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The Price Of Inexperience

For most of President Bush's administration, it seemed that among all the other stuff the Clintons took from the White House, they'd also stolen the magic "VETO" stamp. Bill after bill after bill landed on Bush's desk, and he'd either sign them or let them go into law without his signature, but not once did he veto the measure.

Then, in recent years, he finally found the stamp, and actually started using it. But all those years of not having it took their toll -- it seems he didn't learn the proper way it should be used.

Case in point: the recent defense appropriations bill. It was passed overwhelmingly by both House and Senate and sent on to the White House -- at which point Bush said he intended to veto it.

The sticking point is a provision that would allow people suing Iraq over deeds committed by the Saddam Hussein regime to seize assets of the current Iraqi government. And considering how much of the funding for Iraqi reconstruction at least passes through the United States at one point, that could put a world of hurting on that effort.

Now, I think that the measure is a colossally bad idea. It smacks of the reparations the Allies imposed on Germany after World War I, and we all know how well that worked at deterring future aggression. (To quote Tom Lehrer: "Once all the Germans were warlike and mean,/ But that couldn't happen again./ We taught them a lesson in nineteen eighteen,/ And they've hardly bothered us since then.") Indeed, I'm of the suspicious enough sort that I speculate that it was tucked in there by some of those Congresscritters who are so invested in hanging a defeat in Iraq around Bush's neck that they'll do almost anything to make sure there is a defeat to hang.

But this just isn't how it's done, Mr. President.

You announce your opposition to a bill (or a part of a bill) long before it reaches your desk. You give Congress a chance to strip out or modify the offending part before both Houses put their imprimatur on the measure.

And lord knows there are enough grounds to oppose this part of the Defense Appropriations bill. Not only is it a colossally abysmal idea, it has no business in a bill concerned with defense funding. The only reason it was stuck in there was to help protect it from its well-deserved demise.

But it should have been caught sooner than this. Bush's veto is a confession of ineptitude -- it's saying "our people in Congress didn't catch this in time, our people who watch Congress didn't catch it, the backers sneaked it past all our people and managed to get it all the way to my desk before we noticed it was there."

This is why I think that the president needs a line-item veto -- at least on a trial basis. Congress ought to have the integrity to NOT bundle together a bunch of bad ideas with a few that it considers veto-proof, but as we all know, "Congress" and "integrity" go together about as well as "Islam" and "tolerance" or "Kennedy" and "sobriety" or "Kennedy" and "responsibility" or... well, you get the idea.

Overall, I am relieved that Bush vetoed the bill, as long as it contained the measure about the Iraqi assets. But I am not glad. Rather, I am angry. I am angry that the backers tucked it into this critical bill, and angry that Bush and the Congressional Republicans either didn't notice it or didn't realize its significance or didn't think it that important to call it out beforehand.

So Congress gets to go back to work on the Defense Appropriations bill, having wasted several weeks passing it. Crucial parts of the bill -- including well-earned raises for the troops -- will have to wait even longer because of some corrupt dipshits, and inept watchdogs who let the corrupt dipshits engineer this stunt.

A pox on all their houses -- House, Senate, and White.


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Comments (12)

I have gone back and forth ... (Below threshold)
DaveD:

I have gone back and forth in my mind whether a line item veto should be granted to the President. However, this episode does not stand up as one that makes the case for a line item veto. The White House should have caught this one I think. I think Congress would have been open to dropping this item with little to no fight.

Corrrupt Dipshits Engineeri... (Below threshold)
Mark:

Corrrupt Dipshits Engineering: Thats my gov.

The dem talking point on th... (Below threshold)
the struggler:

The dem talking point on this will be President Bush vetoed raises for the troops.

Although I don't think its ... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

Although I don't think its wise to punish incompetence by allowing a bad law to go through, there's a good technical reason this is eligible for a line item veto. It has nothing to do with defense appropriations.

On the other hand, for example, a line item veto could turn an amnesty/enforcement bill into an amnesty only bill. And as such its too powerful for the President to have.

To often we look at the Presidency as the Problem or for a fix. We don't give Congress enough credit for screwing things up. I think the fix for such things lies in procedural changes in Congress. Something that the President can enforce with his all or nothing veto.

I'd be comfortable for the President, either party, if they veto every bill that tried to pull this kind of crap in order to train Congress to be less deceitful. Unfortunately the media would vilify the President over this and not the Congress, especially if they liked the little tacked on legislation. Too bad we don't have a media with integrity either.

struggler: "The dem talking... (Below threshold)
Drago:

struggler: "The dem talking point on this will be President Bush vetoed raises for the troops."

Uh, no. The dem talking point will be that President Bush personally murdered Bhutto, then stangled orphan children in the street in front of the White House, then drank their blood.

And those will be the "moderate" dems.

Jay, you're right on this o... (Below threshold)

Jay, you're right on this one. I can't believe the administration missed it, and I'm optimistic that it will be removed from the bill.

I suppose it's possible that the White House played this to draw attention to the 'trial-lawyer friendliness' of the provision... but I think it's more likely that it just got missed. Not good. Hopefully Congress will get rid of the provision and the troops will get what they need.

OK, who put it in?... (Below threshold)
epador:

OK, who put it in?

The entire raise for the tr... (Below threshold)
Ted:

The entire raise for the troops isn't vetoed. They get 3% instead of 3.5%.

Still a bad veto, but the devil is in the details.

Thousand of items were adde... (Below threshold)
Scrapiron:

Thousand of items were added to this bill overnight and thousands of pages were dumped on the floor of congress with less than 48 hours to read them. Both parties in their rush to run home and kiss a** approved the bill and caught the plane. The lawyers in congress saw a way to make billions of dollars and slipped it in hoping it wouldn't be caught. VETO it and start over. If the dhimmi's are serious and want to lead they can change the one item and re-vote in one day. Won't happen (they're law firms will object) since they don't know how to lead, only how to rip off the public.

Blaming President Bush for ... (Below threshold)
LGD:

Blaming President Bush for this is nonsense of the sort I expect from Democrats. Someone working in or for Congress put this in the bill and I'm glad someone in the administration caught it.

Freezing the assets of Saddam Hussein's family to pay reparations is a good idea; freezing the assets of the Iraqi people is a Democrat idea.

Wizbang should blame the people who did the wrong thing, not the people who caught the mistake.

Make up your mind: was the... (Below threshold)

Make up your mind: was the provision "sneaked into the bill" by its backers, or not?

The very word "sneak" implies it was done to AVOID detection - yet you blame Bush's people and/or Republicans in Congress for not catching it.

Are they supposed to be omniscient? Once discovered, they did all they could, which was veto the bill.

Very good piece, Jay Tea.</... (Below threshold)
Hill Rat:

Very good piece, Jay Tea.

One quibble and one observation:

1). The President vetoed the FY08 National Defense Authorization Bill, not the FY08 Defense Appropriations bill, as you state.

The annual Defense Authorization bill sets policy for Defense programs, determines pay and benefit levels for military personnel, and makes changes to current law (i.e. the U.S. Code) relating to defense issues/programs/authority.

Any delay in the enactment of this bill will have no effect on funding for FY08 Defense programs already funded by the FY08 Defense Appropriation bill. Nor will it affect the approximately $70 billion in Supplemental Appropriations to fund the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan, which passed as part of the FY08 Omnibus Appropriation Act.

2). The provision in question was in the earlier Senate version of the Defense Authorization bill. The Administration has had since Oct to review this language. It seems to me this might simply be a case of poor legislative review by White House lawyers.

But then again, many of those people are leaving in droves for private sector jobs or jobs with 2008 candidates, so these things can happen.




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