Bush’s laws will be scrutinized if I become president, Obama says

May 28, 2008

rtx69fr.jpgDENVER – Maybe it’s his background teaching constitutional law.

If elected president, Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama said one of the first things he wants to do is ensure the constitutionality of all the laws and executive orders passed while Republican President George W. Bush has been in office.

Those that don’t pass muster will be overturned, he said.

During a fund-raiser in Denver, Obama — a former constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago Law School — was asked what he hoped to accomplish during his first 100 days in office.

“I would call my attorney general in and review every single executive order issued by George Bush and overturn those laws or executive decisions that I feel violate the constitution,” said Obama

Other goals for his first 100 days: work out a plan to withdraw troops from Iraq; make progress on alternative energy plans and launch legislation to reform the health care system.

Click here for more Reuters 2008 campaign coverage

Photo credit: Reuters/Rick Wilking (Obama talks to students during a visit to a school in Thornton, CO) 


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Thank god.

Posted by Justin | Report as abusive

Scrutinizing executive orders and laws passed by Bush’s admin. will be a grand start.

Posted by NParr | Report as abusive

Mr. Obama, I must ask you two questions:

1) As you are and have been a member of the United States Senate for the last four years, I would have expected you would have evaluated any legislation during that time period to insure you were helping to pass only laws which are constitutional. Do you, therefore, only intend to review laws from before you were a member of the Senate for Constitutionality or are those laws enacted since you took office also planned for review? If the former, please explain why you failed to take the time while you were in the Senate to review what your predecessors had done. If the latter, please explain why you were lax in carrying out your duties as a US Senator?

2) Since you have indicated it is your intention, if elected, to meet with your Attorney General to review existing legislation and overturn that which you consider unconstitutional, I must ask you to please identify precisely what power granted by the Constitution to the office of the Presidency allows such a unilateral action on your behalf? Do you believe that you are not personally subject to the US Constitution? The Separation of Powers given by that historic and monumental document does not allow the President to subsume the functions of the courts and the judiciary.

Posted by kdurham68 | Report as abusive

Firstly, Obama was not a law professor, he was a lecturer. Also he fails define the statement “pass muster”. Does he mean quit fighting terrorist? Bush cannot make laws, only the congress. Better be ready to accept marxist ways if Obama becomes our next president. As for the surpreme court, the justices sorta of remind about the old saying us engineers used to say: “An engineer that can’t design becomes a manager, if they can’t manage, they become professors who teach engineering, and if they can’t teach they write books on how to be an engineer”. All judges that I’m aware of are pollitically appointed irregardless of their ability.

Posted by Jack from Kansas | Report as abusive

This is one of the most patriotic things I have heard in a while. Check to ensure that all laws are constitutional. Attitudes like this will keep the dream which is America alive.

Posted by Ciceroji | Report as abusive

Eight years of Bush and the Clinton’s campaign methods have made this bitter old white guy an Obama voter and contributor.

Posted by ericmiami | Report as abusive

I have a feeling we may also see a special prosecutor appointed to investigate the fireing of the Attorney Generals, Lies about Iraq, and who condoned torture.

Posted by Brian | Report as abusive

As someone who supported Ron Paul, this is a breath of fresh air.

Posted by Scott | Report as abusive

It is the answer to Hillary who says that Obama is all about talking but not doing. As we can see he has a clear idea how and what to do.

Posted by vlad | Report as abusive

To Jack from Kansas – people have always said things like that about teachers. It is a popular aphorism, but that does not make it true in any sense. Teachers can only contribute so much – the rest has to come from ability within and some modicum of personal drive.
Example – there is no such word as “irregardless”.
Perhaps you should question your teachers and forget about what makes a good or bad engineer.

Posted by Michael Hunt | Report as abusive

Jack from Kansas, it’s “Supreme”. And “first”, not “firstly”. Not to mention, did you just write “irregardless”? Really? Yeesh, no wonder you’ve summed-up all things as “quit fighting terrorist”

So I guess you DO need an explanation. Yes, you are somwehat correct: Congress does legislate many, but not all, of the laws. The problem was Bush, upon signing them, would issue signing statements stating he’d ignore and choose to not enforce the law he was signing, which might not be legal. And thus it falls amongst other things legal problems such as his issuance of executive orders (laws that can be unilaterally created by the President under our system) that claimed broad powers that most likely fall outside of his constitutional authority and thus should be scrutinized as Obama said he would.

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive

That sounds fantastic. I hope Obama gets elected and follows through on this. The last eight years have been a series of disasters.

