Regrets, I Have a Few

I hate these damned signing statements:

President Barack Obama signed a major defense bill Wednesday, notwithstanding public veto threats the White House issued with regard to earlier versions of the legislation.

Obama issued a written “signing statement” explaining his decision to approve the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act despite his objections to various aspects of the measure, including provisions that effectively thwart his efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay prison for terror suspects and give military members the right to refuse to take certain actions that violate their conscience.

“I have approved this annual defense authorization legislation, as I have in previous years, because it authorizes essential support for service members and their families, renews vital national security programs, and helps ensure that the United States will continue to have the strongest military in the world,” Obama said. “Even though I support the vast majority of the provisions contained in this Act, which is comprised of hundreds of sections spanning more than 680 pages of text, I do not agree with them all….Though I continue to oppose certain sections of the Act, the need to renew critical defense authorities and funding was too great to ignore.”

In signing the bill, Obama turned aside pleas from a coalition of liberal groups that he veto the measure in order assert his authority to close Guantanamo and return much of the war on terror to the law enforcement sphere.

Just veto the god damned thing instead of writing a signing statement whining about how flawed the bill is. Send it back to Congress and make them rewrite the damned bill. The Republicans don’t have a 2/3 majority. Throw the ball back to them and do the right thing.

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56 replies
  1. 1
    Baud says:

    Unfortunately, he would be fighting the Democrats in Congress as well.

  2. 2
    Belafon (formerly anonevent) says:

    assert his authority to close Guantanamo

    He could theoretically close Gitmo, leaving the Marines and those held prisoner on Cuba. It’s the getting them back to the mainland and dealing with the prisoners that he would have no money for.

  3. 3
    dr. bloor says:

    Eh, shit’s gotta get done. Choose your battles, etc.

  4. 4
    Hill Dweller says:

    Congressional Dems have absolutely no desire to fight for closing Guantanamo. They undercut Obama early and often when he took steps to close it, and they will continue to do it as long as he is in office.

  5. 5
    kc says:

    Firebagger! Emoprog! He’s a president, not an emperor! Wah, are your fee-fees hurted!

    etc.

  6. 6
    Zifnab25 says:

    @dr. bloor: I trust Obama’s political calculus, so I’m reluctant to play Monday morning quarterback. But it does seem like punting the NDAA back to Congress on the eve of a debt ceiling “Oh noes! We’re out of money!” vote would leave the GOP in the awkward position of once again pulling money out of their assholes that they claimed didn’t exist.

    That said, I think Obama is more concerned with building a coalition within the GOP who will finally play ball. He got that coalition for the tax bill. He might get it for Hurricane Sandy relief, if he plays his cards right. Pissing off NE Republicans right now, when they’re already sick to hell of their southern neighbors might not further that goal.

    11-D chess is tricky business.

  7. 7
    LeftCoastTom says:

    @dr. bloor: So then, what purpose does the signing statement serve?

  8. 8
    Punchy says:

    Wow….just 36 hours ago you were excoriating commenters who were unhappy that Congress passed and Obama was going to sign an imperfect phykil klif bill. Sumpin about “its the best Dems can get!”. Now you want Obama to bounce a bill b/c it doesnt give Dems everything you think they should have.

    Consistency….how the fuck does it work?

  9. 9
    Baud says:

    @LeftCoastTom:

    Puts down a marker if the opportunity does arise to do something more assertive.

    @Punchy:

    Context matters in the real world.

  10. 10
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    Firebagger Cole needs to be choked out with a strap-on.

  11. 11
    General Stuck says:

    Can’t help but agree in principle. But it is very difficult politics for a prez to veto a defense spending bill, especially a democrat, though Obama has built some fairly good creds in that department with the public. Plus, we kind of have our hands full with the wingnuts playing chess with the gods of commerce that could end life as we know it on planet earth.

    There needs to be grass roots opposition directed at dem senators to nip this shit in the bud, and those dems are still running scared of being called wimps on terrorism and the like.

  12. 12
    dr. bloor says:

    @LeftCoastTom: I was just contrasting it to the prospect of vetoing it and sending it back to congress. Much easier to do the SS andmove the rest of the bill along than to try to get Congress to behave.

  13. 13
    LeftCoastTom says:

    @Baud:

    Puts down a marker if the opportunity does arise to do something more assertive.

    Couldn’t he do that in an interview with a friendly journalist? My objection to Bush’s use of signing statements was the implication that he wasn’t going to bother implementing the laws he was signing, so I don’t carry that objection over to a “I really wish I weren’t doing this” statement, as seems to be the case here. But, I also don’t think it makes much sense to advertise that you lost a battle, just don’t bother having a signing ceremony and move on.

  14. 14
    Yutsano says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead: Kinky. Take pictures. It will help refi the rebuild.

