Sunday, January 15, 2006

Unitary Executive powers: ok for Abortion, but not for National Security

Unitary Executive Powers is all the talk on Liberal blogs. An example are signing statements Presidents use to express limits on what they'll enforce on bills they sign. The left believes Bush will use signing statements on national security to create an imperial Presidency.

Stuart Buck finds an example of one when Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Clinton did not want to enforce the act's provisions limiting speech on abortion.
I do object to the provision in the Act concerning the transmittal of abortion-related speech and information. Current law, 18 U.S.C. 1462, prohibits transmittal of this information by certain means, and the Act would extend that law to cover transmittal by interactive computer services. The Department of Justice has advised me of its long-standing policy that this and related abortion provisions in current law are unconstitutional and will not be enforced because they violate the First Amendment. The Department has reviewed this provision of S. 652 and advises me that it provides no basis for altering that policy. Therefore, the Department will continue to decline to enforce that provision of current law, amended by this legislation, as applied to abortion-related speech.
The Left is lost when it comes out against signing statements for National Defense but lets them slide when used to promote abortion. It's a horrible loss of principle and seems driven by a loss of values.


Philocrites said...

Oh, I see: It's a principled thing to authorize torture and brutal interrogation techniques that Congress has expressly forbidden. I'm shocked -- shocked! -- that liberals see acts of torture as more disturbing than talking about abortion.

Bill Baar said...

The principled thing is not being selective on Executive Powers.

If you think Bush is authorizing Torture. Take a principled stand against that.

It's hard to do I think because get into the law, and it's not torture being authorized. So instead of dealing with substance, you're dealing with the form.

Not to mention misleading people that signing statements are a Bush invention.

Philocrites said...

No, I'm rather consistently on record as opposing Bush's torture policies, his permanent detention policies, his secret prisons policies, and his comprehensive wiretap-in-contravention-of-Congress policies. The principle this reflects is extreme executive hubris -- and I opposed Alberto Gonzales and Samuel Alito because they had a central role in shaping the intellectual justification for extending executive power into these terribly dangerous areas.

I'm not a lawyer or a legal theorist. It's the application of what you call a "principle" that I object to -- and seeing its consequences has made me suspicious of the principle.

I'm not up in arms about "signing statements" and "unitary executive" in principle; I'm worried about them as an opportunity to grossly abuse American traditions.

Bill Baar said...

You took a selective stand against unitary executive powers.

You didn't take a principled stand against them.

UUA took a selective stand against Alito, and not Roberts.

A principled stand would have opposed both.

A principled stand on torture would have been writing coercieve interrogation: meaning water-boarding, and the psychological techniques with sex and religion; are torture and thus wrong.

It's really unprincipled to talk instead on the legal tools Bush uses, because they're the same tools used by past presidents without any outcry about an imperial and omnipetent President.

And you don't think there wasn't some coercive interrogation used by Clinton, and Carter too? These arn't new techniques.

smijer said...

The big difference is between "fail to enforce" and "break"... It's always a given that any justice department has to prioritize the laws they enforce. Perhaps that shouldn't be a political decision, but it's legal, and it's common practice. There are many, many laws that, for one reason another go unenforced by the executives: federal and state.

The problem with what Bush is doing (besides its immorality) is that he is asking the executive to ignore the law not as a matter of enforcement, but as a matter of policy in areas where the law is intended as a check on the executive.

And that's a huge whopping problem, whether you think torture or warrantless wire-taps are good for national security or not... whether you think abortion should be legal or not.