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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