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Bush: The Non-Lawyer

David Corn wrote this post yesterday about Bush's proclamation (as if we didnt' know it) that he is not a lawyer. Bush said:

I'm not a lawyer, but I can tell you what it means. It means Congress gave me the authority to use necessary force to protect the American people, but it didn't prescribe the tactics. It's an--you've got the power to protect us, but we're not going to tell you how. And one of the ways to protect the American people is to understand the intentions of the enemy. I told you it's a different kind of war with a different kind of enemy. If they're making phone calls into the United States, we need to know why -- to protect you.

I don't think Bush's non-lawyer status excuses him from not knowing the law. In fact, it's amazing to me that voters would elect any non-lawyer as President. The President is the Chief Executive, responsible for executing the laws of the land. The President has veto power over Congress. If the President is not a lawyer, he has to rely on the opinons and advice of those he hires. Why should we trust second-hand legal advice?

Sen. Bill Frist is a doctor. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), who is opposed to abortion, has no law degree. He is a doctor.

I would not amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage, to protect victims' rights or for any other politically fashionable statement. But I do think our President (and Supreme Court Justices and our Senators) should be lawyers. Shakespeare might want to kill me, but it's the truth.

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  • Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#1)
    by ras on Wed Jan 25, 2006 at 01:02:36 AM EST
    All of this so reminds me of the '04 presidential debates, the ones that Kerry "won." Kerry who?

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Jan 25, 2006 at 01:04:26 AM EST
    In fact, it's amazing to me that voters would elect any non-lawyer as President.
    Did I hear somewhere that people consider lawyers to be arrogant and elitist? But I get all my information about lawyers from books by lawyers who think the legal profession is out of control - well, that and Law and Order. I can see that congresscritters and presidents should have advisers who are lawyers, but I think having government dominated by lawyers is part of the problem. I can't recall the exact source or quote but I believe some Justice some decades ago said that while the lawyer of his time was the black letter man, the lawyer of the future would be the economist and the man of statistics. I think we need more of that kind of knowledge in government (even though it doesn't seem to have actually happened in the law). Bush's problem goes well beyond his ignorance of the law. And I can't figure out why the U.S. Constitution isn't required study in U.S. high schools.

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Jan 25, 2006 at 05:12:13 AM EST
    "But I do think our President (and Supreme Court Justices and our Senators) should be lawyers." You're probably really looking for people who aren't incompetent, corrupt, a**holes. Unfortunately, the possession of a law degree isn't any kind of indicator that its possessor isn't an incompetent, corrupt, a**hole. And when was the last time a non-lawyer was appointed to the Supreme Court? Has there ever been one?

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#4)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Jan 25, 2006 at 05:21:26 AM EST
    I resent the implication that only lawyers have the smarts and training to be President. I'm more of a strict constructionist on this point. The Constitution doesn't require that the President be a lawyer. I've dealt with lawyers for years, on both sides of the courtroom. I can't think of more than two or three that I trust. But maybe that's just me.

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Jan 25, 2006 at 05:31:07 AM EST
    BTW, Nixon was a lawyer. That worked out pretty well, didn't it?

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#6)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed Jan 25, 2006 at 05:44:30 AM EST
    Bush asked lawyers and was told what he wanted to do was legal. So we have lawyers versus lawyers. Nothing new there.

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#7)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Jan 25, 2006 at 06:52:52 AM EST
    That Bush could find lawyers in the Justice Department to agree with him isn't surprising, as it just points out what my grandfather told me many moons ago: 1. You can always find a lawyer who will support what you want to do. 2. Just because a lawyer says that something is permissible or impermissible doesn't make it so. And yes, PPJ, I know that "the lawyers said what they said". Anyone else want a shot at making a tautalogical statement?

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#9)
    by Peter G on Wed Jan 25, 2006 at 08:14:37 AM EST
    Finally, something to disagree with TL on. Recent lawyer presidents (this is off the top; please tell me if I get one or two wrong): F.D. Roosevelt, Kennedy, Nixon, Ford, Clinton. Nonlawyer presidents: Truman, Eisenhower, Johnson, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Bush II. I don't see a pattern, in terms of any criteria that I would consider important in a President. Nor would I agree with you about Senators, TL. Think again; that's just not a progressive position. Judges and justices, yes of course, but otherwise I suggest you reconsider.

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#10)
    by squeaky on Wed Jan 25, 2006 at 08:34:11 AM EST
    Peter G-
    Finally, something to disagree with TL on.
    This may not be the moment you have been waiting for. I took TL's provocative point as slightly tongue in cheek. It reveals how dishonest and incompetent our chimp king is. I got a chuckle thinking about Frist advising Bush about points of law. A kindergarden classroom came to mind. The key line is
    I don't think Bush's non-lawyer status excuses him from not knowing the law.
    and I would add, pompously acting like he does know the law. It is not a case of mere ignorance here. If TL's position is that all presidents should be lawyers I would have to also disagree. Although I can understand how Chimpy's non-stop BS could incite someont to say that. A great leader, as you point out, can come from any background. Imagine Bork as president.

