The newspapers are expressing their concern with a signing statement issued by President Obama when he put his signature on the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act on January 2. Mr. Obama took issue with sections of the legislation that pertain to whistleblower protections for defense contractors. (Government employees who expose problems were protected in 1989.) He claims some parts of the law could hinder with his authority over employees of the executive branch. He is concerned that confidential information might be revealed. He also wrote that, if necessary, he would refuse to enforce the protections in the law.
The editorials say that government watchdog groups are concerned. I would hope so. Allowing corruption and/or waste to go unchecked is serious business.
President Obama has a history of having one opinion before being elected and another after. (e.g. As a Senator he criticized President Bush’s leadership because Mr. Bush requested an increase in the government debt limit; now Mr. Obama wants Congress to give him unlimited power to raise the debt ceiling.) Concerning the separation of powers, in 2008 Mr. Obama said, “Congress’s job is to pass legislation. The president can veto it or he can sign it.” Now he claims the right to ignore parts of laws that he does not like.
Mr. Obama contends that other parts of the Defense Authorization Act were too important for him to veto the whole bill. That is something he does have to weigh before signing any legislation. But once signed, a law is to be enforced – whether a president likes it or not. A president does not have the prerogative to impede or stop implementation of sections of legislation he chose to sign into law.