We’ve commented before on President Obama’s penchant for “exaggerating what divides us” — that is, pretending to break from a particular policy of President Bush even as he adopts that policy in large measure. This particularly offensive form of grandstanding runs counter, of course, to candidate Obama’s promise to be a post-partisan who would seek common ground with the political opposition. It thus marks Obama as a phony twice over; as the insincerity of the campaign promise is confirmed by the pretense of a sharp breal with a specific policy of his predecessor.
Ed Whelan provides the latest example of such grandstanding — Obama’s memorandum on presidential “signing statements.” These are statements presidents sometimes make when signing legislation to express concerns about the constitutionality of statutory provisions contained in bills they are not prepared to veto. President Bush came under heavy criticism from liberals and their supporters in the MSM for the way he used such statements.
Ed argues that, while Obama’s memorandum is intended to give the appearance of a break from Bush’s policy, “the reality is one of substantial continuity.” Thus, Obama proclaims: “To ensure that all signing statements previously issued are followed only when consistent with these principles, executive branch departments and agencies are directed to seek the advice of the Attorney General before relying on signing statements issued prior to the date of this memorandum as the basis for disregarding, or otherwise refusing to comply with, any provision of a statute.” This, says Ed, has long been standard operating procedure within the executive branch.
To drive home the point, Ed examines Obama’s first signing statement. It raises five constitutional concerns, all of which were prominent among those most frequently raised by Bush in his signing statements.
It was never difficult to predict that Obama would generally adhere to Bush administration policies designed to protect the power of the presidency and to promote national security. It’s the misdirection that some may find surprising.