Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Suppose you were serving in an organization, with the specific function of formulating policy. There's someone else in the same organization, at the same executive level, whose job it is to receive what you have produced and put it into action - what people love to call "implementation" on their resumes.
After awhile you notice, however, that things aren't going into action exactly as you planned. Some things get ignored, while others are altered beyond recognition. The organization seems to be reeling from these disconnects, with lots of complaints from its funders.
You are naturally concerned, but any attempt to work things out with your counterpart is met with failure. It's as though your implementation guy is working strictly on his own, regardless of your efforts to make the policy clear. Finally, you confront him personally, but am surprised when he says "Gotcha! I always keep my fingers crossed behind my back, allowing me to ignore anything you say. You don't count at all, and I'm going to keep doing things exactly the way I want to. Bug off, man."
Your reaction? What if you are Congress, and the implementation guy is President Bush? Is the name David Arrington familiar? He took the job of Scooter Libby as Cheney's chief of staff. His specialty, however, is the "Signing Statement", a nonconstitutional device that the administration regards as a kind of "King's X", that allows the executive branch to ignore Congress, or, at least, anything from Congress they don't like.
No, the Bush folks didn't invent the device, but they have brought it near perfection by using it (and I am being truthful here) hundreds of times, usually including some reference to the president's status as commander-in-chief as if that alone trumped everything else. The net result? The administration feels it can go around Congress every day and every way they care to.
None of this is secret, yet the Signing Statement is still untested in any court. Congress has no plan I know of to address the situation, nor does the President or especially Mr. Addington. I admit I'm bothered that the President can so blithely put himself above the law, but until many more people feel the same way, change.


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