The White House Threatens to Ignore Congress

"The President has the ability to exercise his own authority if he thinks Congress has voted the wrong way."

We've jumped the shark. If this idea doesn't outrage the American population, the media and the opposition party (and even his own party), then we've lost track of what America is all about. Do we have a constitution or don't we?

I can't imagine any other president saying he has the right to do what he pleases even if Congress makes it illegal. What does "if he thinks Congress has voted the wrong way" mean? Wrong, according to whom? The fact that it is a law makes it right by definition, by our democracy, by our constitution.

The president can veto laws he thinks Congress voted the wrong way on. But if they override his veto, it is not within his authority to ignore that law. This is so fundamental that it's unbelievable that it has to be spelled out.

If you asked whether a president could do this in an eighth grade civics class and anyone answered -- "Yes, a president can exercise his own authority if he thinks Congress voted the wrong way." -- you would unquestionably fail them. That is not the correct answer. At least not in our system of government.

If Reagan felt that Congress voted the wrong way in the Boland Amendment, then does that make his administration's actions in Iran-Contra legal? If Nixon felt Congress would have voted the wrong way on impeachment, could he just stay in office? Even he wasn't brazen enough to make this claim.

This is the stuff constitutional crises are made of. This president has been unabashedly breaking and reinterpreting the law to suit his needs for years now. He does out in the open. He does it with the flimsiest of explanations. And he rubs everyone's face in it.

He is in direct violation of FISA - he knows it, we all know it, and no one does a thing about it (except the previous Republican Congress that tried to make it legal retroactively and Senator Feingold's motion for censure). He now claims the right to violate the new postal reform bill - right after he signed it into effect. Laws don't apply to him. He has magical executive authority.

You know what this kind of "executive authority" used to be called before? The divine right of kings, dictatorial power, authoritarian rule. I would like anyone to explain how a president in our constitutional form of government can claim the right to ignore laws passed by the legislative branch.

President Bush has claimed the right to reinterpret laws by attaching signing statements to over 750 laws. Often times, his "interpretation" is the exact opposite of what the law clearly states (e.g. the torture ban and postal legislation). Other times, the president has simply broken the law and lied about it until caught (e.g. warrantless wiretapping).

In the case of Tony Snow's comment yesterday, the White House seems to be implying that Bush will send in however many troops he wants to Iraq no matter what laws Congress passes. That he will simply declare that "Congress voted the wrong way."

Imagine if Congress passes a law saying that our troop presence in Iraq is capped at 150,000 troops. Bush vetoes, Congress overrides. Then Bush orders more troops into Iraq, surpassing the legal limit imposed by Congress. What do we do?

Does the Supreme Court have to order the generals to not deploy the troops? Do they have to listen? Who does the Pentagon take orders from? If Bush thinks he can ignore Congress, what if he tells the commanders to also ignore the Supreme Court?

This is madness. We are supposed to be a country of laws. What do we do when we have a president who expressly tells the country that he is not constrained by the law?

A positive first step would be for the opposition party to grow a spine and let the president know that he will follow the law or he will be thrown out of office. Violating clear federal laws is more than enough to meet the "high crimes and misdemeanors" requirement of Article II, Section 4.

It was one thing when Democrats lived an intimidated existence, huddling in a small corner as the minority party. It was one thing when it appeared that it was politically perilous to cross the president (it never appeared that way to us -- the progressive bloggers and media -- and it turned out we had judged the national mood better than the Democratic Party or the mainstream media). But now that it is politically perilous to not challenge the president and the Democrats are in the majority, there are no more excuses.

Do your job. Check the president. Demand that he follow the law - or show him the door. We aren't playing kid's games here. The man is jeopardizing the constitution and our way of life. He must be brought back in line before we face a true constitutional crisis.