  15. 15
    Jon says:

    Ehh. The Constitution is overrated. If these statements were so illegal, then someone would do something, like maybe enact some law or something. Because they don’t, the supposedly divine balance of powers the founders created is too fucked to stop the executive from doing it.

  16. 16
    Jon says:

    @General Stuck: No. What we need is for someone to stage an antiteahadist coup in the Republican party. They are the problem.

  17. 17
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    I bet Russ Feingold called him and begged him to sign it ahead of the 2013 elections.

  18. 18
    wasabi gasp says:

    Ther’s songs for this.

  19. 19
    Baud says:

    @LeftCoastTom:

    Signing statements have a bit more gravitas than interviews, IMHO, and seem to me to carry less “advertisement” than an interview would.

  20. 20
    Paul says:

    It would make sense if the cowardly Dems in Congress supported him. They don’t. Thus, it would basically be Obama against pretty much the entire Congress. It wouldn’t look good and Obama would lose.

  21. 21
    White Trash Liberal says:

    Yup. Veto a defense appropriations bill three months past the fiscal year.

    Retroactive pay and benefit no pay due for every active duty service member and retiree.

    Go for it.

  22. 22
  23. 23
    General Stuck says:

    @Jon:

    I always say clean up your own side of the street, then point fingers at the other side to clean up theirs. But I suppose we can walk and chew gum at the same time.

  24. 24
    Hill Dweller says:

    FWIW, Maddow is interviewing Jeh Johnson(former Pentagon general counsel and rumored Holder successor). They are about to do one more segment.

    Johnson just said we need to start moving some prisoners back to their countries for strategic reasons.

  25. 25
    LeftCoastTom says:

    @Baud: OK…to me Bush’s abuse of them poisoned them, so even though this isn’t a “I won’t bother following the law I’m signing” statement, I’m thinking the gravitas is lessened, to the point where I don’t really see it.

  26. 26
    Corner Stone says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead: Maybe he could just make amends by donating a few more bucks to the DCCC?

  27. 27
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Maybe he could just make amends by donating a few more bucks to the DCCC?

    Not sure if you mean Firebagger Cole or the Preznit.

  28. 28
    eemom says:

    @General Stuck:

    But it is very difficult politics for a prez to veto a defense spending bill

    um, yeah. I would say it’s on the “very, very fucking” end of the difficult politics spectrum. Or at a minimum, a level of risk taking completely out of character for this President.

    Also too, FTR, and since no one loves to say I told you so better than I do — I’ve become convinced in the last couple of days that you and others were right about the cliff deal being the right move.

    And I hope you are feeling better now, General.

  29. 29
    Baud says:

    @LeftCoastTom:

    I just meant written presidential statements carry the weight of official governmental documents — regardless of what’s written in them.

  30. 30
  31. 31
    Corner Stone says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead: Firebagger Cole, of course.
    President Obama has already started counting up his pennies for his Presidential Library.
    He can’t possibly afford to contribute anything to the DCCC.

  32. 32
    ruemara says:

    While I understand what you’re saying, really, you can’t be serious. You’re smarter than that, JC.

  33. 33
    General Stuck says:

    @eemom:

    Hey eemom. Thanks, the pisser plumbing is much better, but now my right foot is swollen up. One thing or its something else.d:)

    The deal wasn’t great, but it was no disaster either.

  34. 34
    LeftCoastTom says:

    @Baud: From Cole’s post:

    In signing the bill, Obama turned aside pleas from a coalition of liberal groups that he veto the measure in order assert his authority to close Guantanamo and return much of the war on terror to the law enforcement sphere.

    I suppose a statement along these lines does provide something to throw at firebaggers who whine that Obummer Never Closed Gitmo, then respond to mentions of Feingold’s voting record by asserting that his objections were Special.

  35. 35
    Baud says:

    @LeftCoastTom:

    I’m not sure what you mean. In any event, absent a veto, I prefer a signing statement opposing these provisions rather than one that ignores or supports them.

  36. 36
    Corner Stone says:

    @Baud:

    In any event, absent a veto, I prefer a signing statement opposing these provisions rather than one that ignores or supports them.

    Because?

  37. 37
    Baud says:

    @Corner Stone:

    Really? Because I’d rather have idea that we should rethink those policies kept alive rather than accepted without protest.

  38. 38
    LeftCoastTom says:

    @Baud: What I mean is, the statement really has no value other than its communication value, as for practical effect he might as well yell at clouds while signing the bill. Or just sign it.

    So…he is signing an appropriations bill despite his objections that it maintains the ‘you must keep Gitmo open’ provision. To whom, and what, is the statement meant to communicate? He’s either seeking to change someone’s mind in future votes, or to bash someone for their present vote. I assumed the latter, given Congress’ overwhelming preference for keeping Gitmo open.

  39. 39
    Corner Stone says:

    @Baud: Either he signs it or he vetoes it.
    There isn’t a marker to hang your hat on in the in between space.

