Why Are Executive Orders Important?
He'll sit here, and he'll say “Do this! Do that!” And nothing will happen. Poor Ike—it won't be a bit like the Army. He'll find it very frustrating.
(Harry Truman on Eisenhower, cited in Richard
Neustadt, Presidential Power)
IN JANUARY 1995 President Bill Clinton, House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) met to discuss how the United States should respond to a rapidly deepening economic crisis in Mexico. Faced with the prospect of a complete meltdown of the Mexican economy, Clinton secured the support of Dole and Gingrich for legislation to fund $40 billion in loan guarantees for the Mexican government. 1 Despite the support of congressional leaders, former presidents George Bush and Gerald Ford, and Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan, rank-and-file legislators objected to the loan guarantees as a Wall Street bailout. Prospects for approval evaporated when a group of prolabor Democrats, still smarting from the 1993 ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement, formed an unlikely alliance with conservative isolationist Republicans to oppose the plan. By January 20 the GOP leadership declared the legislation dead. 2
In response Clinton unilaterally authorized $20 billion in loan guarantees on his own authority, relying on a little-noticed program called the Exchange Stabilization Fund, or ESF. Many members of Congress were outraged, arguing that the ESF, created in 1934 to allow the U.S. government to protect the dollar in international currency markets, was never intended for such a use. 3 Yet Congress could not stop the president. 4 Clinton, though humiliated by the Republican sweep in the 1994 elections and weakened by mass defections within his own party, was still able to commit to a multibillion dollar program without any meaningful interference.
On August 17, 1998, Clinton testified before a grand jury, empaneled by Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, about his relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky and the question of whether he had lied under oath in the civil lawsuit against him filed by Paula Jones. Although Clinton had for months denied any sexual relationship with Lewinsky,