Yes, There Is a Difference.
Trump’s defenders, and some media organizations, are claiming that there is little difference between Obama and Trump on the matter of issuing executive orders and presidential memoranda, based solely on the number that each president issued.
That’s a straw-man argument. The criticism of Trump is not just on the numbers. There are three highly relevant arguments:
• First, the criticism is based upon the fact that Republicans, Trump included, blasted Obama for this very practice. In 2012, Trump complained on Twitter: “Why is @BarackObama constantly issuing executive orders that are major power grabs of authority?” Conservatives similarly howled that Obama was acting like a dictator, and especially decried the use of presidential memoranda.
So the criticism, quite rightly, is that Trump’s use of the exact same actions, and Republicans’ satisfaction with those actions, is an excellent example of rank hypocrisy.
• Second, there is the fact that Obama worked with Congress from Day One, trying to fix the economy and hammer out a number of issues legislatively. He included Republicans in the process, and made a great many compromises to appease them.
Trump, however, seems not to have made a single move to get any legislation passed, while Democrats are shut down—and even shut up. Trump told Democrats, to their faces, “Pocahontas is now the face of your party.”
In short, Obama was not ruling by executive order; Trump, however, is.
• Third, there is a vast difference between the nature of the orders signed by Obama and Trump in their first three weeks.
Obama signed several orders to:
- open up transparency in government;
- stop torture and attempt to close Guantanamo;
- protect the rights of workers under federal contract;
- create councils for domestic policy and economic recovery;
- prevent senior White House officials from taking gifts from lobbyists; and
- help faith-based neighborhood organizations.
That was his reign of terror in his first three weeks. Extremely tame. End torture, help workers, recover from an economic meltdown, open transparency, ethics, help neighborhoods.
What did Trump do by comparison?
- laid the groundwork to dismantle health insurance for 20-30 million Americans with no backup plan;
- instituted a poorly conceived and badly executed “Muslim Ban”;
- vowed to build a massive and ineffective border wall without funding or legislation;
- ordered the roundup and deportation of millions of undocumented workers;
- reinstituted a juiced-up version of the draconian Global Gag Rule;
- made it legal for financial planners to swindle millions of Americans, i.e. their clients;
- green-lighted two major oil pipelines while shutting down environmental protection;
- appointed an unqualified white supremacist to the National Security Council;
- upped the failed War on Drugs, and did what essentially worked out to be a photo-op to pretend that he was protecting policemen; and
- laid the groundwork for a potentially bloody, destabilizing, and expensive land war in Syria and Iraq.
So, yes. There’s a slight difference.