Congress passed the law last week as a response to FEMA's poor handling of Hurricane Katrina. The agency's slow response to flood victims exposed the fact that Michael Brown, Bush's choice to lead the agency, had been a politically connected hire with no prior experience in emergency management.
To shield FEMA from cronyism, Congress established new job qualifications for the agency's director in last week's homeland security bill. The law says the president must nominate a candidate who has "a demonstrated ability in and knowledge of emergency management" and ``not less than five years of executive leadership."
Bush signed the homeland-security bill on Wednesday morning. Then, hours later, he issued a signing statement saying he could ignore the new restrictions. Bush maintains that under his interpretation of the Constitution, the FEMA provision interfered with his power to make personnel decisions.
The law, Bush wrote, "purports to limit the qualifications of the pool of persons from whom the president may select the appointee in a manner that rules out a large portion of those persons best qualified by experience and knowledge to fill the office."
Bush said nothing of his objections when he signed the bill with a flourish in a ceremony Wednesday in Scottsdale, Ariz. At the time, he proclaimed that the bill was "an important piece of legislation that will highlight our government's highest responsibility, and that's to protect the American people."
The bill, he added, "will also help our government better respond to emergencies and natural disasters by strengthening the capabilities of the Federal Emergency Management Agency."
Bush's remarks at the signing ceremony were quickly e-mailed to reporters, and the White House website highlighted the ceremony. By contrast, the White House minimized attention to the signing statement. When asked by the Globe on Wednesday afternoon if there would be a signing statement, the press office declined to comment, saying only that any such document, if it existed, would be issued in the "usual way."
Bush's use of signing statements has attracted increasing attention over the past year. In December 2005, Bush asserted that he can bypass a statutory ban on torture. In March 2006, the president said he can disobey oversight provisions in the Patriot Act reauthorization bill.
In all, Bush has challenged more than 800 laws enacted since he took office, most of which he said intruded on his constitutional powers as president and commander in chief. By contrast, all previous presidents challenged a combined total of about 600 laws.
At the same time, Bush has virtually abandoned his veto power, giving Congress no chance to override his judgments. Bush has vetoed just one bill since taking office, the fewest of any president since the 19th century.
Earlier this year, the American Bar Association declared that Bush's use of signing statements was "contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional separation of powers."
Last month, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service concluded that Bush's signing statements are "an integral part" of his "comprehensive strategy to strengthen and expand executive power" at the expense of the legislative branch.
Here is what it comes down to: The President of the United States believes he is above the law. He has demonstrated this time and again; he has said this time and again. He has violated his oath of office, to protect and defend our Constitution, repeatedly and willfully.
He is unqualified to be President. He is unworthy of calling himself an American.