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#12)
    by John Mann on Wed Jan 25, 2006 at 09:08:30 AM EST
    Look at the president as the manager of say, a factory with all number of different departments. There may be dozens or hundreds of individual departments. Each department has a supervisor who knows the employees working in that department. He or she should know each individual on a level the factory manager can't. The supervisor has a good grasp of the work performed by the employees, but the employees are the ones who do the work every day and are most intimately familiar with how to do it. The manager needs some specific skills and a huge number of generic skills to make sure the factory runs properly - and he or she must be a "people person" who can relate with other people; someone with a heart, a soul and a conscience as well as the ability to make good, sound decisions, sometimes hard ones, for the overall good of the factory. Above all, he or she must be able to delegate authority in order to get the job done effectively and efficiently, while at the same time recognizing that he or she cannot delegate responsibility. Lawyers are advocates; the presidency needs a manager - and the office damn sure doesn't have a very good one today.

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#8)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Jan 25, 2006 at 09:09:01 AM EST
    duplicate comment deleted.

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#13)
    by roy on Wed Jan 25, 2006 at 09:46:09 AM EST
    A lawyer who wants the law to be X will find an argument to make it seem that is already is X. A president will do the same whether its through first-hand legal reasoning or second-hand advice. So I see where a law degree or experience in court would be useful, but it wouldn't address the presidential weaseling problem. I'd much rather have a non-weasel non-lawyer president with non-weasel advisors than a weasel president with perfect understanding of the law. Besides, parties on either side of a contentious issue can find a lawyer to support them, which suggests that even lawyers are wrong about the law at least half the time. I suspect we all have our biases on what we need from a president. I think they need economics or science degrees so they don't fall for BS arguments. My dad, a combat vet, thinks they need to be ex-military so they understand the life-and-death nature of the job. My mom think they need to be parents so they're inclined to actually care about people rather than using them.

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#14)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Jan 25, 2006 at 10:05:14 AM EST
    How about a psych evaluation? Back in the early 90's, one of my first jobs was at Wal-Mart, and they made me take a psych test before they hired me. Should we expect less from the leader of the free world than we do a checkout clerk? :P

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#15)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Jan 25, 2006 at 10:05:22 AM EST
    Yes, I was being provacative and slightly tongue in cheek. Thanks, Squeaky.

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#16)
    by Linkmeister on Wed Jan 25, 2006 at 12:35:16 PM EST
    Let us take note that one of the selling points used for GWB back in 2000 was his graduation with an MBA. "Hey! A CEO President! Doesn't that make sense?" Right.

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#17)
    by Dadler on Wed Jan 25, 2006 at 02:46:17 PM EST
    I'm not a doctor, ma'am, but I do play one on TV. Semper Fi.

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#18)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed Jan 25, 2006 at 05:10:01 PM EST
    Dark Avenger - And what does your comment mean? We agree. He asked his lawyers. They agreed. The Left has its lawyers. They disagree. I must say I am shocked. Yes, shocked. Dadler - And I am not a lawyer, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. ;-) roy - Isn't all progress made by an unreasonable man? ;-)

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#19)
    by Sailor on Wed Jan 25, 2006 at 05:37:09 PM EST
    Wow, a CEO who ran every company he headed into the ground. Yep, hire THAT guy! bush has stated that he don't need no stinkin' warrant. You don't have to be a lawyer to understand how that violates the 4th Amendment. It really is a no brainer:
    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.


    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#20)
    by jimakaPPJ on Wed Jan 25, 2006 at 07:37:05 PM EST
    sailor - One small word hangs you up. UNREASONABLE

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#21)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Wed Jan 25, 2006 at 10:07:51 PM EST
    The Left has its lawyers. They disagree. Including William Sessions, the man Reagan appointed to head the FBI, who also disagrees with the DOJ lawyers' interpretation that Shrub cites? Wow, I guess he was really an American-hating, terrorist hugging leftist for all these years, and you're the only one who blew the lid off his cover. Thanks for sharing.

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#22)
    by cpinva on Wed Jan 25, 2006 at 11:24:22 PM EST
    jim, two words: probable cause. game, set, match. ba'al, thomas jefferson was indeed a lawyer. upon graduating from the college of william & mary, he read the law. va is one of the few states where one needn't attend an accredited law school to become an attorney, one can "read" law under the tutelage of a qualifying, practicing attorney, and sit for the bar. in this instance, "read" means exactly what it says. g. washington, a barely formally educated planter, surveyor, soldier, statesman, distiller, but non-lawyer, set the precedent for all future presidents. not too shabby, for a guy who's formal education ended at roughly the 4th grade. TL, your assertion that only lawyers are qualified to be president, is a telling example of why people hate lawyers: the essential arrogance required to believe that a legitimate postion, is endemic in the field. given the high % of lawyers occupying the state and federal legislatures, and the judiciary, if your position had any merit, we'd have little legal strife in this country. hmmmmm, we still do. so much for that stupid comment.

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#23)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 05:44:42 AM EST
    cpinva - Since the claim is that they are listening to calls either from or to known terrorists outside the US, then I would say they have probable cause. Guess the Fat Lady hadn't sung, eh?

