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Content, not quantity, is what makes Obama's unilateral initiatives unsettling

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: July 16, 2014

IT’S the subjects, silly.

Of all the robotic liberal responses to criticism of Barack Obama’s presidential executive actions, the most robotic of all came from Obama himself. He’s been quite stingy in the use of executive orders, the president said, and a threatened lawsuit against him regarding his unilateral initiatives will needlessly cost the taxpayers a lot of money to defend.

Aha! Now we know that this president is concerned about saving the taxpayers money.

His health care law certainly isn’t focused on that goal. Obamacare is a prime area in which executive actions have been used to change the law without the bother of getting congressional consent. This, and not the number of executive orders, is what’s drawn the ire of Republicans who oppose the law.

Note to the robots: Quantity isn’t the issue here. It’s the content of unilateral initiatives.

Presidential executive orders rarely make the news, but Obama’s executive actions have generated a lot of headlines. The biggest one lately is House Speaker John Boehner’s intention to sue the White House, to challenge particular unilateral initiatives.

On the dullness scale, executive orders are eclipsed only by presidential proclamations, which make even less news than executive orders. In the modern era, one proclamation in particular made a lot of news. It was Gerald Ford’s Sept. 8, 1974 pardon of Richard Nixon. Even more memorable was Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1862.

Proclamations carry the weight of authority but aren’t always enforceable. Executive orders are typically just as forgettable as most proclamations. Need help getting to sleep? Read a list of executive orders issued by George W. Bush.

The final one came four days before he left office. It was titled “Granting Reciprocity on Excepted Service and Federal Contractor Employee Fitness and Reinvestigating Individuals in Public Trust.” The text ran for more than 1,000 words (the Emancipation Proclamation was under 700 words).

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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