Presidential Signing Statements in Perspective


Presidential signing statements that object to putatively unconstitutional statutory provisions, or interpret them to avoid constitutional difficulties, have long been common, and occasionally controversial. After an outburst of sensational journalism last year, the American Bar Association followed up with a report accusing President Bush of using these statements to threaten what it called "the rule of law and our constitutional system of separation of powers." In this brief symposium contribution, I hope to indicate why the ABA's position is analytically untenable and irresponsibly hyperbolic, but also to raise a more interesting set of questions about the similarities and differences between the ways that courts and Presidents do and should go about the task of interpreting the Constitution and laws.