you have of him must turn out to be wrong. Some of them won't. But much of what many of you have been saying about his campaign, his chances to be elected, and how he would govern are educated guesses at best. More is going to be revealed about him if he gets the nomination and begins his GE campaign. What will be more important to you? Will you be willing and able to commit to a reasoned critique of what he does, with an eye to advancing progressive ideas and political power, which would include being open to learning more about him, or will it be more important to you to continue to make the same points about why you distrust and dislike him, over and over again, without regard to the actual campaign that is unfolding?

That's what a lot of the people who voted for Nader in 2000 did; they were so sure they knew who Al Gore was that it bothered them not a jot that Nader's campaign, which accomplished precisely nothing, not for the Green Party and not for any of the ideas which many of us who stuck with Gore also hold dear, helped cost Gore the election and gave us George W. Bush, who Nader assured us wasn't all that different from Gore.

Does anyone on this thread really think that Obama isn't smart enough to be President? Because that is what you seem to be suggesting. Or are you going to tell me that his slip of Freudian, and you absolutely sure you know what is in his heart, mind and soul. You really think he might try and "overturn" a law by way of executive order. Of course you don't.

I have my problems with Obama, and I loathe the way his campaign used the RFK reference, and pretended not to be doing it. But then again, I loathed Bill Clinton for doing what he did to Lani Guinier. Well, being actively involved in anything as complicated as self-governance requires the ability to forgive, as well as to know where to draw the line beyond which there is no forgiveness.

Submitted by cg.eye on

polltakers, ad men, mad media prophets, framers and meme generators a region of tech venture capitalists could buy... and still he presents an unclear message when it comes to the few policy statements he makes outside of a jewel-cut crafted speech.

This is the raw meat we've been waiting for, not our narcissistic view of ourselves in the mirror -- the man who can take the real pain of 8 years of Bush and transform it through hard work, truth and reconciliation. But first the truth must be heard and aired, and saying clearly how he would deal with the extra-legal maneuvers of this Administration is, sorry, a requirement for this job.

I'm glad he said it first; I'm sorry he has so much of a lead that it costs him less to say that than Clinton would suffer, at this late date. That doesn't mean I let up on him until the day he truly accomplishes what he has promised, when he actually risks the GOP hating him for showing them how they'll look to the court of public opinion. Until then? Not. One. Step. Back.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

When I read the news item, I was momentarily heartened. I thought, good, that's a step in the right direction.

Then I noticed that it seemed like a nice dog whistle at best: at least he's signaling his concern over Bush's extra-Constitutionalism, definitely a good thing, but he was saying it a way that suggested it was a mere handwave. He not only danced around the topic of prosecuting the Bushies (not that HRC has pledged to do it), it seemed that he was suggesting an extra-Constitutional solution to it as well (read: he's not really going to do anything about it).

So, there we have a rare, pleasing dogwhistle from Obama. One week after his campaign made a whole lot of us unsure whether we can vote for this Democrat for president -- despite, for many of us, lifetime commitments to the party and a boundless fear and loathing of today's Republican Party.

My message to Obama is that you've got a long way to go, baby, to earn my vote. A lot more steps like this would help. We'll see....

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

I may still vote for him, but what I really believe is that with all that we face it is irresponsible of the Democratic Party to nominate him. Could he grow into the job of President? Sure. Will he? I don't know. But I do know this is a lousy time to elect someone who needs on the job training.

To be clear, it's not a matter of smart. It's a matter of what he knows and what he's done. I've worked with a lot of people who have more impressive resumes than Obama, who know more about policy and have more experience making Government work. And I don't consider any of them particularly qualified to be president.

Obama has been a Senator for less than one term and he's spent about a third of his time running for President. He's held not a single hearing of the subcommittee he chairs. He's not championed or passed any landmark legislation. His record isn't bad, but it isn't remarkable either.

Prior to becoming a Senator, he was a state legislator in Illinois. The Illinois legislature meets for less than 60 days a year. Again, his record isn't terrible, but it isn't remarkable. There is nothing that would suggest he was any more or less qualified based on his state experience than any other state legislator in the country.

