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Not Worth The Paper It's On?

Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2006 12:02 AM

Attention is now being paid to the latest presidential perquisite: the signing statement. In theory, it's a notation by the president, affixed at the time of signing given legislation, which affirms the president's understanding or specific interpretation of the law.

It's not a new technique. What is drawing questions is the manner in which President Bush is using it.

After initially stating his opposition to the McCain Amendment to the defense appropriations bill - said amendment prohibiting the use of cruel, inhumane, and/or degrading treatment against terrorist suspects and enemy combatants - President Bush signed it. Everyone called it a win for Senator McCain.

Except Mr. Bush, through his signing statement, did the functional equivalent of a child crossing his fingers. He asserted that he'd uphold the bill except when he chose not to. It's all part of the president's constitutional authority and special super-duper ultra-secret power granted in the Authorization of Force.

Or maybe it's the punchline in that joke about things being easier in a dictatorship.

The only problem is, the joke is on us.

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