Sloppy Reporting Misleads the Public on Obama’s Executive Orders
Executive Orders, Political Ignorance, and Journalists’ Negligence
On Tuesday, thousands of reporters were wrong about President Obama’s proposals to end gun violence. Their negligence fuels the psycho-goofball conspiracy nutjobs who claim that Executive Orders are illegal, that Obama has issued more than any other president, and that he’s coming for your guns.
Barack Obama is not repealing the Second Amendment. He is not coming to take anyone’s guns. Those who claim that he is are either lying or are monumentally stupid.
On Tuesday, President Obama announced 23 executive actions that he will take to prevent gun violence. Immediately, thousands of reporters screeched that “Obama signed 23 executive orders”. He did not.
Look at the video. Obama clearly did not sign 23 separate pieces of paper. He signed THREE. Now I’m not here to discuss the specific plans. Many people are far more qualified than I to do that. This is about executive orders, the public’s political ignorance, and journalists’ negligence.
HOW THE MEDIA GOT IT WRONG
The president’s plan contains 23 proposals, which the White House calls executive actions. The reporters called them all “Executive Orders”. Actually, some of the proposals will require Executive Orders for implementation. Most won’t.
The plan’s focal points ask Congress to adopt new, sensible gun control legislation. It asks the Senate to confirm Todd Jones as ATF director. Those are actions that the head of the Executive branch of our government can and will take.
After Congress passes a law, the appropriate executive branch agencies would then create regulations to implement that legislation. Regulations are executive actions. And yes, the public can influence both of those processes.
Obama’s Executive Orders contain instructions to his cabinet departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Education, and Commerce and to agencies like the FBI, Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Marshalls, Centers for Disease Control, Consumer Product Safety Commission, and Secret Service. The orders will instruct agency staff people in their workplace priorities, scheduling, research, training, data collection and reporting, inter-agency coordination, and public education efforts.
Executive Orders are a president’s instructions to the staff at executive branch agencies, defining how they are to implement the laws that already exist. They are not laws themselves. No president can issue an Executive Order to take your guns, or your money, make new laws, or to do anything unconstitutional. And Obama is smart enough not to order actions that won’t survive legal challenges.
Executive Orders are constitutionally valid. The Constitution’s Article II, Section 1, Clause 1 – The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America – gives the president that ability. Each order’s preamble states his specific legal authority for the subject of the order. Every president has issued Executive Orders. Governors and mayors also issue Executive Orders to their staffs.
The orders are numbered consecutively. George Washington issued EO number 1. To date, President Obama has issued 146 Executive Orders, numbered 13489 through 13635. That’s an average of about 310 orders per president. President Franklin Roosevelt holds the record at 3,466, over more than three terms in office. Herbert Hoover – a Republican – is second with 1,011 in only one term. Ronald Reagan had 380 (two terms); George H.W. Bush 165 (one term); Bill Clinton 363 (two terms); and George W. Bush 290 (two terms).
Once issued, the orders are published on the White House website and in the Federal Register, which is a daily record of all executive branch actions. It’s like the executive branch’s daily newspaper. The Federal Register also publishes regulations, proclamations, announcements, and other material. The National Archives collects and stores the orders. You can see a table of orders issued by president here.
WHY IT MATTERS
As Americans, we have a right and a need to know what our government is doing. Since we can’t be there in person, we depend on our media to inform us. They’ve been letting us down.
The “journalists” who cover the government for a living are supposed to know how the government works. Their record this week is pathetic. And it matters a great deal.
Lousy reporting like this is why most Americans think that presidents make laws and spend tax dollars. It’s why most Americans think we have Constitutional rights to “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness”, that Executive Orders are unconstitutional, and that the president wants to be a dictator.
Lousy reporting like this is why Americans don’t know how Congress makes laws, how the federal budget works, or how much power they really have to influence the government.
And that political ignorance is why Americans don’t understand what is going on in their own lives.
WHAT WE CAN DO
When our schools bother to teach this stuff, they usually do it wrong. It’s up to us to teach ourselves, and then to teach our children. In our daily conversations about these issues, we can correct people who have the wrong information.
And we must stop tolerating this kind of lazy, sloppy reporting. Phone, fax, or email your local newspapers, TV, and radio stations today and demand better.