The imperial President redux

Posted on January 30, 2008

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Last week I posted about President Bush considering doing an end-run around the Senate regarding a treaty status of forces agreement between the U.S. and the Iraqi government (specifically the Iraqi President and Cabinet) that might put the U.S. on notice that it’s our job to protect the government even in the event of an Iraqi civil war. And I pointed out that Bush had used signing statements to claim that he wasn’t subject to the very federal laws he was signing because they restricted his ability to build permanent military bases in Iraq.

Well, Bush II (the dynastic designation seems somehow appropriate) done it yet again. In signing the Defense Authorization bill, Bush II took specific exception to “sections 841, 846, 1079, and 1222” in yet another signing statement.

Section 841 creates the “Commission on Wartime Contracting,” specifically to look into Iraq occupation abuses and fraud by people like Blackwater. I suspect that Bush doesn’t agree with most of Subsection E, where various departments of his administration are required to give timely testimony and provide the data the commission needs, where Congress can get involved and give out subpeonas if people refuse to answer, and the fact that he’s required to give out clearances in a timely fashion so that his own allies will be investigated.

Section 846 expands legal protection to whistleblowers and requires that the Inspector General respond to all complaints within 180 days or, with the whistleblower’s approval, after an additional amount of time. Bush II’s exception to this one is probably because it limits his ability to stonewall both investigations of whistleblower retaliation and the actual complaints brought by the whistleblower.

Section 1079 is an attempt by Congress to force an upper limit of 45 days on the Presidency from when Congress demands answers from intelligence center VIPs. Again, taking exception to this part of the law is Bush II’s way of ensuring he’s “allowed” to stonewall.

But Section 1222 is the one that most directly applies to last week’s post, because it says this:

No funds appropriated pursuant to an authorization of appropriations in this Act may be obligated or expended for a purpose as follows:
(1) To establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq.
(2) To exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq.

And since Bush II wants to be able to build permanent “enduring” and “continuing” military bases in Iraq to control protect the oil resources of Iraq, he can’t abide by these restrictions.

Bush II has put the next President in a bind – there will be a Constitutional battle in the Supreme Court over whether Congress’ control over money truly does limit the President’s military authority in the way that Bush II thinks it does. I hope the next President does the right thing and agrees with Congress that Bush II overstepped his bounds. Unfortunately, I’m not convinced that any of the current crop of candidates is sufficiently principled to step aside when he or she should.

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