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Lawless detention is the least of it. State secrets and warrantless spying scrape the surface. Drone attacks and ongoing torture begin to touch it. But central to the power of an emperor, and the catastrophes that come from the existence of an emperor, is the elimination of any other force within the government. Signing statements eliminate congress. Not that congress objects. Asking congress to reclaim its power produces nervous giggles.
Look at how the latest war supplemental funding bill was passed. The Emperor's people wrote most of the bill. The Emperor combined it with the IMF banker bailout. The Emperor threatened and bribed his way to deals with enough congress members to pass it. The Emperor preemptively told other nations the bill would pass and then badgered congress with the claim that this nation (He, the nation) would be damaged if he turned out to have lied. The Emperor lied to congress members and the public that this would be the last war supplemental bill. Congress members claimed to back it because it was the last one (not that this made the slightest sense), and others openly, proudly, and obliviously declared that they were switching their votes to yes in order to please the Emperor.
When the bill came to Emperor Barack he signed it and released his sixth and only legal signing statement announcing that he'd signed it. Two days later (Fridays being the favored day for signing statements) Obama released his seventh signing statement, claiming to have signed the same bill on that day as well, but perhaps beginning to establish the precedent that "signing statements," like "executive orders," can be issued at any time.
Is it time to stop endlessly being "shocked" by these yet? Obama, like Bush, argues in his signing statements that the sections of law he intends to violate are unconstitutional. The problem is not that either one of these presidents is necessarily always wrong or that such questions can ever be decided to everyone's satisfaction. The problem is that the Constitution requires the president to veto a bill or sign and faithfully execute it. The time to argue against the constitutionality of a provision is before a bill is passed or upon vetoing it. Such an argument can even be made upon signing a bill. It just can't be accompanied by a declaration of the power to violate the law.
Presidents Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton made innovations in the abuse of signing statements without which Bush Jr. could not have done what he did. Now Obama is further advancing the genre. At some point, of course -- as Germans once learned (and learned before nukes or climate crises were on the table) -- it can become too late to act.