If you want to understand the essence of the Obama White House, its historical significance, you could hardly do better than to read “Cheer Up, Obama’s Legacy Can Be Erased,” by Phil Gramm and Michael Solon, in the 12/21/15 edition of the Wall Street Journal. The writers might have intended only to cheer us all up, by showing how easy it would be to un-do the damage of the latest seven years. But, in showing us that most of that damage (other than the original iteration of ObamaCare) has been accomplished by “executive orders,” rather than by actions of our legislative branch, and in observing that every single executive order can be rescinded by a subsequent executive order, Messrs. Gramm and Solon have accomplished a more significant task. By identifying the most significant Obama executive orders, they have not just given us an agenda for the reversal of the Obama “transformation,” they have provided an alarming demonstration of just how far this President has gone in neutering Congress and dismantling our tripartite system of government, checks and balances and all. Regardless of any substantive merit to the Obama orders, those orders undermine – and threaten – our unique form of constitutional government. And if you think that opinion is held solely on the right side of the aisle, check out the ongoing tirade against legislation-by-the-presidency by the very-liberal Professor Jonathan Turley of George Washington University Law School. (Just Google “Jonathan Turley on Obama.”)
In an earlier post, this column defended the opinions of Chief Justice John Roberts, urging that he is misunderstood, that he does not pick winners and losers, that his loyalty is not to any political party or political cause, it is solely to our democracy. Specifically, this column believes that the chief, in his “pro-Obama” opinions on ObamaCare and other matters, was simply trying his best to find ways to support the acts of our legislature, regardless of whether those acts might have been unwise or ambiguous. He was honoring our democracy, our separation of powers, our treatment of Congress as the nation’s sole legislator. Would that our President shared that reverence for our system. The fact that nearly all of the President’s “accomplishments” could be so easily reversed, is the ultimate confirmation that he has grossly abused his executive powers.
Yes, there are precedents for presidential issuance of executive orders, but there is little to be gained from comparing those orders to the record of executive orders issued by FDR, Nixon, Clinton, and Bush the Younger (not to mention Lincoln), because no President before Obama gave orders that were as topically comprehensive, as abusive of authority, as dismissive of the functions of Congress, as devoid of the excuse that they were merely clarifications of statutes. Until Obama, no President had given us reason to compare his executive orders to the neutering of the Roman Senate by the emperor Augustus.