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#24)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 06:00:54 AM EST
    Jim: Since the claim is that they are listening to calls either from or to known terrorists outside the US, then I would say they have probable cause. Odd that they never bothered to get a warrant, then, isn't it? Let me spell something out for you, Jim: with a warrant, what they did would have been legal - even if it turned out that they were listening to Quakers rather than terrorists. Without a warrant, it was illegal. Criminal behavior, not actually improved by the fact that in most cases they were listening in on the phone calls of US citizens who were not engaged terrorism.

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#25)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 06:31:51 AM EST
    Jesurgislac - It is your opinion that it is illegal. It is Bush's opinion that it is legal. Now, let's us say that the government went and asked for a warrant. The question would be, where did you get the number? The answer could be, we got it when we broke into X's apartment and arrested him. The judge could say, What search warrant did you have? The answer could be, none, we were in a fire fight with his troops....and... The judge could say, I won't allow it. No search warrant? Good heavens! Request denied. Fruit of the poisoned tree and all that. You see, a rasonable person will conclude that it is reasonable to assume that a telephone number found on a computer, etc., of a terrorist is worth IMMEDIATELY looking at with no discussions and/or arguments by oh so reasonable people who oh so reasonably established chinese firewalls pre 9/11 that handcuffed the FBI and drastically impeded our ability to stop 9/11. Bescause all reasonable people knew that if we just treated terrorists in a reasonable manner it would be reasonable to assume they would respect our rights since we were so reasonable in respecting their rights. Don't you think that is reasonable?

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#26)
    by Edger on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 07:24:15 AM EST
    Jim:
    Jesurgislac - It is your opinion that it is illegal. It is Bush's opinion that it is legal. The judge could say, I won't allow it. No search warrant? Good heavens! Request denied. Fruit of the poisoned tree and all that.
    In other words, Jim, the judge might agree with Jesurgislac that it is illegal? What is it that you find so threatening in that possibility? You don't like the answer you may get, so you think that a reasonable course is for the president to not ask the question, or to avoid having the issue decided in a court of law? You think that a reasonable course is for the president to just consider himself above the law? You think that a reasonable course is for the president to do anything he wants to, regardless of the law? You think that a reasonable course is to walk, not blindly, but acquiescent and with wide open eyes, into dictatorship and fascism? "Don't you think that is reasonable?"

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#27)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 08:13:07 AM EST
    I guess that "conservatarians" are only worried about "jack booted thugs" when there's a Democrat in office (or when the civil liberty at risk is the right to bear arms.)

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#28)
    by Edger on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 08:38:08 AM EST
    btw Jim, my questions above were not rhetorical. ^^ OO

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#29)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 09:27:28 AM EST
    Jim says: You see, a rasonable person will conclude that it is reasonable to assume that a telephone number found on a computer, etc., of a terrorist is worth IMMEDIATELY looking at Yes, Jim. And, oddly enough, the law provides for that, allowing an application for a warrant within 15 days after the wiretap. Yet, even under those circumstances, wiretaps were made without warrants - applied for either before or after the wiretap. Which is illegal. I'd be fascinated to see you answers to Edger's questions, too.

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#30)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 11:53:23 AM EST
    edger writes:
    In other words, Jim, the judge might agree with Jesurgislac that it is illegal?
    There is again that small word: UNREASONABLE Based on some comments by members of the FISA court I would say that it is distinctly possible that one or more of the judges would decide that it is their job to ignore Congress' directive for the President to pursue the war and become Commander In Chief themselves. Jesurgislac writes:
    Yes, Jim. And, oddly enough, the law provides for that, allowing an application for a warrant within 15 days after
    My scenario didn't specify a time frame. It could be 15 seconds or 15 days. BTW - Let's assume it was 15 days and we have broken up a plot to nuke NYC and have arrested the plotters. Since everything is "poisoned," what do we do, give'em back their weapons and pay for a taxi ride to the address they want to use as detonation central? Would we be cheating if we gave the citizens of NYC a few hours head start, or would that violate the spirt of the "law." Now, what was it Dickens wrote?
    If that's the law, sir, then the law, sir, is an ass."
    et al - When you are in a war you can not have two or three or six or ever how many makes us feel good CIC's. It won't work. Never has. Never will.

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#31)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 12:01:28 PM EST
    PPJ: When you are in a war you can not have two or three or six or ever how many makes us feel good CIC's. please no more CICs! it's hard enough with the one we've got.

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#32)
    by Edger on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 12:06:02 PM EST
    Jim, in case you missed it or were just asleep at the wheel for a bit there, here you go.

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#33)
    by jimakaPPJ on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 07:49:42 PM EST
    edger - My comment to Jesurgislac asnwers your question.

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#34)
    by Edger on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 07:53:59 PM EST
    Ummm. But there were 6...

    Re: Bush: The Non-Lawyer (none / 0) (#35)
    by Sailor on Thu Jan 26, 2006 at 08:23:15 PM EST
    posted by cpinva January 25, 2006 11:30 PM jim, two words: probable cause. game, set, match.
    Yep.