31 January 2014

Keeping Executive Orders in Order

Faced with a resistant Republican minority in the Senate and majority in the House (albeit not one that gained a majority of Americans’ votes in 2012), President Barack Obama has announced that he will do what he can for the country through executive orders.

Naturally, people who think Obama doesn’t deserve to be President, despite being elected and reelected by majorities, have to find something wrong with him exercising the powers of the Presidency. Even before the State of the Union address, rookie Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas) was tweeting that Obama was becoming a “Kommandant-In-Chef” [sic].

But the American Presidency Project tabulates Presidents’ executive orders. Its figures show that:
  • Presidents have used the power of executive orders since George Washington. That includes all the first generation of Presidents from the right wing’s beloved Founding Fathers.
  • The last President who issued fewer executive orders in his first term than President Obama was Benjamin Harrison, well over a century ago.
  • Among all Presidents since Franklin D. Roosevelt, as Steve Benen showed at the Meddow Blog, President Obama has issued the fewest executive orders per year in office. He could issue as many orders in the next three years as George W. Bush issued in his first four and still not match the total issued by Ronald Reagan.
And, of course, very few of the President’s critics on this issue can point to evidence that they made similar complaints about the previous administration’s use of executive power.

Again, the problem isn’t actually the mechanism of executive orders. It’s the visceral dislike some people feel on seeing Barack Obama exercise any Presidential authority, forcing them to search for a socially acceptable way to justify their feelings.

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