Sunday, September 24, 2006

Russ Feingold for President

The President and the Law (1 Letter)


Published: September 24, 2006

To the Editor:

John Yoo, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Bush administration, acknowledges that President Bush’s unique approach to the law, which the president has insisted is necessary to fight terrorism, is motivated by the “broader’’ goal of strengthening executive power (Op-Ed, Sept. 17).

Mr. Yoo cites this goal as a reason the administration has fought a “pre-emptive’’ war, “data-mined communications in the United States to root out terrorism,’’ detained terrorists without “formal’’ charges and conducted “harsh’’ interrogations.

The agenda includes the reclassification of government information and the withholding of information from Congress and the courts, and has been buttressed by the president’s “signing statements,’’ which Mr. Yoo asserts claim the president’s right not to enforce “unconstitutional’’ laws.

In our system of government, it is the courts that determine the constitutionality of laws, not the president.

But Mr. Yoo takes his argument further, asserting that the president can ignore laws like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act because they have produced “dysfunction.’’ Indeed, according to Mr. Yoo, the president can ignore both laws and judicial decisions that he deems “wrongheaded’’ or “obsolete.’’

These views are clearly offensive to our constitutional system. It is long past time for Congress to reassert its proper role in checking an executive branch that has so little respect for the principles that have sustained our democracy for more than 200 years.

Russ Feingold
U.S. Senator from Wisconsin
Washington, Sept. 19, 2006

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