Friday, January 31, 2014

History Channel

Steve Benen has a good look at the Republicans’ myopic view of what previous presidents have done with executive orders.

…Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) insisted that when it comes to executive orders, Obama should follow the examples set by Reagan and Clinton. McConnell is completely unaware of the fact that among presidents in the latter half of the 20th century, Reagan and Clinton issued more executive orders than any other presidents – and far more than Obama.

What I suspect many on the right have done is start with an ideologically satisfying premise – Obama is a radical, power-hungry, extremist dictator – and then work backwards in the hopes of bolstering the thesis.

But the endeavor clearly isn’t going well, largely because conservative activists and lawmakers don’t understand history as well as they think they do.

“Can you believe Obama is issuing executive orders?” Well, yes, every president has issued executive orders, and Obama has issued fewer than any in over a century.

“Can you believe Obama has relied on czars?” Well, sure, most all recent presidents have had czars and no one considered it controversial until 2009.

“Can you believe Obama’s health care policy forces consumers to buy something?” Actually, the practice goes back to George Washington.

“Can you believe Obama has made recess appointments?” Yep, because every modern president has made recess appointments.

“Can you believe Obama has decided not to defend certain federal laws against court challenges?” Sure, but most modern presidents have done the same thing.

If Republicans had criticized any of these previous presidents for the same reasons, their complaints would be more persuasive now. But as it stands, it just seems as if Obama’s critics don’t know what they’re talking about.

Imagine if Obama did something really outrageous, like selling weapons to a sworn enemy of the United States in order to finance an illegal war in Central America. Now that would be worthy of screams about “tyranny,” “extra-constitutional abuses,” and “contempt for the norms of our democracy.”

It wasn’t that long ago — ten years or less — that the Republicans were all hailing the unitary executive theory of governance embodied in the benevolent leadership of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, telling us that if Congress wouldn’t act to save America from terrorism and the Radical Homosexual Agenda, then the president would, and more power to him.  Not only that, he’d be derelict in his duty if he had to wait around for Congress to get their collective shit together.

It’s not that the Republicans have forgotten history; I’m sure most of the whiners know exactly what went on before Barack Obama was sworn in.  It’s just that they don’t believe anyone else other than them should be in charge.  Ever.