The Norman Transcript

Opinion

February 13, 2014

Obama has used few executive orders

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

“So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”

This statement from President Obama’s fifth State of the Union address last week has triggered more talk on the right about Obama’s allegedly expansive exercise of executive power and his “lawless,” “imperial,” “dictatorial” presidency.

In Sunday’s Transcript, the Cato Institute’s Nat Hentoff predictably pursued this assertion to its logical extreme: Obama should be impeached.

But here are the facts, if you care to look at them: Obama issued fewer executive orders in his first term (147) than any other first-term president in the 20th or 21st centuries, according to the American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

You have to go back to Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893) to find a first-term president who was more stinting with executive orders than Obama. Only now, as he enters his sixth term in office, has Obama edged ahead of one-term president George H. W. Bush, 168 to 166. (The all-time record holder is Franklin D. Roosevelt with 3,522.)

Hentoff took issue with one particular order of Obama’s about “National Defense Resource Preparedness,” claiming that it allows the federal government “to take over almost every aspect of American society.” But multiple fact-checking sites have debunked this claim.

As Ben Finley at factcheck.org writes, “Since the Korean war, Congress has granted the president the authority to ensure that national resources — such as the food supply and various industries — will be available to meet national security needs in times of war and other emergencies. That power is granted under the Defense Production Act, a law that dates to 1950 and must be re-authorized by Congress every few years (the act expires in 2014). Like presidents before him, Obama issued an order updating the resources covered under that act, which allows presidents to delegate authority to various federal departments and agencies.” There’s nothing sinister, unprecedented or even unauthorized about this order.

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