Favorite

3 questions for McCain, Obama 

CNN's political website on Sept. 24 listed 20 major issues in the 2008 presidential campaign: abortion, Afghanistan, Cuba, economic stimulus, education, energy, environment, free trade, guns, health care, homeland security, housing, immigration, Iran, Iraq, Israel, lesbian-gay issues, Social Security, stem-cell research, and taxes.

But someone in the press and media, including in the much-heralded TV “debates,” should ask McCain and Obama three questions on the vital issue of executive powers.

1. As president, will you renew the Bush administration's coercive practice of having the Justice Department issue secret legal opinions affecting presidential policy?

John Yoo in Justice's Office of Legal Counsel, which decides the legality of proposed presidential actions, secretly wrote and provided legal opinions — binding throughout the executive branch — allowing Bush to aggressively move against anyone the White House deemed connected to terrorism. Two of Yoo's major opinions involved (a) the terrorist surveillance program, and (b) approving extreme methods of torture, including waterboarding.

Vice President Dick Cheney and his legal henchman David Addington controlled this Legal Counsel process, according to Jack Goldsmith, a Republican lawyer who later replaced Yoo. Goldsmith challenged both the secretive methods and what he determined were Yoo's  “flawed” opinions.

2. Will you, as president, continue the expanding administration activity of filing signing statements challenging Congress when giving your signature to new laws?

A signing statement — a legal order the president enters into the Federal Register when signing a bill — asserts how the administration will implement the new law, or not.  With the signing statement, the president basically challenges Congress' authority in passing the law. This challenge, practically speaking, indicates the executive branch will be less than diligent in following the will of Congress, even ignoring the law.

According to Charlie Savage — a Boston Globe reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize for his investigations of the Bush presidency, including his signing statements — presidents historically have used such statements, but rarely. The activity expanded under Ronald Reagan, swelled under Bill Clinton, then exploded under the current President Bush. Our 42 presidents from Washington through Clinton had challenged 600 laws. Bush alone, through the summer of 2007, had attacked over 1,100.

The American Bar Association in 2007 publicly urged Congress to adopt legislation creating judicial-review procedures for “presidential signing statements that claim authority or indicate intent to disregard or decline to enforce the law being signed.” The ABA called signing statements “contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers.”

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) has introduced legislation to quell the presidential authority of signing statements. If it were to pass, Congress would logically need to override a Bush presidential veto for it to become law.

The Washington Post reported in February that McCain said, if elected, he won't use signing statements. Obama said there may be circumstances that necessitate the statements. But candidates, and presidents, have been known to change their minds. So it would be good to hear their official views as we close in on Election Day.

3. As president, would you continue the Bush effort of masking the anti-terrorist effort as a “war” — the administration's attempt to indefinitely extend executive power as commander-in-chief?

John C. Danforth — a former Republican U.S. senator from Missouri and ambassador to the U.N. under Bush from 2004 to 2005 — recently asked in The New York Times, “Is it sensible to speak of a ‘war' on terror, or is this a struggle that should be principally handled by law enforcement?”

Statements coming from the White House constantly refer to the “war” on terror, a Bush effort at absolute power. His presidential history shows that, as long as he can cite a state of war allowing him to act as commander-in-chief, he can promote the “unitary executive theory.” This legal theory argues that, as commander-in-chief, he is not bound by Congress or by law, essentially meaning he's not even answerable to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If that's not an effort at absolute power, then what is?

 

Roger Armbrust is editor-in-chief of the new Our National Conversation book series published by Parkhurst Brothers Inc. Publishers of Little Rock.

Favorite

From the ArkTimes store

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Roger Armbrust

Readers also liked…

  • Schlafly's influence

    Phyllis Schlafly, mother, attorney and longtime antifeminist, died recently. What Schlafly promoted was not novel or new. Men had been saying that men and women were not equal for years. However, anti-feminism, anti-women language had much more power coming from a woman who professed to be looking out for the good of all women and families.
    • Sep 15, 2016
  • Seven

    The controversy over the Ten Commandments monument on the Capitol lawn just won't go away.
    • Feb 9, 2017
  • Why a change of leadership at the LRSD now?

    Johnny Key's abrupt, unilateral decision to not renew Baker Kurrus' contract as superintendent strikes us as shortsighted, misguided and detrimental to the education of our children and the health of our community.
    • Apr 21, 2016

Most Shared

  • ASU to reap $3.69 million from estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn

    Arkansas State University announced today plans for spending an expected $3.69 million gift in the final distribution of the estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn, who died in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
  • Bad health care bill, again

    Wait! Postpone tax reform and everything else for a while longer because the Senate is going to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act one more time before September ends and while it can do it with the votes of only 50 senators.
  • Sex on campus

    Look, the Great Campus Rape Crisis was mainly hype all along. What Vice President Joe Biden described as an epidemic of sexual violence sweeping American college campuses in 2011 was vastly overstated.
  • The inadequate legacy of Brown

    LRSD continues to abdicate its responsibility to educate poor black students.

Latest in Guest Writer

  • Can't afford to gut ACA

    The Affordable Care Act was passed into law with the promise that it would make insurance affordable. Because of bipartisan leadership in Arkansas, we continue to strive to achieve that goal. While rhetoric abounds, it is important to understand the Arkansas experience.
    • Sep 21, 2017
  • Tipping point

    I was extremely cautious before engaging in the educational debate about the State Board of Education's decision to take over the Little Rock School District.
    • Sep 14, 2017
  • Left behind

    Arkansas is getting a lot of attention for our very low unemployment rate. If you look only at that number (3.4 percent), you would think workers here were doing quite well — better than surrounding states and even the nation as a whole. But that seemingly simple rate can hide some huge gaps in prosperity.
    • Sep 7, 2017
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

September

S M T W T F S
  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Sex on campus

    • Once again commentators blame the victim. Social scientists, of whom I am one, regularly find…

    • on September 22, 2017
  • Re: Time for a coalition

    • Shiny, nobody is saying that Hillary isn't entitled to speak. Shit, the more she talks,…

    • on September 21, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation