From changing his signature healthcare law without the help of Congress to making it legal for Americans to be detained indefinitely, to promising to act on immigration alone, President Barack Obama is a tyrant, according to many on the right.
When you take a step back and remove yourself from partisan politics, it’s easy to see why both of these men inspire such hatred in their political adversaries. In fact, both men have had very similar presidencies: Both inherited the office when the country’s political preferences were practically fractured down the middle. Both men also had control of both houses of Congress for at least a good chunk of their presidencies, and both men had to deal with the opposing party taking power toward the end of their second term.
The source for the hatred: In order to sidestep a generally obstinate Congress, regardless of which party was in control, both men took up a presidential pastime with fervor: the issuance of executive orders.
What Are Executive Orders?
While most laws on the books in America are drafted and passed by Congress, the president, by implicit mandate, has the ability to craft laws on his own through the issuance of executive orders. Debate remains as to whether that ability is constitutional. Still, executive orders trace their existence all the way back to George Washington, so there is certainly historical precedent there.
A recent example of a typical executive order was Obama extending the Post 9/11 GI Bill in Fort Stewart, one of many federally sponsored assistance programs for military members.
To date, all presidents – save for William Henry Harrison, who died a month into his first term – have issued executive orders. John Adams, the country’s second president, only issued one executive order, while Franklin D. Roosevelt, who served for an unprecedented four terms, issued over 3,500.
For comparison’s sake, let’s take a look at the number of executive orders issued by the last five two-term presidents:
- Dwight D. Eisenhower – 484
- Ronald Reagan – 381
- Bill Clinton – 364
- George W. Bush – 291
- Barack Obama – 193
While there are people on both sides of the legality issue, there’s an easy argument to make as to why they’re necessary in the first place, at least from time to time:
Just look at our current Congress and its embarrassingly low approval rating. The do-nothing Congress has certainly lived up to its name and, so, in order for progress to take place, presidents must sometimes act decisively.
This scenario, of course, creates no small amount of friction. At any given point in time, there’s a good chance that at least half of the population is going to disagree with what you’re doing. Such is today’s political climate.
The numbers show that neither Bush nor Obama really “abused” their power to issue executive orders, when you look at their respective numbers of orders issued compared to some of their predecessors. But at the same time, it’s worth keeping in mind that, were Obama to do something like issue an executive order to grant amnesty to all illegal immigrants, there’d probably be more of an uproar than if he were to issue another executive order that, for example, pardoned a turkey on Thanksgiving morning.
It’s one thing to issue an executive order that the majority of the citizens will get behind; it’s quite another to bypass the country’s lawmaking process to create unpopular rules that you, yourself, favor. Unfortunately, the purity of your intentions aren’t a factor in partisan politics.
Executive Orders In Today’s Political Climate
Any analysis of executive orders should, one hopes, lead to the same conclusion: the political climate in America is awful, and we as its citizens need to work hard to change that. And change begins with our becoming collectively more open-minded and amenable to compromise. Stubbornness and histrionics will get us precisely nowhere. But our leaders need to work hard on this as well. After all, they’re the ones we send to Washington to get things done in an amicable way.
While Congress’ approval rating is just 11 percent, somehow 96 percent of incumbents get reelected. So the public definitely deserves a lot of the blame here. Remember that saying about repeatedly doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?
In two short years, we’ll know who’ll represent the country as its 45th Commander in Chief. Whoever that person will be, he or she should work hard on being the kind of leader that both Obama and his Republican counterparts promised they’d be: one who unites the country instead of dividing it even further.
Until then, the rest of us need to make a commitment to stop voting for the same elitist, self-absorbed aristocrats in every single election.
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