President Obama diminished the relevance of his office on Thursday with the stroke of a robotic pen. He became the first commander in chief to hand off bill-signing duties to a machine because he happened to be in France when the House gave final passage to a bill extending the Patriot Act just four hours before the midnight expiration date for several provisions.
At 11:53 p.m., the White House press office released a statement claiming, “the president signed into law” the act. In reality, a device mimicked Mr. Obama’s signature onto the enrolled bill. White House spokesman Nick Shapiro told The Washington Times that an autopen was used because “failure to sign this legislation posed a significant risk to U.S. national security.” Mr. Shapiro said that an aide met with the president at 5:45 a.m. (local time in France), and that “the president reviewed and approved the legislation” and directed the aide “in writing to use the autopen to sign the bill so it could be signed into law before the deadline.”