Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Father and Son

'We Strive to Be a Compassionate, Decent, Hopeful Society'

Now that he's got the whole one-termer bugbear off his back, Bush the son seems to be looking to Bush the father for ideas. Just before he made his joke last night about how he and Bill Clinton--two of his father's favorite people, he said--were both turning 60 this year, W called for Congress to give him the line-item veto.

I thought that sounded familiar. There's a reason: his daddy wanted the same thing all the way back in his State of the Union in 1992. "Give me the same thing 43 Governors have, the line-item veto, and let me help you control spending," Bush the elder said back then. Clinton eventually got to use the thing, at which point the courts stepped in and pointed out that such a power violates the Constitution. The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 against it, and since then one person on each side has departed, leaving things at 5-2 against with two unknowns. Even if we assume that Bush's real deal-breaker in looking for nominees was their fealty to the notion of unlimited presidential power, that still leaves us at 5-4 against, and I'm betting Breyer would find a reason to change his mind if necessary (he voted for the line-item veto, along with Scalia and O'Connor, in 1998) now that it would give Bush even more power than he's already grasping. Unless Stevens dies or retires, the line-item veto is a pipe dream.

Which leaves me wondering--why the hell did Bush bring it up? But I know, now: It's the same reason he just had to toss in a throwaway line about judges changing the definition of marriage (which he did less than sixty seconds after I noted that he hadn't brought it up yet this year). The line-item veto plea lets him pretend to be a fiscal conservative even as he approves bigger budgets and bigger deficits, essentially saying to one part of his coalition, "I am with you. It's this Congress that's out of control." Meanwhile, he tells another part of his coalition, "I am with you. We will stop those damned gays."

These two parts of his coalition probably didn't even notice the parts of the speech that weren't aiming right at their hearts. Ask a Wall Street Republican who watched the speech if Bush talked about gay marriage last night and he'd probably say no; it would have slipped right past him. But I bet he noticed the call for the line-item veto! And if you ask a Bible-Belter about gay marriage? Hoo-boy--he heard it, alright. That Bush, he just gets our issues! And did he notice the bit about the line-item veto? What's a line-item veto?


Liz said...

I think you're missing the main point of the speech, my friend. Two (or is it three?) words: human-animal hybrids. They're coming and they're going to take over the world.

Gerken said...

What is wrong with line item vetos? Especially in the Federal government when there isn't any rule to the scope of a certain bill. Remember in 3 years Bush will be gone and if the law is affirmed by the Supreme Court it'll still be there. Would you complain about the line item power if it was a Democrat in office? Because that could happen down the road. I think line item should be there no matter who's in office, but I'll tell you in a couple months where I really stand after get to disect that case in my Con Law class. :)

Richard said...

The line-item veto makes a mockery of the balancing done by members of Congress in order to get legislation passed. What is the point of negotiating with one another to ensure that certain provisions are left in a bill and others are removed when you know that the president can undo your carefully-considered compromise with a flick of his veto pen?

It doesn't matter who is in charge--for the good of the system, we shouldn't give any one man or woman that level of control over the operation of the government.

Although if a human-animal hybrid were elected president and used his or her tail to hold the veto pen, that might be OK.