The Boston Globe ran an interesting article yesterday about how President Bush has been aggressively asserting the unconstitutionality of laws enacted by the Congress.
A few quick points:
First, there is nothing wrong, per se, with the president expressing the view that an act of Congress is unconstitutional. Congress is not a club of all-knowing philosopher kings. Congress has overstepped the boundaries of its authority quite a bit over the years. We don’t want a president who just passively “goes along to get along” with the politicos on Capitol Hill.
On the other hand, there would be a real danger were a president to blithely assert the unconstitutionality of a law simply because it puts a check on his power. The Globe lead–that Bush ignores 750 laws–doesn’t do much to inform us as to which is the case with Bush. Is he thwarting the overreaching of the Congress, or is he usurping legislative powers that the Constitution assigned to the Congress? To answer that question, we’d need to look at the laws he’s ignoring on a case-by-case basis.
I think it’s safe to say that we should worried about the legal and constitutional advice that President Bush has been acting upon since he arrived in Washington.
Bush and his lawyers certainly pay close attention to matters of executive power – that much is clear. But they don’t seem terribly interested in the rest of the Constitution. What about the Bill of Rights, the provisions that protect the people from both executive and legislative power? There is no indication from the Boston Globe story that Bush has ever chosen to ignore a law because it violates free speech, due process, or the constitutional principle of federalism. That’s a troubling sign. And the fact that Bush hasn’t used his veto a single time to stop the unconstitutional excesses of Congress is inexcusable.
For a more detailed examination of Bush’s constitutional record, go here.