Monday, December 18, 2006

Whoop D'ere It Is 

Today, with some fanfare, President Bush signed the "Henry Hyde United States-India Peaceful Atomic Energy Cooperation Act," which will actually get tacked to the 110th since Congress is out of session. And with this signing, we get to see deception at its finest.

This particular signing, complete with a "Fact Sheet" and a special focus on "Energy," is fairly lengthy and congratulatory, and it is exactly what nearly everyone thinks about, or at least they did before President Bush, when they heard the term "signing statement."

There are folks assembled behind the President, and one of the outgoing Senate Majority Leader, and most importantly, one action shot of President Bush signing the bill. It also goes on for 17 paragraphs, is broken up a couple of times by applause, and very importantly numbered points for the journalists in attendance, describing the "four goals" the administration hopes to achieve after the law takes place.

In the parlance of those of us studying the presidential signing statement, this is what we refer to as a rhetorical signing statement, which is designed to give the administration maximum coverage, bumping off (needed in this case) any bad news for the day (temporarily, of course). But this is all smoke and mirrors--kissing babies, and first kisses, and all those good things that happen in life.

A second signing statement--the evil twin of this one--also went into effect at roughly the same period that this one was signed. This statement has been pruned of the niceties. It was not publicly announced. There were no cameras, dignitaries, reporters--nobody. This signing statement is only three paragraphs long, but don't let it's small size fool you. This one means business.

In this particular signing statement, the President:

President Bush does continue with the frustrating routine of making a challenge to several different sections for several different reasons without making it clear precisely which section he is challenging and why. Thus President Bush writes:

The executive branch shall construe provisions of the Act that mandate, regulate, or prohibit submission of information to the Congress, an international organization, or the public, such as sections 104, 109, 261, 271, 272, 273, 274, and 275, in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to protect and control information that could impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative processes of the Executive, or the performance of the Executive's constitutional duties.

Thus all of the attention that the signing received was directed precisely where the administration wanted, and away from the sections of the bill that the President has undermined, and by looking at Google News, it appears it worked.

For those of you who are counting along with me, here is the numbers to date:

With today's challenges, President Bush has issued a total of 137 signing statements and has made 1097 separate and distinct challenges to the provisions of the laws he has signed. It is clear that we won't have the type of signing statement we saw this time last year, but President Bush could be noteworthy by issuing one more signing statement and breaking over that 1100 mark!

Here's hoping

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*Section 103 declares the policy of the US shall be 1) for India and Pakistan to stop production of nuclear material that can be used for military purpose; 2) to push India into "nonproliferation regimes and activities; 3) to push India into arms control agreements; 4) to meet certain requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); 5) to meet the Guidelines for Nuclear Transfers and other multilateral arrangements; 6) to meet with the multilateral Nuclear Suppliers Group to restrict the transfers of nuclear materials; 7) to insure compliance with the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty; and 8) to make sure that any export in nuclear material to India is for non-military purposes.

** Section 104(d)(2)

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