A recent White House ceremony that should have been as joyous as a wedding turned out to be a somber as a funeral. The occasion was the signing of the 1991 Civil Rights Act. Passage of the bill by lopsided margins in the House and Senate culminated a two-year effort. Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., displayed great patience, tenacity and willingness to compromise to work out the final version. President Bush also agreed to give a little to get a little.
But on the day before the ceremony, the White House staff sent out a "signing statement" to cabinet members and other administration executives in which the preposterous and, frankly, mean-spirited, too-clever-by-half orders were given that the bill "requires that Executive branch agencies immediately terminate all regulations, rules and programs of whatever nature that may be inconsistent with the new law or with the principle of discouraging quotas and unfair preferences."
Note the "may" and the "or." Had the president read this signing statement, given its overall context, it would have intimidated government officials from continuing 25-year-old practices that have been approved over and over again by previous presidents, courts, regulatory officials and Congress, and which the present Congress expected to continue under the new law.