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Thursday, Jan. 19, 2006 08:57 pm

Bush still wants torture

Once again, the president places himself above the law

The stench coming out of the White House is more nauseating than usual. For months, Bush, Cheney & Gang had fought tenaciously to kill U.S. Sen. John McCain’s bill to outlaw the U.S. government’s use of torture against prisoners of war. The Bush administration tried to cajole McCain into at least exempting the CIA from the torture ban and even threatened to veto the bill, but McCain wouldn’t cave in. Finally, after Congress passed the ban by veto-proof majorities, Bush called in McCain just before Christmas, embraced him and the bill, and said that he would sign it. It was a nice, fuzzy political moment. But you’d sooner trust your last pork chop with a coyote than trust Bush. With Congress adjourned for the holidays, and with most of the media absent as well, Bush did sign the bill on Dec. 30. But, very quietly, he also issued a “signing statement.” This is an official document in which a president can offer his own interpretation of what a new law means. Bush’s statement declares that he will construe the law as binding except in cases where he thinks it conflicts “with the constitutional authority of the President . . . as Commander-in-Chief.”
In other words, by executive fiat, Bush is trying to gouge a massive loophole in a bill that was meant by Congress to close all loopholes. He’s saying that he still has the inherent power to authorize torturing people whenever he sees fits — Congress and plain morality be damned. Here is yet another attempt by this president to place himself above the rule of the law. The founders provided for three co-equal branches of government and a system of checks and balances precisely to prevent such dangerous efforts by a president to establish a supreme executive.
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