Gone but not forgotten

Obama plans to discard his predecessor’s policies, but not his methods.

Before signing the âÄúFreedom to Display the American Flag Act of 2005âÄù in July 2006, President George W. Bush attached a chirpy addendum to the bill where he said, âÄúCongress has passed an important measure to protect our citizensâÄô right to express their patriotism here at home without burdensome restrictions.âÄù This addition is called a signing statement. While historically the signing statement had been used for an adulatory role, Bush continued a practice begun by former President Ronald Reagan that employed the statement as a tool to consolidate presidential power and blunt Congressional checks against the chief executive. Unfortunately, this power corrupts, and even our newly minted President is showing the tarnish. On Monday, President Barack Obama essentially declared all of BushâÄôs signing statements void until further notice. In a memorandum issued to federal agencies, Obama ordered executive officials to consult with Attorney General Eric Holder before acting on authority granted by Bush-authored signing statements. While this gesture will certainly lead to the erasure of some unpopular Bush-era policies, the controversial practice will continue, as Obama has declined to forswear the use of signing statements for future legislation. While Americans should be disappointed, they shouldnâÄôt be surprised. ItâÄôs difficult to imagine what would compel Obama âÄî or any of his successors âÄî to abandon a power that permits overriding Congress when convenient. But he should. The American Bar Association characterizes overreaching signing statements as âÄúcontrary to the rule of law.âÄù And no matter who is holding the presidential pen, that should trouble Americans.