- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 13, 2003

The White House chief of staff yesterday told a conservative legal group that President Bush strengthened the executive branch in the wake of September 11 in order to uphold his “sole responsibility” to “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution.

Andrew H. Card Jr. cited Mr. Bush’s creation of the White House homeland-security office and call for passage of the Patriot Act as examples of such necessary actions.

Recounting Jan. 20, 2001, the day President-elect George W. Bush swore the oath contained in Article 2 of the Constitution, Mr. Card said the new president suddenly was burdened with “the paramount responsibility.”

“The president has the sole responsibility for protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States of America. That’s an awesome responsibility, and the president, when he took that oath, did not waver,” he told more than 1,000 members and guests at the annual meeting of the Federalist Society, at the Mayflower Hotel.

Although few news articles focused on that oath, Mr. Card said, everything changed on September 11, and then “that oath meant most of all.”

After the terrorist attacks that left more than 3,000 dead, Mr. Card said, the president “strained the limits of his executive authority to better protect this country.”

He drafted an executive order calling for the creation of the Homeland Security Council, created military tribunals and called for the Patriot Act “to ensure that we could use all of the tools that are available under our Constitution to prevent the next attack.”

“That act updated our laws to meet the updates in technology that are part of our everyday life, and that Patriot Act is working,” he said.

The executive branch, Mr. Card said, is primarily responsible for protecting the Constitution, and “it is the executive branch that is most under attack.”

“Congress loves to attack the executive branch of the government … Congress wants to eat away at what we call the presidency. And there are great dangers of immediate gratification as they choose to devour us,” he said, likening those attacks to a “cancer.”

Among the attendees of the annual dinner of the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies, founded in 1982 by students who thought professors at the top law schools were too liberal, were Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who agreed 20 years ago to be an adviser to students.

Other guests included White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez, Solicitor General Theodore Olsen, former Reagan attorney general Edwin Meese and former White House Counsel C. Boyden Gray, who served under the first President Bush.

The group has a hand in recommending conservatives for top jobs and judgeships, a role the society undertook when Mr. Bush took the task away from the older and much larger American Bar Association.

Aware that many liberals see the Federalist Society as a sinister group, Mr. Card called attention to the fact that C-SPAN was recording the event for later airing.

“If you have a paper bag and want to put it over your head so that you have a chance to be confirmed sometime, go ahead and do it,” he said, drawing laughter.


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