Posted by patrick | Report as abusive

Since I decided to comment guess I did open myself up to pruning but didn’t know we were going to evaluate grammer and spelling. The expression has nothing to do with down grading teachers but rather as an expression of one’s ability to design. I was an engineer which did not require spelling. That is why we had a dictionary and thesaurus built into our word processor programs. Again I’m proably wrong but I believe it was one of the former presidents that requested line item veto power over bills passed by congress. By the way the word irregardless is real even tho non standard because of the two negatives and the word amongst is old english and mainly used in Britain.

Posted by Jack from Kansas | Report as abusive

So help me if the Republicans win this election I will lose my faith in the American people. Especially when this Democratic front runner is likely just what the doctor ordered for a ghastly sick America under George Bush.

Posted by Dual Citizen | Report as abusive

Obama’s position as an instructor of constitutional law at University of Chicago has been verified with them. He was part time and did not have tenure as he was not interested in pursuing it full time. The University has said that the term professor is appropriate, that he received very high evaluations from his students and other professors, and that they would have been interested in his becoming full time and tenured.

Judges appointed politically regardless of their abilities? Sounds like a lot of GOP appointees. Obama’s selection of AG will be crucial. That individual will have an enormous job restoring the DoJ and prosecuting the BushCo administrators.

kdurham68 See the comments on signing orders and executive orders. Also do some review on the multiple problems constitutional lawyers from libertarian, conservative and liberal positions have with Bush’s usurping of power to the executive branch. Much of this has been in concert with Cheney who started in Nixon’s administration and learned from the failures then how to do it so Congress did not catch the problem. Plus he had 6 years of rubber stamp GOP and 15 months of stonewalling in the Senate.

Speaking of the Senate. It was specifically designed to operate in a more conservative way than the House, balancing the influence of legislation that was produced quickly so that it would get more consideration. A junior senator is exceptional if they accomplish much of anything in a short period of time their first term. Obama has actually done quite a bit of very solid work in those circumstances.

Certainly none of his laws in the US or Illinois Senates are anything close to Marxist. Nor does the president create laws. What ever programs or laws he proposes must actually go through Congress before he can sign them. No matter how many times conservative rhetoric tries to paint Democrats as socialists and marxists, there simply is no basis for it. I am a former Libertarian. I would have been Republican except that I am not a Christian and was not welcome. The Dems aren’t perfect, they sure aren’t socialists, let alone communists.

Withdrawing from an occupation that started as an illegal invasion has nothing to do with not fighting terrorism. Obama’s plans have everything to do with going after terrorists effectively instead of creating a fiasco astronomically worse than any threat we faced.

kdurham68 – you made the following comment:

“As you are and have been a member of the United States Senate for the last four years, I would have expected you would have evaluated any legislation during that time period to insure you were helping to pass only laws which are constitutional”

Clearly you have proven that you have no understanding of what executive orders are

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Executive_o rder_%28United_States%29

Executive Orders are ways that Presidents can get around the legislation passed by Congress. Although EOs have been around forever, Bush has clearly taken advantage of this feature moreso than any of his other predecessors.

And twice in the past EOs have been constitutionally challenged including one under Bill Clinton. So I think any president coming into office in 2012 has every right to comb thru the excessive number of Executive Orders generated by Bush to confirm that Bush was acting in the best interest of this government and NOT the best interests of the Bush Regime and those profiting off of it.

Posted by Herradura | Report as abusive


Please. There is no viable defense of the use of the word “irregardless” in America. It shows an ignorance and disdain for knowledge inherent to people who launch unreasonable attacks on sound ideas like the one you brought here against the idea of reviewing and repairing abuse of executive privilege carried out by the Bush administration. “Better be ready to accept marxist ways if Obama becomes our next president.” Where did that come from? Is that really your argument for why he shouldn’t be president? Grow up. Be mature. Your comment provides a clear example of exactly why we need Obama to be president. It’s about time we actually placed intelligence and pragmatism at the top of our priority lists when picking a president, instead of evaluating how much in common he has with average Joes, or how ready for war he is. He will be president, IR-regardless of people like you.

Posted by Chuck | Report as abusive

kdurham68 – I think he’s referring to executive orders, which are issued outside of the purview of congress.

