Bush’s Unlaws

The Boston Globe this week ran a long analysis of all the U.S. laws George W. Bush contends he doesn’t have to obey. The Globe said it identified more than 750 such laws.

In some cases, Bush opts out of abiding by laws by filing what is known as a “signing statement” at the time he signs a law passed by Congress. These statements are supposed to give federal agencies guidance in enforcing—or, it turns out, not enforcing—the laws they cover.

The Globe reported, “On several other occasions, Bush contended he could nullify laws creating ‘whistle-blower’ job protections for federal employees that would stop any attempt to fire them as punishment for telling a member of Congress about possible government wrongdoing.

“When Congress passed a massive energy package in August, for example, it strengthened whistle-blower protections for employees at the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The provision was included because lawmakers feared that Bush appointees were intimidating nuclear specialists so they would not testify about safety issues related to a planned nuclear-waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada—a facility the administration supported, but both Republicans and Democrats from Nevada opposed.

“When Bush signed the energy bill, he issued a signing statement declaring that the executive branch could ignore the whistle-blower protections.

“Bush’s statement did more than send a threatening message to federal energy specialists inclined to raise concerns with Congress; it also raised the possibility that Bush would not feel bound to obey similar whistle-blower laws that were on the books before he became president. His domestic spying program, for example, violated a surveillance law enacted 23 years before he took office.”

The newspaper quoted several legal experts who say Bush’s willingness to ignore federal law has thrown into doubt the whole idea that there is a rule of law. The White House declined comment.