Candidates on executive power: a full spectrum
They assess use of signing statements
By Charlie Savage
Globe Staff / December 22, 2007
WASHINGTON - Republican John McCain says that if he is elected president, he would consider himself bound to obey treaties because they are "the law of the land." But Mitt Romney says he would consider himself free to bypass treaties if they "impinge" on his powers as commander in chief.
Democrat Hillary Clinton says "in very rare instances," she might attach a so-called signing statement to a bill reserving a right to bypass "provisions that contradict the Constitution." But Bill Richardson says if a president thinks that parts of a bill are unconstitutional, then "he should veto it," not issue a signing statement.
These contrasts are found in the answers to a Globe survey of the presidential candidates about the limits of executive power. The study is the most comprehensive effort to date to get the candidates to declare in specific terms what checks and balances they would respect, and whether they would reverse the Bush administration's legacy of expanded presidential powers.
"These are essential questions that all the candidates should answer," said Illinois Senator Barack Obama in responding to the survey. "The American people need to know where we stand on these issues before they entrust us with this responsibility - particularly at a time when our laws, our traditions, and our Constitution have been repeatedly challenged by this administration."
In 2000, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were not asked about presidential power, and they volunteered nothing about their attitude toward the issue to voters. Yet once in office, they immediately began seeking out ways to concentrate more unchecked power in the White House - not just for themselves, but also for their successors.
Bush has bypassed laws and treaties that he said infringed on his wartime powers, expanded his right to keep information secret from Congress and the courts, centralized greater control over the government in the White House, imprisoned US citizens without charges, and used signing statements to challenge more laws than all predecessors combined.
Legal specialists say decisions by the next president - either to keep using the expanded powers Bush and Cheney developed, or to abandon their legal and political precedents - will help determine whether a stronger presidency becomes permanent.
Rest of article is HERE, along with the answers to the individual questionnaires by the candidates who replied.
The prospect of the continuation of the Imperial Presidency SHOULD be of concern to any of us who value The Constitution as RULE OF LAW in this country. The one reason why I fully supported impeachment of Dick Cheney is because I wanted the message to be sent: NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW.
As a country, the Imperial Presidency and the imbalance it brings to The Constitution's Separation of Powers, is one of the worst legacies of George W. Bush. As a country, we can only stand strong if RULE OF LAW is followed. We have had 7 years of people believing that following THE LAW was 'optional' for them, and has degraded this country because of it.
This might seem like a non-glamorous reason to choose a President, but it's one of those fundamentals that will last long after the President has left office.