Prior to that he appears to have done unremarkable work at a law firm, went to law school, and before that was a community organizer where, from what i can tell, he registered voters.

Obama has been very good at raising money and winning elections. But he hasn't spent very much time governing or exercising oversight or getting legislation passed or doing anything a legislator would normally do to prepare himself to be President. Maybe it's that I work for the Government, but I can't tell you how much those things matter or how desperately we need someone who knows how Government works and can manage it, especially now. I'm afraid being smart is not going to be enough.

In 2004, Obama was asked if he would run for the presidency in 2008 and he said no because he wouldn't be qualified. He was right, IMO.

Again, I'll probably end up voting for him anyway because McCain is awful and I'm not really a protest vote kind of person. Then I'll hope the party establishment and his advisors can carry him through until he grows into the job. But given what we're facing, it's incredible to me that we're going to try to put a guy into the Oval Office who has so little experience and what he does have is so unremarkable. If the party didn't want Clinton, there were plenty of other truly experienced candidates to choose from. I didn't like all of them, but I would not argue that any of them lacked the basic experience necessary for the job. I don't think Obama crosses that threshold. Running a good campaign is not the same thing as running the country. If it were, George W. Bush would be at least a competent president.

herb the verb's picture
Submitted by herb the verb on

that Obama will work to overturn unconstitutional rules and laws. I think that is like part of the job requirement, but I guess we should give him a gold star? A medal?

So what does he plan as his next wonderful act? Will he sign laws which have been passed by the Congress? Receive Heads of State of other countries? Give a State of the Union Address every year? Appoint Cabinet Heads to administer the laws of the land?

I'm getting weak in the knees already!

Talk about "lowering expectations", let the casual poetry of governing commence!


Good night and good riddance!

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

is what's key and what's Bushish.

It's not up to him to decide what's legal or constitutional--this is exactly the attitude Bush has and what has lead to the current horrors. He should know that it not about what he thinks or feels at all EVER, and it's not his decision to EVER make.

If he meant something else, he should speak clearly, and not need you or anyone else to tell us what he really meant--that's gotten really old and boring and just makes him seem weaker.

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

I don't see any problem with the literal statement itself. He could have added the words "seek to" in front of "laws" but the gist of what he is saying is to me perfectly clear and reasonable and desirable.

No President can unilaterally overturn the law. Even the most deranged Bushie knows that, which is why they got the cobbled up claptrap to try and cover their butts on torture. Obama knows it. I know it. You know it. Why, then, are we having this conversation?

One of he quibbles I've had with some on the left is with the claim that the Constitution has been overthrown or lost or some such nonsense. Not so. Beaten around a bit, and ignored to be sure, laws have been violated and flouted and evaded by the busload, but the principles still stand. I see no reason to suppose that Obama feels any differently.

Sometimes when we speak it doesn't come out with absolute clarity. Even writing is, for me at least, often awkward. That's all this is, an odd construction trying to compress two closely allied thoughts into a single sentence; it is not a hint that Obama is secretly planning a dictatorship.

Too much Kremlinology going on, and too little time on actual policy issues. Doesn't help, I know, when he's vague, but still. All the flailing about over this word-order nothingness and the flipping-the-bird foolishness and the fairytale idiocy and the RFK sickness is getting on my nerves. Perfectly correct to call others on it when they engage in absurdist fantasy mind-reading and false accusation. Not defensable, IMNSHO, for anyone to engage in it at all.

Leah, your comment above should be a post. No promises of kittens or puppies or ponys, just a plea. Smack some people upside the head, I say.

Lambert, you're a bad, bad boy to stir this pot.

Submitted by lambert on

Hey, Obama just said something stupid in his supposed area of expertise. And with "decriminalization" it's a two-fer.

And on critical Constitutional issues, too (about which many are far less sanguine than Bringiton).

So, a C list blogger points this out, adds a little snark, and suddenly everybody heads for the fainting couch--no doubt they're tired after shooting the messenger?

Please, people, get a grip. And when this turns into a three-fer and a four-fer, as I predict it will, you'll thank me for getting this on the record.

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

herb the verb's picture
Submitted by herb the verb on

Just worn down with the Obama bullshit.

