Government: President Trump has apparently reignited the country's interest in civics. How else to explain that rash of stories on the basics of "executive orders" and the limits of presidential power? But where was all this concern when President Obama was egregiously violating constitutional limits on his authority?
Interest in "executive orders" is so widespread that Google currently has a separate category in its news feed devoted to stories about the topic.
Obviously, it's all been stirred up by Trump's controversial orders. But Obama issued more executive orders out of the gate, some just as controversial. Among them, Obama called for closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center and signed three pro-labor union executive orders in one day. None of these attracted anything like the attention — let alone the fury — Trump's have. And Obama was only getting started.
It was only three short years ago, remember, that Obama announced — without a peep of protest from the left — his plan to bypass Congress and enact policy on his own if lawmakers refused to bend to his will.
"We're not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we're providing Americans the kind of help they need. I've got a pen and I've got a phone," Obama said in January 2014.
That was one of the few promises Obama kept.
Later that year, for example, Obama tried to unilaterally grant amnesty to 4 million illegal aliens. The order was, thankfully, blocked by an appeals court.
He also ordered a hike in the minimum wage for federal contractors, and issued several executive actions to make it easier for college students to avoid paying back their loans.
Meantime, his administration rewrote chunks of ObamaCare through dozens of politically expedient but legally dubious executive actions.
And in his last year in office, Obama issued sweeping executive actions on gun control, while ordering public schools to let transgender students use whatever bathroom they wanted. U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor blocked that latter overreach.
Even the Washington Post admits that "the Obama administration did things (through executive action) it had previously determined it could not do legally."
Yet it's Trump who's being branded as an authoritarian, even though he hasn't come close to the boundaries that Obama tried to erase.
Trump's ObamaCare order, for example, simply tells federal agencies to implement the law in the least economically harmful way.
He directed the government to find money so that construction of a border wall can get started, using a 2006 law — which was approved by 87 Democrats but never followed through on — that called for a physical barrier along 700 miles of the U.S./Mexico border.
Even Trump's executive order on visas and refugees is far from an overreach. At its core, it temporarily halts — it does not ban — travel from seven countries identified in a 2015 law as highly terror prone. The reason is to give relevant agencies 90 days to make sure policies in place are effective at keeping terrorists out. His decision to halt refugees from Syria is right in line with previous presidential limits on refugees imposed in the name of national security.
We are hardly advocating that Trump follow in Obama's footsteps. We vigorously opposed Obama's executive overreach and will do the same if Trump tries to exceed the limits to his authority. The Constitution's divisions of power are there for a reason.
But it has been amusing to watch Democrats and the media — who encouraged Obama's overreaches — lose their minds over the prospect of Obama's pen and phone in Trump's hand.