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Before Joe Biden, there were 45 presidents, who signed an average of 350 executive orders each. Executive orders were fairly rare until just before 1900. Our first ten presidents signed an average of four executive orders each. Grant nearly tripled the record up to that point with 217 executive orders, and nobody got close to him until – guess who – Teddy Roosevelt surpassed him with 1,081, and then – guess who – Woodrow Wilson blew past him with 1,803. Obviously, that record stands to this day.
Ha! Just kidding! Soon after that, the record was broken by – guess who – Franklin Roosevelt with the apparently untouchable achievement of 3,721 executive orders. FDR signed nearly as many executive orders per year that all other presidents averaged over their entire presidencies (many of which were two terms). Interestingly, the executive orders of Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson make up 43% of all the executive orders of all of our presidents in history.
Equally interestingly, the tyrant Donald Trump signed 220 executive orders, which is 3,500 less than FDR. Since the year 1900, the only presidents with fewer executive orders than Trump were JFK, Ford, and Bush I. Trump apparently did not like executive orders. Odd behavior for a tyrant. But never mind.
How many will Joe Biden sign? He’s certainly off to a roaring start. If he continues at this pace, he’ll pass Donald Trump sometime in May of this year and he’ll end up at around 3,000 in four years (FDR took 12 years to reach 3,721).
But perhaps Mr. Biden will develop more of an interest in the legislative process as his presidency moves along. After all, he’s a former senator himself. And recall that in his inaugural address he emphasized unity, so he’ll probably refrain from establishing policy without consulting congressional Republicans. Plus, he controls both houses of Congress, so he’ll win all these debates, so why force things down people’s throats? Why make people mad? After all, unity is clearly very important to Mr. Biden. Plus, there’s an election in less than 2 years. So he needs to work on broadening his base. Obviously.
Unless he’s signing all these executive orders for the same reason the Democrats have razor wire and thousands of troops surrounding the Capitol. Perhaps it’s just a show of force, and a demonstration of ruthlessness. “Don’t screw with me. Don’t get in the way, and maybe we can get along.”
I don’t pretend to understand Mr. Biden’s plans. In fact, I’m not completely certain that Mr. Biden understands Mr. Biden’s plans.
But if he controls both houses of Congress, why is he forcing through so many executive orders? Perhaps to protect Congressional Democrats from being forced to make unpopular votes? Maybe he doesn’t trust Joe Manchin and a few others? Maybe he’s just being lazy – he’s in control, and he doesn’t seem to think that he can be voted out, so why play nice? Plus, by the end of his second term, he’ll be 86 years old, so he may not intend to run for reelection anyway, so who cares? Maybe he expects the Democrats to lose big in the next election, and lose the House and the Senate decisively, so he’s got to move fast. I doubt he thinks that. But I don’t know – maybe.
But when combined with everything else the Democrats are doing right now, I think this is simply a show of force. Get on board, or get run over. He’s sending a message not just to congressional Republicans, but also to congressional Democrats: “Don’t screw with me. Don’t get in the way, and maybe we can get along.”
I don’t know. I could be wrong.
What do you think?Published in