OF PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS - Signing Statements and Wedding Vows


By Tony Russell

... Read more at tonyrussell.blogspot.com

"Hey, how'd the wedding go?" I asked.

"Pretty well, I thought," said Patty, as she was hanging her coat up. "There were a few awkward moments around the saying of the vows, but all in all it went smoothly enough. Personally, I wouldn't have chosen that low-cut red dress Debbie wore, but I guess times have changed."

"What was 'awkward' about the vows?"

Patty plumped herself down in the lounge chair and kicked off her high heels with a little moan of relief. "Oh, that was just after Donald had said his part of the vows. I thought he was done, but then he said he had a signing statement to read, and he added a few things. Debbie's face got as red as her dress, but I've got to hand it to her, she recovered pretty quickly."

"What's a 'signing statement'?" I asked curiously.

"You know what a signing statement is, Ace," she said. "It's what President Bush does when he doesn't like all or part of a bill Congress has passed. Instead of vetoing it, he just adds a signing statement that says he'll ignore the parts he doesn't like, or 'interprets' them to mean the opposite of what they say. Like when he signed that bill forbidding torture, but added a signing statement that he reserved the right to use torture if he thought it was called for."

"You've got to hand it to him," I said with some admiration. "He sure takes a creative approach to governing. These 'strict constructionists' get awfully loosey-goosey when they're in the saddle."

"Well, Donald must be a student of politics," said Patty. "They had traditional vows—you know, 'I, Donald, take you, Debbie, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward, until death do us part.' Donald recited his, looking deep into her eyes. It was so romantic I had goosebumps on my arm. And then he pulled out these sheets of paper and said, 'I'd like to attach this signing statement to the vows.'"

"That's a new twist! What did the minister do?"

"You could tell he wasn't prepared for something like that. They must have skipped over it at the rehearsal. He just stared at Donald for a minute and then said, 'Proceed.'"

"What was in the signing statement?"

"Gosh, I can't remember all of it. I know Donald said that the 'poorer' part should be understood to be void if their gross income dropped below $95,000 a year. He said if it fell below that, he couldn't continue to support her and still pay the greens fees at his golf club."

"Makes sense to me. Anything else?"

"I know he had a long section qualifying the 'in sickness' part. He said he interpreted 'sickness' to mean mild, short-term, non-contagious illnesses or injuries, such as colds, headaches, and ankle sprains. Anything like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, an HIV infection, pneumonia, tuberculosis, cancer, et cetera, wasn't covered, since he had neither the training nor the interest to provide skilled or extended care, and it was a downer for him if he had to be around sick people for very long."

"Good of him to spell out what 'in sickness' means. Debbie can prepare herself with some good long-term-care health insurance. Was that it?"

"Oh no. There was a lot more. But the most moving part was at the end when he said that he interpreted 'death' in the figurative, rather than a literal sense, so if he just got deathly tired of her, or his love for her died and was reborn for another woman, then it was obviously time to 'part.'"

"How did all of that go over?"

"It was so touching. When he was finished, there wasn't a sound in the church, except for all the people weeping. Some were sobbing inconsolably. I know tears were running down my cheeks."

© Tony Russell, 2007

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