So what if the President does executive orders! Did not prior presidents do the same thing? Yes and no! George Washington did 8, John Adams 1, Thomas Jefferson 4, James Madison 1, James Monroe 1, John Quincy Adams 3, and Andrew Jackson 12. The first seven presidents totaled 30 executive orders over forty-seven years. The most recent seven presidents Barack Obama 168, George W. Bush 291, William J. Clinton 364, George Bush 166, Ronald Reagan 381, Jimmy Carter 320, and Gerald R. Ford 169 totaled 1,859, over forty years—sixty-two times as many. Obviously something has radically changed.
A review of the literature shows that, in fact, Barack Obama has fewer executive orders than most and proponents of him are quick to make this distinction. They also convey the idea that all executive orders are similar and constitutional unless undone by Congress or declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. These ideas are easy to dismiss. Rarely does Congress undo an executive order because the president’s party runs interference. Moreover, virtually no executive orders are declared unconstitutional because personal damage to someone (not the Constitution) has to be demonstrated and those damaged must be willing to pursue a legal course for several years before their case reaches the high court.
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