Posted by zach wilson | Report as abusive

To Jack From Kansas,

Barack Obama’s formal title was “senior lecturer,” but the University of Chicago Law School says he “served as a professor” and was “regarded as” a professor. In fact he was offered tenure-ship more than once which he declined. There is a difference between “Professor” and “professor”; Obama was a “professor” If you need fourther evidence please go to this site:

http://www.factcheck.org/askfactcheck/wa s_barack_obama_really_a_constitutional_l aw.html

Thank You


Posted by Wale | Report as abusive

To Jack from Kansas and kdurham68:

Just as a point of clarification: the President has the authority to issue what are called “executive orders,” which are referred to by Obama in the quoted text above. Executive orders are mandates (similar to laws passed by congress) to certain administrative agencies (such as the SEC or EPA) that have been created the power not just to execute laws, as that power is granted to the president, but to interpret laws and to pass regulations of their own. For instance the SEC passes regulations necessary to further the goas of the Securities Act and the Exchange Act passed in 1933 and 1934, respectively. Congress rarely amends these underlying statutes, instead the SEC is relied upon to adapt those statutes to ever-changing circumstances at the direction of the president. An unconsitutional executive order would be an order that mandates that the administrative agency pass a regulation in contradiction of an underlying statute since, as you have both implied or stated, law making authority is ultimately vested in Congress.

Posted by Eric | Report as abusive

Also to Jack from Kansas–you may also want to take a look at your understanding of history. “Marxism” is much more complicated than your cursory smear and linking Marxist thought to Obama as a way to automatically question his credentials in the mind of “patriotic” Americans is a thoughtless and uninformed cheap shot.

Posted by Megan | Report as abusive

To kdurham68:

While eloquently written, your comment shows your ignorance of all things policy, and constitutional law

1) Executive Orders are not legislation and are not up for review by Congress. They are issued from the president and are immediately enacted. Hence the excitement that Obama elicits by saying he will review these order.

2) Quite Simply, what allows him to do this is the power of the executive order. Only a president with this power can overturn the orders of previous presidents.

EVEN A FOOL, WHEN HE KEEPS HIS MOUTH SHUT, APPEARS WISE. Consider leaving your trap closed next time, or perhaps do a little research and educate yourself. Ignorance is not pretty.

Posted by Neil | Report as abusive

First, a lecturer and a professor are not that different. It just means he can be fired and also he does not have a publishing requirement. I am for those here that have gone to college you have encountered some very fine Lecturer.

Rupert Mordoch may endorse Barak Obama does that mean fox news will not publish so much propaganda against him?

Posted by jarofsoup | Report as abusive

That he feels violates the constitution? Curious phrasing.

Posted by RD | Report as abusive

Jack has it EXACTLY pegged. Obama is referring to Bush’s signing statements, which Bush has abused. Just about every bill that comes across his desk gets a little tweak from the little chimp in chief and that’s dangerous. To kdurham68, Obama – as I hope every other legislator – looks at a bill to determine if it’s constitutionality holds up before voting yeah or nay on it. It’s when the bill is passed and Bush decides to add his own touch of evil to it where the process breaks down.

Posted by Mark Billingsley | Report as abusive


Since you appear to know how to use the internet, why don’t you use it to look up the difference between:

“executive orders” (which were issued by Bush’s EXECUTIVE branch and which Obama can unilaterally overturn), and

“laws” which are issued by the legislature.

This is all so overdue — the vast majority of Bush’s executive orders are either entirely unconstitutional or contain unconstitutional “unitary executive” language claiming that the President can refuse to enforce laws.

Bravo, Obama!

Posted by theo | Report as abusive

Jack — From anyone not in the know regarding the technical terms like professor or lecturer, he was a law professor. He was in fact offered a tenure position, but declined. So while he was not technically a professor, he taught Constitutional Law at the same level as those who were. But points to you for the attempt to diminish his work.

Posted by Thing | Report as abusive

As a responsible president, who presides over all Constitutional Laws, it is the –duty– of the Executive President of these United States to properly review, in order to maintain the laws.

Mr. Obama has the power and responsibility, as a president should do, to view such laws and with the Attorney General appeal the Supreme Court, radify or dissolve said laws which (even remotely) appear or do in fact violate Constitutional Amendments.
This something NO president since Garfield has done.

As an Independent Capitalist, I am amazed and quite impressed.

This man is actually going to be the first genuine presider (hence where the term president comes from) in many years.

We are with you Sir. Godspeed.

