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Veto Kabuki

Sure, Bush, increasingly desperate to hold onto his deluded base, actually pulled out his Mighty Veto Pen and mightily vetoed a bill.

Sure, Bush is happy to have Iraqi civilians die, and armor-less soldiers have their limbs blown off, and prisoners tortured, and 14-year-olds raped and then set on fire, and helpless old people die during Katrina--all the while proclaiming the inherent dignity of blastocysts. Logic--heck, sanity--never bothered these guys, and being evil's worked out well for them, so why would they change?

So what's everybody missing? Vetoes aren't important anymore, because Bush has destroyed Constitutional government. The Presidential veto is sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Why? Two words:

Signing statements.

Bush doesn't need to bother vetoing bills he doesn't like, because he uses signing statements instead. As John Dean writes:

his summer, the Senate Judiciary Committee has held hearings on President Bush's uses and abuses of signing statements. Technically, these are statements by the President accompanying his signing of legislation. In this Administration, however, signing statements have been used as a dodgy practice of telling the Congress to go to hell.

Rather than vetoing bills, Bush issues vague statements to try to cut them off at the knees even as he purports to give them legs. These statements say, in essence, that he may or may not enforce this or that provision of a given law, depending on whether he thinks the provision is unconstitutional.

(Dean's article also contains a splendid example of Republican black-is-white-ism, as the low-level Justice Drone Bush send to testify before the Judiciary Commitee kept calling them "Constitutional signing statments." Healthy forests all over again...)

Bush's policy of signing statements mixes the legislative and executive functions, which destroys the Constitutional separation of powers, which is a recipe for tyranny; see Federalist 47.

Not only that, but Republican operatives Scalia, Thomas, and Scalito are going to do a second Bush v. Gore--Except this time, it's going to be Bush v. the Constution as, unbelievably, or all too believably, they surrender to Bush their own prerogative to interpret they law as they surrender Congress's prerogative to write it. The Globe--unlike Pravda on the Potomac or Izvestia on the Hudson--is actually covering the story:

But Scalia's dissenting opinion [on Hamdan, Thomas ans Alito, concurring] gave Bush's signing statement on a Guantanamo-related law passed by Congress equal weight to statements by the bill's authors, suggesting that there is no legal difference between the views of Congress and the president about what a law means.

And, oh yeah, Alito was the guy who invented signing statements. Anyone have any doubts this was why the Republicans wanted him on the court?

Legal specialists also noted that Alito was among the justices who backed Scalia's citation to a signing statement. In 1986, 20 years before Bush put him on the Supreme Court, Alito helped pioneer the strategy of using signing statements as a way to increase the power of the White House.

Twenty years, note. Nobody says the Republicans can't think strategically (at least when it comes to seizing power in the United States). Twenty years for the bubble of pus you're about to read to swell inside the body politic:

``Since the president's approval is just as important as that of the House or Senate, it seems to follow that the president's understanding of the bill should be just as important as that of Congress," Alito wrote in a memo dated Feb. 5, 1986.

So much for the legislative branch.

He warned, however, that ``Congress is likely to resent the fact that the president will get in the last word on questions of interpretation."

And so much for the judicial branch.

All that's left: One branch to rule them all...

So, the veto is political theatre, an empty spectable, the merest charade. Vetos mean nothing when the separation of powers has been destroyed.

The SCLM has missed the real story, of course, with the noble exception of the Globe's Charles Savage; and alas, most of the blogosphere--and no doubt the fact that "blastocyst" is one of those words that are just funny--has ignored the real story as well.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

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