President Barack Obama copied President George W. Bush and contradicted his own criticism of the former president in a statement he wrote last week accompanying his signature of a defense bill, according to a Wall Street Journal editorial
The bill strengthens congressional limits on transferring detainees out of Guantánamo and other detention facilities either to the U.S. or another country. Obama’s statement included several objections.
Restricting the transfer of detainees held in Afghanistan "could interfere with my ability as Commander in Chief to make time-sensitive determinations about the appropriate disposition of detainees in an active area of hostilities," Obama wrote.
These orders generally stem from "the judgment of experienced military commanders and national security professionals without unwarranted interference by Members of Congress," he said. If that plank "operates in a manner that violates constitutional separation of powers principles," Obama promised to disobey.
Bush issued similar signing statements defending presidential war powers. “The criticism was withering — from Barack Obama,” Journal editors write.
“In 2007 Senator Obama made this pledge: ‘I will not use signing statements to nullify or undermine congressional instructions as enacted into law.’ In 2008 candidate Obama said ‘Congress's job is to pass legislation. The president can veto it or he can sign it.’"
Obama now confronts the irony that the deference to Congress he wanted from Bush is inconvenient to him, the editorial says. “Mr. Bush must be smiling.”
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