Posted by james from new york | Report as abusive

Yes, Obama is going to be a breath of fresh air to this country. People that support the GOP candidates such as McCain and Clinton say that he offers nothing but words. That’s because they no longer know how to hope or enact change. They have been playing the game (and gaining profit) from it for so long they don’t want change and hope is something that scares them.
Obama touches the part of our being that seeks to do better. He tells us that it will not be easy and we know that he is not going to lie to us. He says that we have to take responsibility and we look forward to it because we look at our lives today in 2008 and know who got us in this mess. The failed Presidency of Bush and Bill Clinton. Under Bill we lost 46 democratic seats while he was busy getting his jollies in the Oval Office of OUR White House.
We have no fear of a moral embarressment with Obama at the helm. We know that while George Bush was one of the children left behind (apparent in his speaking abilities) that it is also a failed program that will go away under Obama.
Now he is going to throw out the rules that have been enacted that benefit no one but the Washington fat cats who profit from them. Thank God.

Posted by Sam Foster | Report as abusive

awesome President Obama!

Posted by SMS | Report as abusive

i would like to see him go after government lawbreakers. i will not want to hear about “moving forward” and “healing” until every last one of these traitorous louts is brought to justice. period end of story. no nixon-style slinking away.

Posted by d. jones | Report as abusive

nice try, kdurham68, but you are forgetting a few minor details. as a senator of the minority party, which also did not hold the office of the presidency, he cannot single-handedly stop any legislation he deems unacceptable. did you forget that he may have, at some point, voted against legislation that nonetheless became law? did you forget how many laws and interpretations of questionable constitutionality (e.g.- signing statements) the republicans rammed through in their time of consolidated power?
to point #2, this was a response to a question, not a legal brief filing. even if he did declare these laws invalid with a signing statement, he would not be exceeding the authority assumed by our current white house occupant; but as someone knowledgeable about constitutional law (UNlike our current white house occupant) i believe he will work with congress and the court system to return this country to the rule of law (not men) that our founding fathers created.


Obama not talking about laws passed by Congress when he was a Senator. He’s talking about reviewing the constitutionality of executive orders written by President George W. Bush. It’s the Attorney General’s to take matters to the judiciary system. So there’s no conflict with the “separation of powers” in what Obama is proposing.

Posted by Jen in FL | Report as abusive

This is just another reason why I support this admirable, intelligent man for President! His judgment is unparalleled by Hillary Clinton or John McCain and it should play well with the electorate in the Fall! It is about time we had a President that can understand the Constitution, much less read it!

Posted by Andrew | Report as abusive

Responding to kdurham68: Obama is talking about executive orders not legislation.The President can sign executive orders without the consent of Congress. Some of Bush’s Executive Orders have been harmful to our country. It is good to see that Obama will scrutinize what has been illegally done and begin to put this country on a Moral and Legal path again

In addition to corrections of grammar and spelling, dear Jack from Kansas, you will be (more importantly) subjected to corrections of fact when you post on the innertubes. Obama was a professor at U of Chicago, which you can easily verify for yourself:

http://www.law.uchicago.edu/media/index. html

Perhaps you would be happier to cling to your version of “truth” since it better comports with the wingnut worldview.

Posted by Java Jeff | Report as abusive

To kdurham68: Obama was referring to overturning executive orders, not laws. Laws go through Congress for review; executive orders don’t.

Bush, like many presidents before him, has enacted many policies through executive orders. For example, though Bill Clinton designated more square miles of parks and protected land than any other president before him, he did so using executive orders, and George W. Bush simply reversed these orders soon after he came into office.

UC Law School statement: The Law School has received many media requests about Barack Obama, especially about his status as “Senior Lecturer.” From 1992 until his election to the U.S. Senate in 2004, Barack Obama served as a professor in the Law School. He was a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996. He was a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004, during which time he taught three courses per year. Senior Lecturers are considered to be members of the Law School faculty and are regarded as professors, although not full-time or tenure-track.

Posted by Jim | Report as abusive

Wow the ignorance of some of the posters here is staggering.

Executive Orders are NOT Acts of Congress! The Executive Branch…the ones who ENFORCE the laws that Congress writes and the Supreme Court interprets…is able to work under certain Executive Orders, which do NOT require Congressional approval!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Executive_o rder_%28United_States%29

Is there any chance we can move up the election date? Before we invade Iran?
The President and Attorney General have an obligation under Constitutional law to make sure laws and legislation are Constitutional.
The current twosome claim executive privilege overrides Congress to make law or ignore inconvenient laws.
The Senator serves in a half-and-half split Senate and could do nothing about the Patriot Act, surveilance laws, etc., except vote against them or the budget for them.
A good President takes his or her oath to defend the Constitution seriously.
It is the most important part of the job.
Right on Obama!

