Strict Constructionism


The Bush administration has sought to expand the powers of the executive branch “in a time of war” at the expense of the legislative branch, the judicial branches, and the system of governmental checks and balances. It is the height of hypocrisy when those who supposedly believe in “strict constructionism” fail to uphold this “belief” as they seek to expand the powers of the office of the president at the expense of the remaining two-thirds of the government.

The Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez believes that the language “The President is authorized to use all means that he determines to be appropriate, including force” found in S. J. RES. 45 (To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq), in concert with Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution (which reads: “The President shall be commander-in-chief of the Army and the Navy of the United States, and the militia of the several states when called into the actual service of the United States.”) gives the president, (in this case) George Bush the power to conduct his “terrorist surveillance program” without the issuance of warrants, or legislative and judicial oversight.

The recent reliance upon the language of the “use of force” by Gonzalez and the Bush administration has a couple of serious flaws. First, if the language “use of force” used to justify the use of warrant less wiretapping was legal and valid, why then did the president not evoke this interpretation of the S.J. RES. 45 to explain away the use of documented torture of detainees at Abu Ghriab or Guantanamo Bay? Surely, under the Bush administrations interpretation of S.J. RES. 45, the language “including force” would include the use of torture. But that is not what happened.

According to the Constitution, “[The Congress shall have the power] To declare war, grant letters of marque [sic] and reprisals, and make rules concerning captures on land and water.” When Bush decided that he alone possess the power to determine those to be held as enemy combatants, indefinitely and without trial, it is clear that he has no standing constitutional authority. According to the US Constitution, it is Congress and not the president that determines the rules regarding those captured on land and water irrespective of S. J. RES. 45.

As it stands, Bush has relied upon what the administration refers to as “signing statements” that the president says allows him to disregard the laws approved by congress and that he signed into law. I keep reading the Constitution in hopes of finding where such presidential authority is located and I for the life of me cannot find it. I did find the following though. It is taken from Article 1, Section 8 that I found most interesting. The “strict constructionist” might want to make note of the following section of the Constitution, which reads,

[The Congress shall have the power] To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all the other powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.

This is particularly important when taking into consideration the presidents "signing statements" and the recent exchange that took place between Congressman Weiner and Alberto Gonzalez on April 7th, 2006. Congressman Weiner asked of the Attorney General, “Is the president covered under the same laws that you and I are?” Gonzalez’s response to the question was, “No, he’s not.”

Again, I read the Constitution and I can’t find anything that would support that the president, George Bush is exempt from the laws that you and I are covered by. I was wondering if there is a “strict constructionist” out there that could explain where exactly this presidential exemption can be found in the text of the Constitution. It would be most informative to learn of the establishment of the presidential “signing statement.” Such an important executive power would have been within the scope of congressional authority.

Of course, this would mean that the Congress would be willing to forego their Constitutional duty to serve as a check to the president. As it stands, I have yet to hear these subjects explained with any degree of certainty by either the Attorney General, or any other sycophant of the Bush administration that would give the president such broad authority even in a time of war. It is time for Congress to reassert its authority and reign in a president that has clearly overstepped his constitutional authority.


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