Via Rod Dreher, Charlie Savage's latest report on the Bush administration's imperial fetish for signing statements. Apparently, The Decider felt that the strictures of the latest defense authorization act (or whatever term is used to designate those things) impugned the sovereign majesty of his office, and so issued the now de rigeur signing statements expressing his own judgment as to the permissible contours of the law. Law, despite what one may believe - and I pause to note Willmoore Kendall's position that the Constitution creates a system of legislative supremacy, if only the Congress would use it - only becomes law when the executive deems it law. It is the universalization and inversion of Carl Schmidt's theory of sovereignty: no longer is the sovereign he who decides upon the exception, the unusual, chaotic disruption of normal politics; instead, sovereign is he who decides that anything can be an exception - and gets away with it.
Specifically, Bush has said he won't be bound by provisions in the Defense bill he signed forbidding the expenditure of funds to build permanent bases in Iraq. He also said he won't be bound by Congress's direction that the US is not to control Iraq's oil. Moreover, he has reserved the right not to act on other provisions of the law that would mandate establishing a commission to investigate waste, fraud and abuse in military contracts, as well as another to strengthen whistle-blower protection. Finally, he reserves the right to decide whether or not he's going to enforce a requirement that the president explain in writing when intelligence agencies refuse to provide documents to the two armed services committees in Congress.
So you thought that future Congresses might have the authority to, you know, bring the troops home? Not so! The Decider may negotiate some sort of pact with the Iraqi government, something more than a policy but less than a treaty (otherwise Congress would have to ratify it), creating circumstances under which the troops will be there indefinitely. And you might have thought that oil had nothing to do with American policy in the region. Ha! Instead, The Decider now arrogates to himself the authority to put truth to the talking points of the left and the paleo right. You might have thought, moreover, that waste, fraud and abuse, particularly in a military-industrial establishment rife with corruption - not to mention profitable revolving doors between the bureaucracies, advisory panels, and boardrooms of connected corporations - should be investigated. Perhaps not. Finally, you might have thought that the whole 'checks and balances' thing should apply to the formulation of foreign policy, intelligence agency conduct (particularly given the torture scandals). But, really, how naive! We cannot have, oh, say, the rule of law when we are confronted with the perpetual emergency - why, that might be indicative of a lack of faith, and we are speaking of Those Who Must be Trusted.
I know that it might be said that my comments are uncharitable and offered in a derisive tone. To this, all I can state is that I'd owe charity to a president, but not a quasi-emperor, of whose pretensions I can only speak derisively.