Boston Globe reporter Charlie Savage won a 2007 Pulitzer Prize for a series detailing how often President Bush used “signing statements” — controversial assertions of a chief executive’s right to bypass provisions of new laws. Now Savage has written a book describing how the Bush-Cheney administration has expanded executive power. It’s called Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy.
Instead of vetoing bills, Savage reported, Bush has quietly used “signing statements” — official documents in which a president lays out his legal interpretation of a bill to be followed when implementing a new law. Other presidents have also used this power, but Bush has used it far more than his predecessors: 750 times, as of the date of Savage’s article.
In his signing statements, Bush has asserted the right to ignore numerous sections of bills having to do with torture, domestic spying, affirmative action, “whistle-blower” protections and immigration problems. Legal scholars say that Bush’s assertions “represent a concerted effort to expand his powers at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government.