White House

One More Example of How Politicians Are Hypocrites

No president since JFK issued more executive orders than Ronald Reagan. Republican complaints about Obama’s use of executive power ring hollow.

CANADA - JUNE 19:  Summit Of Industrial Countries In Toronto On June 19th, 1988,In Toronto,Canada  
National Journal
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Matt Berman
Jan. 28, 2014, 8:28 a.m.

Tues­day night’s State of the Uni­on will be marked by ex­ec­ut­ive or­ders. Which makes sense: Pres­id­ent Obama can’t get most of his agenda through Con­gress, so he will do what he can to pass small parts of it — like a min­im­um-wage in­crease for fed­er­al con­tract­ors — uni­lat­er­ally.

Pre­dict­ably, Re­pub­lic­ans aren’t thrilled by the work-arounds. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, called the min­im­um-wage or­der a “con­sti­tu­tion­al vi­ol­a­tion” Tues­day and said “we’ve nev­er had a pres­id­ent with that level of au­da­city and that level of con­tempt for his own oath of of­fice.” Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell, R-Ky., said Sunday that Obama is wrong to think he can just pass his agenda without go­ing through Con­gress. “Ron­ald Re­agan didn’t think that and Bill Clin­ton didn’t think that,” Mc­Con­nell said.

Mitch Mc­Con­nell is mis­taken. No pres­id­ent since JFK has is­sued more ex­ec­ut­ive or­ders than Ron­ald Re­agan. And Barack Obama isn’t on track to top him.

Here are the ba­sic num­bers: Up to Jan. 20, 2014, Barack Obama is­sued a total of 168 ex­ec­ut­ive or­ders, in­clud­ing 147 in his first term. George W. Bush is­sued a total of 291 ex­ec­ut­ive or­ders, in­clud­ing 173 in his first term. Clin­ton is­sued more than Bush, with 200 in his first term and 364 over­all.

But Ron­ald Re­agan is the cham­pi­on here. Re­agan is­sued 213 ex­ec­ut­ive or­ders in his first term and 168 in his second, for a total of 381. And while not all ex­ec­ut­ive or­ders are made equally, Re­agan’s or­ders wer­en’t all fluff. One of them — EO 12333, is­sued in 1981 — gov­erns most of the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency. “It is a sweep­ing man­date that out­lines the du­ties and for­eign-in­tel­li­gence col­lec­tion for the na­tion’s 17 in­tel­li­gence agen­cies,” per Mc­Clatchy. That or­der still serves as the primary au­thor­ity for most of Amer­ica’s in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tions.

Re­pub­lic­ans are likely to spend a whole lot of the next 48 hours de­cry­ing Obama’s “pen and phone” gov­ernance. But just re­mem­ber: No one did it bet­ter than Re­agan.

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