Whatever Happened to Signing Statements?



Perhaps the best indication of the toothlessness and complicity of the new Democratic Congress is that President Bush, who between September 2001 and December 2006 used so-called “signing statements” and a bogus claim of extra-constitutional executive authority as commander in chief in time of war to invalidate 1200 laws or parts of laws passed by Congress, hasn’t issued a single one since January.

As for vetoes, there was just one, for the first Iraq War supplemental funding bill-the one that actually contained a deadline of sorts for ending the conflict.

The truth is, this Congress, elected by a public that made it clear it was sick and tired of the Iraq War, has really done little or nothing to challenge the president-not on global warming, not on the Iraq War, and not on his unilateral gutting of traditional and Constitutionally protected civil liberties.

The truth is, there has been little for this president to object to coming out of this supposedly oppositional Congress.

On Memorial Day, as close to 150,000 US troops risk death and create mayhem in Iraq, as 3500 soldiers’ graves at home get fresh flowers, as 26,000 gravely injured Iraq War veterans nurse their wounds with little help from an over-stretched and underfunded Veterans Administration medical system, we Americans have to face the fact that we have lost control of our government to a trillion-dollar war machine that moves of its own accord.

A criminal president and vice president have succeeded in tricking us into a war that had no justification, and that can have no good end. And what once was an opposition party has succumbed, though a combination of greed and cowardice, to become an accomplice in crime.

The president, now surely among the least popular leaders in the nation’s long history, has no need of signing statements any longer because he faces no organized opposition in Washington.

The amazing thing is that most Americans seem to understand what has happened. A few years ago, it took a certain amount of fortitude to wear a peace button, or to put an anti-war bumper sticker on one’s car. It took a certain amount of courage to hold a sign calling for the president’s impeachment. Today, do any of those things, and you’re far more likely to get a thumbs up sign, or a wry smile of agreement anywhere you go in the country.

Americans everywhere know we’ve been lied to, misled and sold a bill of goods with Iraq and the so-called War on Terror. But we also are coming to understand that there is little we can do about it with the Congress we’ve got.

We elected people who vowed to stand up and put a stop to the crimes, and after we voted them into office, they have failed us.

We’ve all learned this without the help of the mainstream media, which goes on about its devious business of pretending that everything is as it was, with two combative and ideologically opposed parties.

The public knows better.

Maybe now we can really start to tackle the problem.

Some progressive Democrats like Progressive Democrats of America and Democrats.com are calling for candidates to mount primary challenges against the sell-out Democrats like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid who are making president Bush’s job so easy.

That’s great. With luck, the voters will realize this is their chance to revivify the rotting corpse that is the Democratic Party, and maybe some of those leaders will be dumped.

The next step will be what we, the voters, do in the next general election. Will we revert to form and vote yet again for what used to be called the “lesser evil,” but which is now revealed as just another face of the same evil? Or will we abandon the frauds and withhold our vote from those who promise much and then betray us?

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His n book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff’s newest book is “The Case for Impeachment“,
co-authored by Barbara Olshansky.

He can be reached at: dlindorff@yahoo.com



Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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