Misdirection: ‘Executive Orders’ Shell Game

obama-signing-law

One of the many things Obama campaigned on was a promise to restore confidence in the federal government’s competence after the failures of the Bush years. Building a case for expanding, not reducing, the role of big government in American life, while curbing overuse of executiveshellgame power, scaling back military obligations, and ending intelligence agency abuses, the effort succeeded, and Democrats took power. Five years later, Obama’s campaign to make government better, more responsive, and more accountable is widely recognized for what it was–empty campaign rhetoric. Once in the White House, his administration became more secretive, more adventurous, and more abusive than any in the post-war era.

And the campaign never ended. Employing a variety of tactical maneuvers and rhetorical sleight-of-hand, this administration seeks to provide cover for one power grab after another. Defending Obama’s use of executive orders, his team–with help from the media–are waging a cynical campaign to mislead the American public.

This point can’t be made enough–quantity isn’t the issue, quality is–but that won’t put a dent in the rhetorical armor shielding the White House from charges of overreach. The predictable boasts by Administration officials and talking heads about Obama’s record of issuing fewer executive orders, or less than his predecessors, is meant to fortify effort. Why so cynical?  One answer–though this deserves further exploration in a future post–is that it banks on the public’s escapist tendencies, it urges them to tune out.

Obama-zzz

At The CornerJonah Goldberg writes:

Barack Obama is constantly mocking the House lawsuit by referencing the fact he’s issued the fewest executive orders of any president over the last century. His spin-squad, paid and unpaid, parrots the argument at every turn. My yell-at-the-TV gripe about this has mostly revolved around the fact that the number of executive orders has nothing to do with anything. The president could issue a hundred executive orders a day — about casual Friday dress codes, the need to label food in the West Wing fridge, about how August 15 will hence forth be known as “Wacky Sock Day” — and no one would care. Or he could issue one executive order during his entire presidency. If that one order was about “Wacky Sock Day,” again no one would care. But if he ordered the nationalization of an industry or the rounding up of an ethnic group without trial or the shuttering of media outlets he didn’t like, that one executive order would matter more than all the others combined. He hasn’t done any of those things (though other Democratic presidents have), but the point remains: Quantity isn’t the issue, quality is.

Moreover as Andrew Rudalevige at the Washington Post makes clear, the entire issue of executive orders amounts to misdirection…(read more)

National Review Online


2 Comments on “Misdirection: ‘Executive Orders’ Shell Game”

  1. […] By Pundit from another Planet One of the many things Obama campaigned on was a promise to restore confidence in the federal government’s competence after the failures of the Bush years. Building a case for expanding, not reducing, the role of big government in American life, while curbing overuse of executive power, scaling back military obligations, and ending intelligence agency […] Like this? Read more and get your own subscription at […]


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