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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Do as I say, not as I do

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 20, 2016 08:30 am

This may be the funniest thing I read all month: President Obama warns President-elect Trump not to overuse executive orders.

So my suggestion to the president-elect is, you know, going through the legislative process is always better, in part because it’s harder to undo.

And that doesn’t mean, though, that he is not going to come in and look at the various agencies and see the rules we’ve passed and if he wants to reverse some of those rules, that’s part of the democratic process. That’s, you know, why I tell people to vote because it turns out elections mean something.This from the man who, at last count, had signed 260 executive orders inserting the federal government into every aspect of American life. 

I understand that it's not just a numbers game. George W. Bush signed 291 executive orders during his eight years in office, and I think Bill Clinton even went over 300. But nobody's executive orders match up with Obama's for the sheer scope and depth of their impact.  Consider just one of them, the one giving illegal immigrants brought here as children ("Dreamers") temporary relief while they pursue a college education. That one affects 8,500 students in Indiana alone.

Then there are the memoranda, which are just as powerful as executive orders and even easier to execute:

He’s already signed 33% more presidential memoranda in less than six years than Bush did in eight. He’s also issued 45% more than the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton, who assertively used memoranda to signal what kinds of regulations he wanted federal agencies to adopt.

Obama is not the first president to use memoranda to accomplish policy aims. But at this point in his presidency, he’s the first to use them more often than executive orders.

I'd certainly endorse Obama's recommendation, though, and go even further. In addition to going easy on his own executive orders, Trump's first order of business should be to repeal all of Obama's. But this is one of those areas where I'm not sure which way Trump will jump. During the campaign, he talked tough about taking away the relief given to thos Dreamer students. But now he says, hey, maybe we can work something out and it will be beautiful.

Speaking of offering advice to Mr. Trump, I enthusiastically echo the hope of Richard Miniter:

It's that the Federal Government finally begin to ask what the return was, and is, for money spent – just as every private enterprise, from the window cleaner's one-man show to Exxon's army of thousands, is forced to do.

[. . .]

 It's a question the Obama administration would never ask and was terrified of asking, but it must be asked and answered if you're a sensible steward of the taxpayer's money.

I have my doubts about Trump on this score, too. He frequently talks about fiscal responsibility, but he doesn't really seem like the small-government type. It makes me a little hopeful to note that many of his Cabinet selections have been people very skeptical of the federal government and often at odds with the very agencies they will be leaaving. But he's also selected people with the reputation of "getting things done," so Trump is not likely to be the second coming of Calvin Coolidge. I might like some of the things Trump ends up doing with govdernment power, but I will remain opposed to the government having that much power. 

But I'm "guardedly optimistic," as they say. That apparently puts me at odds with the majority of Americans:

As President-elect Donald Trump prepares to be sworn in as the country's commander-in-chief next month, a majority of Americans say they are either uncertain or pessimistic about his presidency, even as the country is sounding a more optimistic tone about the future of the economy and Trump's ability to bring positive change to Washington D.C.

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds 54 percent of adults saying that they are either uncertain (25 percent) or pessimistic and worried (29 percent) about how Trump will perform during his presidency, compared with 45 percent with either an optimistic and confident view (22 percent) or a satisfied and hopeful view (23 percent).

I'm not sure what to make of the fact that people are more optimistic about Trump's ability to bring about positive change but still worry about how he will perform. On the other hand, people have been dissatisfied with the direction of the country for the last several years, but they'd didn't seem to hold Obama responsible for it. Maybe it's that same mental disconnect still going on.

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