The use of executive orders by Presidents of the United States is not new, but the nature of these orders has become more alarming and totalitarian than at any other point in the history of the United States.
On June 8, 1789, three months after being sworn in as President, George Washington issued a Presidential directive asking his chief officers to issue him reports “to impress me with a full, precise, and distinct general idea of the affairs of the United States” that they each handled. This is considered by many historians to be the first executive order.
Since then, Presidents have signed more than 13,592 executive orders. Some of them, called “proclamations,” are fairly innocuous. They created holidays, recognized individuals, etc. Other executive orders were downright tyrannical in the eyes of many.
In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which ordered Cherokee Indians off of the lands that they inhabited by order of previous treaties with the Federal government. The Cherokee fought the legislation and won in the Supreme Court (Worcester vs. Georgia, 1832) in a decision rendered by Justice John Marshall. But Andrew Jackson disagreed with the court, and famously said, “John Marshall has made his decision; let him enforce it now if he can.” Thus began the Trail of Tears.
During the Civil War, and with the help of a rubber-stamp Congress, Abraham Lincoln (whose Administration actually coined the term “executive order”) used the power of executive orders to shut down newspapers, imprison dissenters and eviscerate the Bill of Rights, in order to ensure that the Federal government would always hold supreme command of the United States.
Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the highest number of executive orders, though many were related directly to World War II, including his decision to intern Japanese Americans living on the West Coast.
Bill Clinton was often criticized for over-using the executive order. Clinton’s most significant abuse of his executive powers took place in using the Antiquities Act of 1906 to designate millions of acres of Federal land as protected national monuments. He also declared many non-emergency emergencies.
During the George W. Bush years following 9/11, Americans became the victim of executive orders which created the Department of Homeland Security and a number of liberty-quashing initiatives. The Bush Administration, playing to a public terrified of the “axis of evil,” expanded Presidential power vastly, often subversively through Vice Presidential actions and unConstitutionally.
In a 2007 speech against this massive abuse of executive power, a young Senator from Illinois who had previously taught Constitutional Law classes said this: “It’s time to give our intelligence and law enforcement agencies the tools they need to track down and take out terrorists, while ensuring that their actions are subject to vigorous oversight that protects our freedom. So let me be perfectly clear: I have taught the Constitution, I understand the Constitution, and I will obey the Constitution when I am President of the United States.”
Fast-forward to present, that young Senator, now President Barack Obama, is quickly shaping up to be a more unilateral President than his predecessor. A new report by The New York Times explains that Obama’s initiatives are less focused on issues that rip away privacy and liberty, and more on domestic social welfare issues.
When Republicans took control of Congress in 2010, Obama had no reason to worry with using his executive powers to increase spying and stealing liberty in the name of safety; most Republicans in Congress are completely happy to write bills that do just that. Obama’s problem has been GOP obstructionism in moving forward with growing the size of the Federal government and implementing socialistic welfare initiatives.
From The Times:
Mr. Obama has issued signing statements claiming a right to bypass a handful of constraints — rejecting as unconstitutional Congress’s attempt to prevent him from having White House “czars” on certain issues, for example. But for the most part, Mr. Obama’s increased unilateralism in domestic policy has relied on a different form of executive power than the sort that had led to heated debates during his predecessor’s administration: Mr. Bush’s frequent assertion of a right to override statutes on matters like surveillance and torture.
The U.S. Constitution has seemingly become null and void on all fronts as the President uses unilateral power to push his socialist initiatives and Congress pushes its own draconian “for your security” laws that are gleefully signed into law by the President. He has supported Bush-era assaults on liberty with no outcry from either his detractors or his devout supporters.
The Nation, in the words of Presidential candidate Ron Paul, has become an “elective dictatorship.” He said recently, “The drafters of the Constitution intended the default action of government to be inaction. Hopefully, this means actions taken by the government are necessary and proper. If federal laws or executive actions can’t be agreed upon constitutionally- which is to say legally- such laws or actions should be rejected… Sadly, previous administrations have set precedents that the current administration is only building upon. It is time for Congress to reassert itself and its constitutional role so that future administrations cannot continue on this dangerous path.”
It seems the political class of the Nation has two sides, with unConstitutional goals the same.