Obama's Executive Orders Signed at a Historic Pace

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 3, 2009 | Go to article overview

Obama's Executive Orders Signed at a Historic Pace


Byline: Stephen Dinan, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Looking to move quickly on his campaign promises, President Obama has turned to the one tool that he has to ignore Congress and take unilateral action - he signed eight executive orders in his first 11 days in office, making him by far the most activist new president in modern history on that score.

I'm getting good at this, Mr. Obama joked to labor union leaders and members of Congress as he sat down to sign orders six, seven and eight on Friday.

Mr. Obama is treading on a path well-established in terms of executive powers, although he has not shied away from thorny topics with orders that help unions, rewrite rules for treatment of terrorist suspects and revoke President Bush's order keeping presidential records secret.

Those who study presidential power say Mr. Obama is moving fast in order to prove that he can keep his campaign promises.

Obama's problem is that expectations are sky-high, but the problems are daunting. These are ways to let the country know that he intends to make good on his commitments - even though the big problems may not be dealt with so quickly, said John Woolley, chairman of the political science department at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Before Mr. Obama, the fastest to reach eight executive orders in modern times was President Kennedy, for whom No. 8 came on Feb. 21, 32 days into his presidency - or nearly three times as long as it took Mr. Obama.

President Reagan signed his eighth order on Feb. 24, President Carter signed his Feb. 25, and both Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush recorded their eighth on March 9.

Obama aides said the high number of orders was thanks to an organized transition and a series of promises that the new president is determined to keep.

As he promised during the campaign, President Obama moved quickly to enact changes that have reduced the influence of lobbyists over the political process, made the government more open and transparent and taken America a step closer to energy independence - and he acted by issuing executive orders in policy areas where there has generally been precedent to do so, said White House spokesman Ben LaBolt.

The authority for executive orders comes from the president's charge to take steps necessary to run the executive branch and see that laws are carried out. Since George Washington assumed the presidency, 14,496 executive orders have been signed, the majority of them mundane housekeeping efforts.

Some, though, have become legendary: Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, parts of Roosevelt's New Deal and President Eisenhower's order No. 10730 in 1957 sending U.S. troops to Little Rock, Ark., to help integrate Central High School.

Some have been overturned by courts, including President Truman's 1952 order seizing steel mills and Mr. Bush's order setting up military commission trials for terrorist suspects.

Mr. …

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