When is a law not a law

Bush signing on Friday of the the torture ban ammendment sponsored by Senator John McCain and others was a bit anticlimactic. Especially because, in doing so, he pulled the presidential equivilant of the school yard fingers crossed behind the back. Bush issued a "signing statement," which basically asserted that the law was fine and good, it just didn't apply to him.

A senior administration official later confirmed to the Boston Globe that the president believes the Constitution gives him the power to authorize interrogation techniques that go beyond the law to protect national security. Yes, but the president also believes that God wanted him to be President. Believing something doesn't make it real, and certainly doesn't make it legal.

Three Republican Senators who helped sponsor the bill, John W. Warner Jr., John McCain, and Lindsey Graham, harshly criticized Bush's "signing statement." My question why did they agree to the wording changes that made the ammendment palatable to Bush in the first place? Bush had initially said he would veto the anti-torture legislation. A last-minute language compromise, which kept the words "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment" but shifted some of the other language, had Bush agreeing to sign the bill. McCain had said he "wouldn't compromise on torture," but in meeting with the Bush administration and tweaking the bill unti it was something the White House said it could accept, he did just that.

Of course it's not fair to blame McCain. An actual veto of the bill, instead of signing it with one hand while denying it with the other, would have forced Bush to admit how far down a moral hole he's gone and that would have been out of character.

What could have been a showdown over the Bush administration's willingness to use torture, became instead another example of Bush's ability to get away with murder.


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