July 26, 2006


Caption: This man agrees with Mel Brooks. "It's good to be king."

For some time, observers have marveled over the fact that President Bush has only vetoed one piece of legislation (stem cell research) in his term in office even though he disagreed with many. Now we know why: he doesn't think that laws apply to him.

Rather than issue a veto, he simply uses signing statements to indicate his disagreement with the laws and signal the fact that he doesn't feel bound by them.

This reminds El Cabrero of playground games in which one kid would yell out "Not included!" during a rousing bout of "Last One to the Swingset is a Geek." OK, the analogy isn't perfect, but according to some estimates the president has issued some version of "Not included!" to as many as 750 laws.

As Mel Brooks once said, "It's good to be the king."

Things have now reached a point that some movement conservatives have expressed concern with the damage this has done and may yet do to the Constitution. Former Republican Congressman Mickey Edwards, who was also chair of the American Conservative Union and a founding trustee of the Heritage Foundation, recently wrote in The Nation that:

the real issue at stake is not one of presidential policy but of the continued viability of the separation of powers, the central tenet in America's system of constrained government. The Founders deliberately placed lawmaking power in the hands of Congress precisely because it, and especially the House of Representatives, was the most democratic branch of government--people. The concentration of power in the hands of a single chief executive, whether President or King, is an outcome neither the left nor the right should welcome.

In other words, to stick to the playground analogy, the Founders believed in the "All included, no changes!" theory of government rather than that of the executive "Not included!" school of political thought.

I'm with them, although it would be fascinating to imagine a world where we all had the ability to issue signing statements at critical moments. At the very least, it would liven things up to be able to say in effect "Not included!" with things like grade cards, school rules, contracts, speed limits and other laws, solemn vows, and mortgage agreements.

El Cabrero may try that the next time the bill comes...


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