Yeah, most people at heart know Obama didn't mean literally "overturn" laws. But after all the bullshit his campaign has pulled parsing language where do they get off calling foul? Plus, does Obama deserve a medal for doing what we expect as the bare minimum of a Democrat? To expose and, through due process of law, overturn unconstitional laws?

So we who don't trust him because he and his campaign has been so full of bullshit and dirty tricks up to this point poke fun at his construction, so the hell what? Wake up and smell the sweet, sweet smell of Unity Pony droppings because that is what you smell now.

Does it smell like Victory?

Obama has to go a hell of a lot farther than this namby-pamby bullshit non-pander to convince people he is a Democrat after all the sewer water his campaign has firehosed under the bridge.

BIO, I respect your comments in many ways but the following don't wash:

"All the flailing about over this word-order nothingness and the flipping-the-bird foolishness and the fairytale idiocy and the RFK sickness is getting on my nerves."

Please reconsider, this is FITH Kool-Aid territory, especially the RFK thing.


Good night and good riddance!

bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Lambert can speak for himself, no need to triangulate, thanks anyway. He knows what I'm saying.

All of the things I listed are equivalent in my mind. None of them are reality-based. I find all of it offensive. I want it to stop.

Acting just as badly as the those you despise is no path to respectability.

[Blanket dispensation for beating on Republicans or members of the corporatist MSM. They deserve any abuse that can be conjured, reality-based or not. Exposing Mickey Kaus' little problem with goat sex - a problem, it must be noted, that he has never denied - is a fine example.]

Submitted by lambert on

"Just as badly"?

How, pray? By not being Civil?

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

As I said this was a misstatement, IMO, and nothing more. However, I do think the denial of what decriminalization means is telling. Not because I honestly believe Obama doesn't know what decriminalization means, but because I presume he pandered somewhere on this issue, then got called out on his pander (e.g. someone actually believed what he said) and then his campaign came up with the bullshit that he didn't know what decriminalization meant. Kind of like he was shocked to find out the positions his staffer (read campaign manager) took on that 1996 questionnaire that later turned out to have Obama's handwriting on it. If these are their ideas of defenses or clarifications, they are going to have a very long General Election campaign. Because I can't tell whose intelligence is insulted more by the claim Obama doesn't know what decriminalization means - mine or his.

rzagza's picture
Submitted by rzagza on

I am so with you on most of the things going on with this campaign but come on. We are supposed to be outraged that Hillary's comment about Robert Kennedy was misinterpreted, but at the same time jump over every mistatement about Obama. Any fair assessment of what he said was OBVIOUSLY in refernece to examing Bushes executive orders and signing statements. We should be better than this.

Submitted by lambert on

Last I checked, there wasn't a multi-day all-media wankfest on this one, right?

Nor has anyone made any shit up.

This is Equivalation.

[x] Any (D) in the general. [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.

herb the verb's picture
Submitted by herb the verb on

"We are supposed to be outraged that Hillary’s comment about Robert Kennedy was misinterpreted"

Well yes, yes we are, that wasn't twisted to show she was stupid (like the gist of this post) it was twisted to try to depict her as ghoulishly longing for Obama's death. Are the two equivalent?

“All the flailing about over this word-order nothingness and the flipping-the-bird foolishness and the fairytale idiocy and the RFK sickness is getting on my nerves.”

Yes, now we are "flailing about" over flipping-the-bird misogyny, and fairytale race-baiting and once again the RFK thing because, once again, misogyny and race-baiting and calling your opponent a ghoulish vulture are not equivalent to poking a little fun at Obama's presumed ignorance.

For me, I don't really care if he messed up his words, but I'm not going to get all worked up into fauxrage over his getting called out for one more gaffe. This is really minor stuff Obama fans, there is no "equivalence" here.

But to my own point, why does anybody think he deserves a medal for the sentiment? Is it maybe because Clinton had been talking about cleaning up Bush's mess for months and the Unity Pony not so much?

Apparently this is the start of the Unity Call. Thou shalt not say anything less than positive about the Pony. Well, some of us are still just a wee bit peeved that we are getting a sure loser foisted on us, guaranting 4 more years of Republican bullshit.

Not ready to make nice.


Good night and good riddance!