Executive Action: It’s Only a Problem When President Obama Does It


Republicans are once again going to try to lay the groundwork for impeachment proceedings against a Democrat for acting on the power of the executive office. This is the end goal of Boehner’s “lawsuit”. They seem to have conveniently forgotten the pride they took in former President Bush’s unilateral, decider presidency.

Refusing to discuss their suddenly-found, alleged concern for democracy, Republicans instead claim that President Obama taking executive action makes him a hypocrite for condemning Bush for his use of signing statements.

However, Obama wasn’t criticizing merely the use of executive action, but the reasons for it and the abuse of it.

In 2006, Laurence H. Tribe writing about then President Bush’s use of signing statements explained for Boston.com, “It’s not the statements that are the true source of constitutional difficulty. On the contrary, signing statements, which a president can issue to indicate the way he intends to direct his administration to construe ambiguous statutes, are informative and constitutionally unobjectionable.” Tribe went on to explain that the challenge should be to the President for ignoring the law (as Bush did) or for harm that came to others as a result of it. He also pointed out that presidents should face the political music of a veto leading to an override rather than ignore a law.

An example of the kinds of things that Bush did that got Constitutional scholars up in arms:

In one frequently used phrase, George W. Bush has routinely asserted that he will not act contrary to the constitutional provisions that direct the president to “supervise the unitary executive branch.” This formulation can be found first in a signing statement of Ronald Reagan, and it was repeated several times by George H. W. Bush. Basically, Bush asserts that Congress cannot pass a law that undercuts the constitutionally granted authorities of the President.

Yeah. Well, that’s sort of like tweaking a law that benefits the people only not. See, one President used the powers to expand their own power and another is using the powers to do things like climate change.

The Boston Globe wrote that Bush had assumed the right to disobey more than 750 laws since he took office, “…declaring that he (Bush) has the power to set aside the laws when they conflict with his legal interpretation of the Constitution. The federal government is instructed to follow the statements when it enforces the laws.”

John W Dean, a lawyer who served as White House Counsel to United States President Richard Nixon, has pointed out that there are two metrics for measuring the use of signing statements: Both the number of them issued and the number of provisions within a bill that the President issues a statement about. It isn’t just the number of signing statements, but the challenges to the provisions with each law.

President Bush challenged 1,100 provisions of the law in his signing statements, which is more than all of his previous presidents combined. 78% of Bush’s signing statements raised constitutional objections compared to 18% for President Clinton, 47% for George H.W. Bush and 34% for Ronald Reagan.

Bush took the theory of the unitary executive to the extreme, pushing the boundaries until it overrode the checks and balances of the other branches of government. John W. Dean called this type of “presidential autocracy” the natural result of authoritarian conservatism.

While busting the myth that Obama is behaving like a dictator, we broke down the difference between the types of executive action taken,, “(I)n June of 2007 President Bush signed an executive order that banned federal funding of stem cell research while also declaring embryos to be human beings. In contrast, President Obama signed an executive order in November 2013 ordering federal government agencies to prepare for the impact of climate change.”

One of these things doesn’t belong with the other.

What makes Boehner’s announcement of a lawsuit against Obama even more egregious is the fact that many of the executive actions taken by this president were taken to get around the Republicans’ relentless refusal to legislate. President Obama is doing their jobs for them and now they’re going to sue him for it. It would be humorous if it weren’t a way to kill the Obama agenda that just so happens to be the only way to get anything done for the people.

Republicans will say that tweaking Obamacare and ordering a higher minimum wage for those workers under the purview of the executive branch are as partisan as Bush’s stem cell research kill, but President Obama was re-elected for his policies. It was a mandate, in fact, since Republicans made the last presidential election all about Obamacare and contempt for working Americans. But more to the point, Republicans are deliberately moving the goal post in order to avoid discussing the power Bush took for himself, and the many ways he limited the checks and balances inherent in our system of government.

The issue of expansion of powers of the executive office is a real one. With each presidency, the powers tend to expand more and not less. This isn’t good for democracy. However, it’s also not good for democracy when an entire party chooses to shut down the government and refuses to legislate out of pique for losing national elections. It’s particularly bad for democracy when those actions hurt the citizens of this country while protecting corporations.

It is for this reason that President Obama took to executive action — to go around the Do Nothings in order to accomplish pretty minor things for the people (as the power of his office is limited), and to tweak the implementation of Obamacare in terms of deadlines. Since it took Obama 6 years into his presidency to begin to utilize the power of the executive office and he only did so in order to get things moving that used to be bipartisan issues, I’d be willing to wager it weighed heavily upon him. He obviously had a goal of being one of the few presidents who didn’t expand the power of the office, though it’s fair to say he can still hold to that goal since it’s relative, given Bush’s autocratic abuse of the power.

Politicians aren’t known for their honesty or integrity, but what we are witnessing from this Republican Party is so unpatriotic and such a snub to our democratic process that it should be the scandal of the decade. Instead, our mainstream media will focus on the moss that might be growing on the trees in the forest that is bringing this country to her knees.

Additional Source: Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches,
John W Dean, September 11, 2007.

27 Replies to “Executive Action: It’s Only a Problem When President Obama Does It”

  1. Yes, it should be the scandal of the decade, but my guess is that the supine MSM and corporate-owned media will put a pro-repube spin on it.

  2. They still need two-thirds of the Senate to remove him. Impeachment is coming after midterm election.

    If they want to go that route, they might as well hang it up with Black America.

    And stop displaying their Negro mascots to fool the rest of the country. Black people are not stupid.

  3. The Executive Order has been around since the dawn of our nation, and the constitutionality of this process was validated by the SCOTUS in the 1950’s. Every President in the past century has used executive orders with greater frequency that the current POTUS.