  40. 40
    Baud says:

    @LeftCoastTom:

    the statement really has no value other than its communication value

    Agreed. But communication value is pretty important in politics.

  41. 41
    LeftCoastTom says:

    @Baud: OK, then:

    He’s either seeking to change someone’s mind in future votes, or to bash someone for their present vote.

    Is it A, B, or both?

  42. 42
    Baud says:

    @LeftCoastTom:

    I think mostly A with a pinch of B.

  43. 43
    Mojotron says:

    OK, he vetoes the bill, what then? How does it play out where the new congress sends back a bill that defunds or closes Gitmo? It’s a symbolic but empty action that creates more problems than it solves as there’s little chance that a significantly (hell, even a marginally) better bill would come back.

  44. 44
    Keith G says:

    I never thought that providing basic human rights and due process should be left up to base political calculations. I fear that years from now when the terms like ‘Eleven Dimensional Chess’ are long forgotten, the legacy of this time will be weighted down by questions about why there was not a fight (bare knuckled if necessary) for this government to do the right thing.

    Returning to a civilized standard for what the rule of law means was an important issue in 2006-2008. And even now, I think it is a very important national security consideration. It’s very easy to find sufficient reasons not to be better at this; yet the strongest of leaders find ways to excel at the toughest of tasks.

  45. 45
    different-church-lady says:

    Send it back to Congress…

    What congress? We have a congress?

  46. 46
    LeftCoastTom says:

    @Baud:

    I think mostly A with a pinch of B.

    I saw more potential value with B. Seriously, when this dispute started years ago he had over 90 Senators against him, it seems more important for his putative allies on the topic [thus my Feingold snark] to get in line before moving on to A.

    And all of this assumes signing statements communicate much that won’t be forgotten tomorrow, to me Bush’s abuse of such statements makes the value of an actual “signing statement” questionable (if anything, a “veto statement” would seem to have more value simply because there’s real action behind it, but I agree with everyone who says a veto was not going to happen in this case).

  47. 47
    Baud says:

    @LeftCoastTom:

    Well, yeah, a veto would have significantly more “value” than a signing statement; I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. I think our best hope is to try to get the provisions kept out of the NDAA next time it comes up, but I can’t say I’m optimistic.

  48. 48
    Ted & Hellen says:

    Just veto the god damned thing instead of writing a signing statement whining about how flawed the bill is. Send it back to Congress and make them rewrite the damned bill.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  49. 49
    Corner Stone says:

    @Baud:

    I think our best hope is to try to get the provisions kept out of the NDAA next time it comes up, but I can’t say I’m optimistic.

    That’s about as likely as Honey Boo Boo becoming a Rhodes Scholar.
    I prefer to not set my hopes on those odds.

  50. 50
    Emma says:

    *sigh* So tell me, when the soldiers of this Nation get no pay and the veterans get no services and decide that it was the fault of the Democratic president and to hell with it, they will vote Republican because their local guy at least tells them the right things, and some places start to turn Red again, what will you say then?

    And the press will pound on him for “deserting the greatest people in America” and the Democrats will NOT stir one finger to support him, and his ability to at least get some shit done will be gone. But hey, we will all feel so morally superior.

    Politics, what is it and how is it done?

  51. 51
    brantl says:

    Send it back to Congress and make them rewrite the damned bill. The Republicans don’t have a 2/3 majority. Throw the ball back to them and do the right thing.

    Why do you think that they would do the right thing, given all of the evidence to the contrary?

  52. 52
    brantl says:

    And, what Obama’s using signing statements for is all that they should be used for, should they have any legitimate reason to exist at all.

  53. 53
    Mutt says:

    He’s a fraud, a catspaw….. but he’s BJ’s fraud/catspaw, so he (and his party) merit support.
    I really just don’t get it. I would suggest that if you were, say, a big, across the board W/Renut backer, and discover your error, becoming a big Dim/Bams backer in reaction sorta says you haven’t learned anything. A minority opinion, but there you go. He signed the fucking bill BECAUSE HE WANTED TO. End of story. Jeez.

  54. 54
    Mutt says:

    What a coincidence! Heres ANOTHER bill he didn’t want to sign. Let the excuses begin!
    http://www.salon.com/2013/01/0.....daa_again/

  55. 55
    lethargytartare says:

    @Mutt:

    same bill, dumbass

  56. 56
    weyoun6 says:

    Wait, what? How many votes did this bill pass with, I’m guessing more than 66% on both the house and senate. Let’s see, from wikipedia: “The House passed it on December 20, 2012 with a vote of 315 yeas to 107 noes; the Senate passed it on December 21, 2012 with a vote of 81 yeas to 14 noes.”

    It’s funny as I’m certainly far to the left of most democrats and Obama but I really don’t see what Obama’s option is here. If he vetoes it gets overridden and he looks weak. End of story. I never believed that the democrats would close Guantanamo so I’m not disappointed but this is definitely one to pin the blame for on congress (including the democrats), not Obama.

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