Panel debates the constitutionality of Bush’s policies

A three-member panel debated the constitutionality of the policies of President George W. Bush and other past presidents in the Union last night, marking the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.

The panel consisted of Jeff Peake, an assistant professor of political science, Gary Hess, distinguished research professor of history, and Dion Farganis, assistant professor of political science.

Each member of the panel was able to present an opening statement about his opinion on whether President Bush had overstepped his power in office during his years in the White House.

Peake told the group of at least 100 that the president has the ability to see how far the power of the president can go.

Peake argued that the difference between what Bush has done during his time in office and what his predecessors have done is in the scope with which Bush has extended his authority.

Bush has extended his power through signing a statement, not by using a veto, Peake said.

This would allow the president to sign the bill while citing parts of it which do not apply to him, Peake said.

Bush has used this power 807 times while former President Ronald Reagan used a signing statement 72 times, Peake said.

While Peake used the time allotted to argue the use of veto power used by Bush, Hess argued both former President George H.W. Bush and current President George W. Bush effectively used situations available to them to support their policies.

Hess clarified his position by arguing Congress would always be on the defensive if they didn’t support a president during a time of war.

“Congress has always been on the defensive,” Hess said.

Farganis said one point of contention for Congress has been the use of power by the president at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

There has been a specific battle over the Military Commission Act of 2006, which suspended habeas corpus for enemy combatants. The battle surrounds the ability of the U.S. government to hold people at Guantanamo Bay indefinitely.

“It [Military Commissions Act] is supposed to clarify their [detainees] legal status,” Farganis said.

Matt Wickard, a senior majoring in political science, said he attended the debate because the topic interested him and he ended up learning something from it.

It taught him about the importance of governmental checks and balances.

“Presidential powers are able to expand as far as Congress and the judicial system are willing to let them,” Wickard said.