I will not use signing statements to nullify or undermine congressional instructions as enacted into law. The problem with this administration is that it has attached signing statements to legislation in an effort to change the meaning of the legislation, to avoid enforcing certain provisions of the legislation that the President does not like, and to raise implausible or dubious constitutional objections to the legislation.
CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin declared on Monday that President Barack Obama "broke the law" when his administration failed to give Congress notice of at least 30 days before releasing five ranking Taliban members from Guantanamo Bay. Toobin said that a presidential signing statement did not absolve Obama from culpability for failing to abide by the law mandating congressional notification.
"I think he clearly broke the law," Toobin said. "The law says 30-days' notice. He didn't give 30-days' notice." Toobin added that Obama's opinion expressed in a signing statement "is not law."
"The law is on the books, and he didn't follow it," Toobin added.
CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer noted that former President George W. Bush also issued signing statements even though they thought their action may not have been constitutional or legal. "But liberals were outraged by George W. Bush's signing statements," Toobin noted.
"You realize, of course, you're accusing the President of the United States of breaking the law" Blitzer observed.
"I do think that his critics have a very good point here," Toobin asserted. He noted that Congress and the courts are unlikely to do anything about it. "But, you know, it matters whether people follow the law or not," he concluded.
Yes, it does matter, particularly when the "people" consist of the President of the United States, a man sworn not merely to "follow" but faithfully to execute the law -- and, while we're at it, to protect, not endanger, the troops over whom he is commander-in-chief.
Obama has mocked both obligations.
UPDATE: It occurs to me that, if Bergdahl's health was deteriorating -- which is what the Administration is now claiming -- ranking members of the relevant committees in Congress could have been brought into the loop as the decision was underway whether to get Bergdahl back through releases as costly as these. Such a process at least would have respected the spirit of the disclosure statute.
But it wasn't done. Why not?
My guess, and at this stage it's only a guess, is that Bergdahl's health wasn't in anything like the danger the Administration now claims. (Wouldn't it be nice to get some tough investigative reporting on that? Does the NYT still do that sort of thing?)
This Administration has lost all credibility. The AG admitted he provided misleading information about Fast and Furious. Benghazi was caused by an Internet video. If you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance. Veterans get first-class care. There will be accountability at the IRS.
When the aroma gets to the level it's reached now, it's impossible not to wonder whether this story is very different from what we're being told. One can plausibly wonder whether (1) Bergdahl wasn't "captured;" he deserted to the other side and stayed there because he was their sympathizer, not their prisoner; (2) there is no serious health problem with him; and (3) he is thus nothing like what he is being made to appear, but a conveniently timed cover story. Obama released the five high-ranking Jihadist detainees because, ideologically, he opposes holding anyone at Gitmo (which he's said from the outset), wants to curry favor with what he privately views as the Jihadist wave of the future in Afghanistan (just as his backing Morsi in Egypt reflected an analogous theory); and, if American soldiers get hurt because these Taliban generals are back in the field to direct operations, well, hey, look, we have to take the proverbial "reasonable risks for peace." At least they'll get the same quality care Obama gives our other veterans.
And if the enactments of Congress have to be disregarded in order to get all this worthwhile stuff done, well -- it was only law. Why get so huffy about it?