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Trump Uses Executive Power to Bring Back the Constitutional Limits on Executive Power

Written by Joe Scudder

By getting rid of Obama’s edicts based on unconstitutional executive power, Donald Trump is submitting to the Constitution.

Critics are comparing Trump’s use of executive power to Barack Obama’s overreach. It reminds me of NPR’s leading question to Barack Obama a few months ago:

That is a stupid criticism. The Federalist points out, “Trump’s Executive Moves Have Strengthened Checks And Balances.” The writer is obnoxiously regretful about defending President Trump. But his virtue-signaling doesn’t obscure his main point that “he may be the first president in memory to actively limit his own branch’s power.”

When President Barack Obama was governing through executive fiat for more than six years, there was precious little anxiety from our elite publications regarding precedents of abuse or the constitutional overreach. Not so today. Take today’s post from Monkey Cage at The Washington Post: “Candidate Trump attacked Obama’s executive orders. President Trump loves executive orders.”

Trump might love them, but the content of these executive orders is more important than the number. Whenever people criticized Obama’s overreach, the reaction was to demand that we contrast the number of executive orders signed by the president’s Republican predecessors (in those heady days “whataboutism” was not only tolerated but favored). This is an exceptionally silly, or perhaps just an exceptionally dishonest, way to compare presidential records. Bean-counting the sum total of executive orders tells us nothing useful about the effects of those orders; one action could be more consequential than 15 or 50. Most of Trump’s executive orders to this point have been either statements of intent, administrative moves, or reviews of Obama-era orders.

There’s nothing improper about executive orders or actions meant to implement law or derived from the Constitution. (Trump’s order promoting free speech and religious freedom, for example, didn’t go nearly far enough.) But there’s plenty wrong with executive orders and actions meant to circumvent those things. Not only did the last administration habitually craft what was in essence sweeping legislation from the ether, it often framed these abuses as good governance. “Congress won’t act; we have to do something” was the central argument of Obama’s second term. Every issue was a moral imperative worthy of the president’s pen.

Now, with better judges holding office, maybe the Judicial Branch will prevent a future President from following Obama’s example.

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The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

About the author

Joe Scudder

Joe Scudder is the “nom de plume” (or “nom de guerre”) of a fifty-ish-year-old writer and stroke survivor. He lives in St Louis with his wife and still-at-home children. He has been a freelance writer and occasional political activist since the early nineties. He describes his politics as Tolkienesque.

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