Posted by susants | Report as abusive

The “professor” story has been questioned before. Here is the answer from FactCheck:

His formal title was “senior lecturer,” but the University of Chicago Law School says he “served as a professor” and was “regarded as” a professor.

http://www.factcheck.org/askfactcheck/wa s_barack_obama_really_a_constitutional_l aw.html

By the way, I am a teacher. One thing teachers do is CHECK SOURCES and VALIDATE FACTS before throwing them out there. Just saying….

Posted by Linda | Report as abusive

Excellent! We will all sleep better when Bush’s draconian laws and executive orders have been lifted/canceled.

Posted by Mary | Report as abusive

Obama’s intention to limit his review only to laws and executive orders under the Bush administration seems to me overtly political in the worst sense of the word. He should go back through the Clinton years, at least. Perhaps he should go all the way back to Hoover. With the size of government Obama plans, he will have plenty of staff to accomplish such a review.

Posted by MKS | Report as abusive

Those of you who say Bush cannot make laws – yeah, we all thought that until he started doing just that. Try as you might to take issue with Obama, he’s telling you, point blank, that he plans to undertake the long, arduous process of undoing the damage that has been done to this great nation and its’ standing in the world community. You all stood by and allowed BushCo to get away with war crimes and the overreaching of his presidential powers. To sit around now and try to take shots at the man who has a chance to try and undo the work Bush did is laughable. Bush did what you say he didn’t do. Obama is dedicated to bringing us back to what we once were – a great nation. Sadly, we are but a shadow of that thanks to Bush and our own inactivity. Accept that, or get out of the way. We have the votes and McCain is hardly enough of a candidate to stop us.

Posted by David | Report as abusive

The University of Chicago Law School Statement Regarding Barack Obama

http://www.law.uchicago.edu/media/index. html

Posted by Terry, IN | Report as abusive

To “kdurham68″: did you actually read the article, or just the headline? The article refers to “laws and executive orders”. Executive orders of course did not go through congress and the new President will have authority to overturn them.

Posted by Andrew | Report as abusive

Just out of curiosity, if at the same time Obama were to demand that those who have invoked Executive Privilege come forward and tell what they know about a variety of things not just limited to the attorney firings, would that overrule Bush’s invocation of ExPriv? Or is there some silly custom of Presidents not doing that to former Presidents and their administrations?

Posted by Bob Kahan | Report as abusive

To kdurham68: Regarding your two questions:

Obama is referring to executive orders and signing statements, which are not subject to legislative review by Congress. In the past, signing statements have almost exclusively been used for the purposes of political or rhetorical explanation. It is really only recently, and especially during the Bush presidency, that Presidents have used these statements as an attempt to alter the interpretation and/or meaning of a law passed by Congress.

Bush has come under fire from numerous Constitutional scholars and agencies for his extensive use of them, especially in his intent to subvert the intent of laws, especially in their application to his office.

Thus far, the Supreme Court has generally ignored the significance of these statements, and their legality is generally considered insignificant. But, they do have an impact on the offices who typically have to enact the laws, especially with the current regime. Many scholars have stated that Bush’s use of signing statements have become, in essense, an attempt to provide line-item vetos or individual protections, both of which have already been deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, based on the seperation of powers clauses…

In fact, Sen. Arlen Specter has twice pushed for specific legislation preventing and declaring as non-actionable all such signing statements. Sen. Specter, by the way, is a Republican.

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive

Jack from Kansas –
Irregardless is entirely an American concoction, it is not used in England, neither was it ever Old English – it is merely a blending of irrespective and regardless, two words used with similar intent. Usually blended I might add by lesser educated people – the kind who spell grammar incorrectly.

Posted by Pete from England | Report as abusive

To kdurham and Jack from Kansas,

Most of the “laws” that Bush passed were done so through signing statements, Administrative Rule or executive order thus unconstitutionally bypassing Congress. I know because a group I’m associated with won a national precedent setting case regarding environmental law and it was one of the first that Bush unconstitutionally overturned by the use of Administrative Order. He issued the order without any regard for procedure as specified by law.

Moreover, he used Administrative Orders by the thousands on similar cases…all done unconstitutionally but requiring years of lawsuits to eventually overturn. His Administrative Rule negating Clinton’s “Roadless Rule” was but one example that was eventually overturned in Federal Court after being challenged at the cost of millions by a wide consortium of plaintiffs. Obama will save millions in lawsuits and years of time by addressing Bush’s illegal use of the Administrative Rule alone.

And this doesn’t even address the 800 plus illegal signing statements and executive orders that bypassed Congress as well. So being a Senator while Bush was bypassing Congress is not a reflection on Obama as implied by kdurham. Such views are a reflection of how too few “citizens” actually understand how the gov. works.

Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

Posted by Craig | Report as abusive