You are herecontent / Obama Issues Another Signing Statement on Same Day He Speaks in Front of Constitution
Obama Issues Another Signing Statement on Same Day He Speaks in Front of Constitution
Well, OK, the statement is dated yesterday. Here it is.
Here's the meat of it, telling Congress to go Cheney itself:
Section 5(d) of the Act requires every department, agency, bureau, board, commission, office, independent establishment, or instrumentality of the United States to furnish to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, a legislative entity, any information related to any Commission inquiry. As my Administration communicated to the Congress during the legislative process, the executive branch will construe this subsection of the bill not to abrogate any constitutional privilege.
I find the signing statement troubling for a number of reasons. First, Obama's celebration of investigative tools to combat fraud going forward seems like the same old "look forward" language with which Obama has thus far prevented any inquiry into Bush-era torture and other abuses. Investigative tools are nice, but we need to know what the beast we're investigating really looks like, which is what the Pecora Commission should tell us.
Also, I just spent several days wading through the 9/11 Commission archives. Having recently been reminded of Bush's stonewalling of that Commission, on which this Pecora Commission is based (though this Commission will have more members from Obama's party), I really don't relish the thought that Obama may soon be stonewalling in similar fashion.
More specifically, though, I'm concerned about what this says about Obama's approach to executive privilege. The privilege has, traditionally, arisen out of a real concern to protect precisely the subject of the 9/11 Commission--national security information. Bush was, of course, stonewalling the 9/11 Commission to protect himself from embarrassment, but at least any executive privilege there arose out of the traditional purpose for executive privilege.
But this Pecora Commission is mandated with investigating a financial failure, not a national security one. Yet Obama's signing statement suggests he may invoke privilege to hide details of that failure.
Now, there is one use of the privilege that does apply here--deliberative privilege, in which the President can shield conversations with top advisors to protect the President's ability to get unvarnished advice (it's a use of executive privilege that I find rather bogus, but it there is precedent for it). So perhaps Obama plans to invoke executive privilege to shield conversations he had with the Masters of the Universe surrounding him about why they shouldn't nationalize Bank of America, for example, instead of throwing away money on a bailout that may be far less effective. But that's precisely the kind of conversation this Pecora Commission needs to be able to investigate, if we're going to avoid similar meltdowns in the future.
It's not a good sign, frankly. The meltdown and the bailout have been largely managed through the executive branch behind closed doors (or, barring that, behind the opacity of the Fed). If Obama plans to shield events that happened behind those closed doors, we may never find out the causes for the economic meltdown.