Paul Jacob

Seventy years ago, no one stormed Normandy beach to give one man the power to imprison or to execute anyone he or she decides is an enemy of the state.

Freedom cannot survive in a society where the leaders — those wielding the power of the state — are not required to follow the rules. The President of the United States of America is no more above the law than any other citizen. This is fundamental to all that America stands for.

And yet, last weekend, President Obama flagrantly violated a federal statute that he in fact personally signed into law. The statute states quite clearly that the president may not release prisoners held at the Guantanamo Bay brig — Gitmo, for short — without notifying Congress 30 days prior.

There is no good excuse for failing to abide by the law. But the Obama Administration has enthralled the media with a plethora of poor ones.

The Secretary of Defense and folks at the Justice Department signed off on it, we’re told. That’s no check on the president’s power; those folks work for Obama.

But how about, “There wasn’t time”? Try that on the next traffic cop who pulls you over.

They couldn’t tell because Congress might spill the beans. Gotta say that it’s smart to blame Congress. But no.

The president issued a “signing statement” at the time he signed the bill, declaring that this specific 30-day provision was unconstitutional. Wait a second . . . didn’t Mr. Obama take an oath to uphold the Constitution? Then, wouldn’t it be a given that signing a statute into law he knew had an unconstitutional provision violates that oath?

Oh, I guess I’m a stickler.

So, once upon a time, was Sen. Barack Obama, who said in 2007, “While it is legitimate for a president to issue a signing statement to clarify his understanding of ambiguous provisions of statutes and to explain his view of how he intends to faithfully execute the law, it is a clear abuse of power to use such statements as a license to evade laws that the president does not like or as an end-run around provisions designed to foster accountability.”

Mr. Obama added, “I will not use signing statements to nullify or undermine congressional instructions as enacted into law.”

You can take that to the . . . pile.

In effect, Obama’s signing statement on the defense bill in question, H.R. 3304, amounts to a line-item veto, which when passed by Congress years ago was struck down as unconstitutional. It is also a pocket veto, whereby there’s no procedure for both chambers of Congress to ever overturn the stealth signing statement veto.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.