Oh that uppity president, how to rid ourselves of this embarrassment? Forget about two elections — let’s sue. It’s time to finally challenge the imperial presidency, a travesty on its own but all the more so with this interloper, this illegitimate holder of our office. What are the grounds for this suit authorized by the House? That Barack Obama has subverted Congress in using his pen — his executive orders — to alter passed legislation. Let’s not even mention that the specific legislation in question is laughably the ACA, their Enemy #1.
To some degree we should be grateful to the Tea Party dominated House. They are providing an opportunity to consider and assess White House abuse of power and the so-called Imperial Presidency. We’ve often been told both by legislators and some in the media that the imperiousness of our chief executives has reached new heights of late. Interestingly no one really challenges that notion, one that has no factual basis — quite the contrary. As it happens, we do have an objective measure of relative imperiousness, one that has been tracked from the start: the executive order. George Washington issued a modest eight, more than any other until Andrew Jackson who issued twelve. That number swelled dramatically with U.S. Grant (217) a level that was not reached again until it was dwarfed by Teddy Roosevelt (1,081) who in turn was topped by his cousin Franklin (3,522).
To put Obama’s executive order record in context, let’s look at what happened in the 20th Century beginning with TR and ending with Bill Clinton. In that period, 13,499 executive orders were issued with FDR (3,522) setting a still standing record and George HW Bush with the fewest (166). On average the seventeen presidents of the last century each issued 794 executive orders but given the inclusion of both Roosevelts and varying terms of service, that number is clearly misleading. A more telling one is how many each president issued in a single year — 124. Since it’s the House Republicans who want to sue for what they claim is presidential overreach, let’s finally look at the record of recent Republican presidents: Ronald Reagan and the two Bush’s. Together they averaged 279 executive orders each or 41 for every year in office.
Drum roll please. Barack Obama, the “imperial president” worthy of a lawsuit — the first of its kind — has issued a total of 183 executive orders at the rate of 33 per year. This compares with an average of 794 for the 20th Century presidents (124 a year) and 279 (41 each year) for his three Republican predecessors including the GOP’s conservative hero Ronald Reagan. In fact, when it comes to so-called “legislating on his own” Obama does it less often than any chief executive since Theodore Roosevelt. Let’s repeat that, “less than any”.
My apologies for all the numbers but they explain my outrage about the action taken this week, one that fails to meet the most basic smell test. Indeed, what the House did was no less than an election year publicity stunt, one that may never be followed by tangible legal action. Their aim, one that has been echoed by Senator McConnell in the upper chamber, is to undo this presidency, if not in the polling booth where they have been unsuccessful then in causing paralysis in Washington. What we’re witnessing in America is not an imperial presidency, not presidential overreach, but a politics of hate. Bill Clinton, another interloper, was the object of such hate when he had the audacity to run for and be twice elected president. The specter of a fabricated Whitewater “scandal” raised its head even before the he took his oath of office. George W. Bush who, unlike Barack Obama, actually did enter office under a cloud of illegitimacy, engendered if not hate then certainly impassioned resentment. It seems Democrats are not quite as good at hate as Republicans. And then this chief executive, who carries not merely the burden of not coming of one of our political royal families but from the wrong kind of family, is threatened with a bogus lawsuit.
Looking ahead to November, we’re told that Republicans have a better than even chance of taking over the Senate and, of course, making further gains in the House. This would suggest that their theater and relentless campaign of misinformation is working. It leaves me dumbfounded. I am outraged by this systematic attempt to undo an elected president and to put all of our needs — and there are many — on hold while those being paid to do “the people’s work” spend most of their time saying “no” while attempting to deconstruct. Where is the outrage of the American people? Are we to assume that people like Ted Cruz speak for them, that total gridlock is what they want? Are we to assume that, despite all our advances, they still see large swathes of the population as second or third class citizens? The current atmosphere would suggest that is so. i continue to hope it is not.
For the moment, as you can see, I’m mad as hell. Think I’ll call my lawyers.