There has been a recent outcry, one that has lived and died already during the last five years, that President Barack Obama is an imperial president. This comes from the notion that Obama has signed over 900 executive orders during his five years in office.
TheFreeDictionary has a detailed explanation for what executive orders are:
Executive orders do not require congressional approval. The president can use them [executive orders] to set policy while avoiding public debate and opposition. Presidents have used executive orders to direct a range of activities, including establishing migratory bird refuges; putting Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War II; discharging civilian government employees who had been disloyal, following World War II; enlarging national forests; prohibiting racial discrimination in housing; pardoning Vietnam War draft evaders; giving federal workers the right to bargain collectively; keeping the federal workplace drug free; and sending U.S. troops to Bosnia.
Historically, executive orders [are] related to routine administrative matters and to the internal operations of federal agencies, such as amending Civil Service Rules and overseeing the administration of public lands. More recently, presidents have used executive orders to carry out legislative policies and programs. As a result, the executive order has become a critical tool in presidential policy making. For example, President John F. Kennedy used an executive order to eliminate racial discrimination in federally funded housing, President Lyndon B. Johnson acted through an executive order to prohibit discrimination in government contractors’ hiring practices, and President Richard M. Nixon used an executive order to set a ninety-day freeze on all prices, rents, wages, and salaries in reaction to rising inflation and unemployment.
However, the 900+ outcry is not only wrong, it’s not even close.
According to the American Presidency Project, the actual number of executive orders from Obama as of January 20, 2014 is 168. The number cited by right-wing or just anti-Obama people is 923. So just by doing basic math, that is a difference of 755. That is quite the difference when trying to make a point about a President’s policies and mindset.
If Obama is somehow an imperial president because of his use of executive orders, then the United States of America has been run by imperial presidents for the majority of its history.
But if you still think that Obama is an imperial President because of his use of executive orders, then this writer has some fun facts for you regarding Obama’s use of executive orders in relationship to the history of America’s Presidents, according to numbers from the APP.
Obama’s 168 executive orders as of January 20, 2014:
-Are the second fewest by a president since World War II with only George H.W. Bush (166) having fewer, and Bush was in office one year less than Obama currently has been
-Of the presidents who made over 100 executive orders while in office, Obama currently ranks 20th out of 24, and he will not be able to even make the top ten unless he more than doubles his current amount over the next three years
–Jimmy Carter had more executive orders in one term than Obama’s five-year total
–Harry S. Truman & Dwight D. Eisenhower had more executive orders than Obama’s five-year total in each of their two terms
–John F. Kennedy had more executive orders in less than three years in office than Obama’s five-year total
–Lyndon B. Johnson nearly doubled Obama’s amount of executive orders in around the same amount of time in office
–Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush had more executive orders in their first terms than Obama’s five-year total
-Reagan’s second term equals Obama’s five-year total, and Clinton’s second term comes just four short of Obama’s five-year total
-Obama’s five-year total is one less than Gerald Ford‘s total, and Ford was in office half as long as Obama has been
There’s also this to think about when it comes to Obama and executive orders: Obama is still under 200 for his presidency as of January 20th of this year, but there have been four presidents in this country’s history that have made over 1,000 executive orders while in office. Those four were Franklin D. Roosevelt (3,522), Calvin Coolidge (1,203), Woodrow Wilson (1,803), and Theodore Roosevelt (1,081), and Teddy is on Mount Rushmore. Also, Herbert Hoover came just short with 968 executive orders.
People can debate the times and what was going on while these men were president, but for those four to have a minimum of six times more executive orders than Obama has made, but Obama is somehow the imperial president is something that defies logic.
This writer’s opinion: Obama hasn’t made more use of executive orders in his time in office because he is like a parent of two crazed and bratty siblings (the House and Senate) who can’t get along, he’s tried to play nice with both of them, but now sees that strategy has failed and that he has to parent in a more no-nonsense way and try to get things done.