    Using the powers granted to the Executive Branch to enact certain programs and policies is just as legal and part of the democratic process as is the Senate Republican minority’s use of the filibuster to obstruct said programs and policies.
    Had the GOP not blatantly abused the latter, Obama would not feel compelled to implement the former.

    So why the current right wing uproar over Obama’s plan to “get things done” via Executive Order? What is substantively different this time?

    I suspect that it’s largely a matter of some complexion.

  4. This ruling by SCOTUS will have far reaching effects for the future of this country.

    The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session.
    –U.S. Constitution, Art. II, sec 2, cl. 3

    In its long-awaited decision this morning in NLRB v. Noel Canning, the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously held that the president’s recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board were unconstitutional because the Senate remained in pro forma session during its 2011-12 winter break, thus preventing the “recess” from ever occurring.

    So in other words they have just given power to the minority to effectively block the Presidents power to do the nations business.

    I can only guess that it was some deal making on future cases such as Hobby Lobby and abortion clinic buffer zone laws.

    Oops too late SCOTUS strikes down abortion clinic buffer laws

  5. They had better start the impeachment proceeding befor the the mid term elections. By waiting until afterwards might not be an option afterwards becsuse i doubt the republicans will be in control of the house afterards.

  6. “…Executive Action: It’s Only a Problem When President Obama Does It…”

    Apparently you rank right up there with one of the State Department “mean girls.” What a childish statement, and what a childish article. It’s a travesty you’re allowed to vote.

    What Barry has been doing should frighten people in BOTH parties. He has irrefutably broken the law and trampled the Constitution. What about “unanimous decision” by the Supreme Court, which includes some hard-over liberals, do you not understand?

  7. LOL, thanks for the laugh

    Exactly how did the president break the law?
    Exactly how did the president trample the constitution?

    The supreme court said no more replacing people temporarily without the Senate. Every president has done it. It now means no republican can do it

  8. Bonehead and the rethugs want to impeach the Pres. Bonehead is even trying to sue the pres. Could he(Bonehead) have another agenda on his mind? How about this: Obama gets impeached, Kerry becomes Pres. The rethugs have no love for him either. a car accident, air plane crash, something eliminates this problem. Who is next in line??? Why the Speaker of the House!!!Bingo, the rethugs get full control with no problem of the voting public. I know I sound a little of key here but, and this is a very big BUT, I put nothing past the rethugs, absolutely nothing.

  9. When Bush did it I didn’t see any court cases. But you’re right. Since you idiots will never win the White House again, at least for the next 16 years I guess this is all you have but remember one day the shoe will be on the other foot and when you old white conservatives have died and gone to one of Dante’s circle of hell a generation will be of age to remember what you have done to the republic.

  10. Shawn, really, are you just dumb or are you under complete control of rethug thought process?
    You do under stand that your GOD (Ronald) did far more then this Pres in one year? also your great war Pres (Bush, shrub) did way more then this pres. during the same time period as this one has served. Me thinks, it is only the color that bothers all of you. Then of course we must remember that as this Pres, was being placed in office, the rethugs were plotting and planning many ways to bring him down.

  11. As we all know the real reason why the reoubs try too obstruct every thing this president does, see they really want to assassinate him but that would make him a martyr so they are trying to sue him and possibly impeach him cause they still mad as hell that he won election not once but twice, they want to tarnish his name and reputation and watch him leave office in Shame, humilared with his head down looking pitiful. But that looking pitiful thing , that is not happening! Obama has serious grown up man swag! He is not going out like a bitch!

  12. Presidential Executive Orders

    Theodore Roosevelt 1,081
    Franklin Roosevelt 3,522
    Harry Truman 907
    Dwight Eisenhower 484
    John Kennedy 214
    Lyndon Johnson 325
    Richard Nixon 346
    Gerald Ford 169
    Jimmy Carter 320
    Ronald Reagan 381
    George H.W. Bush 166
    Bill Clinton 364
    George W. Bush 291
    Barack Obama 180 (As of Jan,2014)

    Documented by The American Presidency Project (by year) from John Quincy Adams to Barach Obama.



    Something to consider: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt’. Abraham Lincoln

    With so many….

  13. i love the “serious grown up man swag” – you said in those few words that which i’ve meant to say but couldn’t find the words. i thank you. and ditto.

  14. No Shiva it’s not. Was just upset and the edit key was not available. Beside the fact, I am 80 years old and fingers are not as nimble as yours.

  15. If Obama were to get impeached, it’s not Kerry who becomes president. I don’t trust republicans either, but cutting the brake lines on Biden’s car is a little much for me.

  16. I truly feel sorry sometimes for conservatives when you know something is reality or truth and still they are unable to reason. Liberals have an inborn trait which makes us suspicious of media propaganda. The conservative mind on the other hand seems incapable of reasoning once they have been fed their beloved right wing media propaganda. Once they hear it from the mouth of conservative media it is truth to them. To them it matters not that prior presidents had more executive orders(they probably never knew of it to begin with). To them its Obama broke the law impeach him now.

  17. Were was Boehner’s ire of the President’s executive actions when the president was Bush Jr, who issued more than the current? Is Boehner within the time limitations to sue the other living presidents, who issued more as well? Is there an election coming up that this type of lawsuit talk is used as a campaign technique? Boehner, aren’t you better at causing government shutdowns and impasse than getting laws done? And apparently, some people hate each other so much over politics, it’s like watching foreign soil fights over religion ~ do you plan to hate your neighbors for a thousand years over your political religion? Maybe one day you’ll secede in your party tactics.

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