Dan Calabrese: It's Not the Number of Biden's EOs, It's What They Mean That's So Very Dangerous


There’s been a lot of talk in the 14 days since President Joe Biden took office about the number of executive orders he’s issued, and the supposed evidence this represents that Biden is operating as a “dictator.”

Here are the standings if you’re keeping score:

Presidential executive orders in the first 12 days of presidency:

Bill Clinton: 2

George W. Bush: 2

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Barack Obama: 9

Donald Trump: 7

Joe Biden: 25

So as the math will tell you, Biden has issued more executive orders in his first 12 days than his four predecessors combined during their respective first 12 days.

Are you worried by President Biden's executive orders?

Ergo, dictatorship, yes?

No. Biden’s executive orders are troubling, but not because they make him some sort of dictator. The problem is the substance of the orders, not the fact that they are orders.

A lot of people have gotten mixed up about what it means when a president issues an executive order, and for that we can largely blame Barack Obama.

He was the guy who used the executive order several times to essentially demand by fiat what he couldn’t get Congress to pass. The most notorious example was the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals executive order, when Obama essentially refused to enforce a duly enacted federal law because he didn’t personally like it.

That was an abuse of the president’s authority to issue executive orders, and should never have been upheld by the courts. But it was, and from it a lot of people got the idea that this is what an executive order is: When the president can’t get Congress to pass something he wants, he just says screw it and issues an executive order to make it happen anyway.

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This has gotten worse during the pandemic, as many governors have issued their own executive orders exceeding their own authority – without the legislative approval they should have sought – and people have just gone along with it.

But there is a legitimate use of an executive order. The president is the head of the executive branch of the government, and he has the authority to issue all kinds of orders determining how the executive branch will proceed in executing the laws and conducting the business of the government.

He can’t order laws established, and he can’t spend money Congress hasn’t allocated, but he has lots of leeway to decide how the executive branch will function.

Executive orders to this end are legal and legitimate, and most of Biden’s executive orders fit that description. That does not, however, make them wise.

Among his orders, he is trying to force women’s sports to include biological males, as well as halting oil leases on federal lands, resuming federal funding of overseas abortionists and pressuring U.S. manufacturers to procure supplies made from U.S.-sourced materials.

A lot of this falls under his authority because his order merely threatens to withhold federal funding from those who don’t comply. This is why it’s a good idea not to become dependent on federal funding.

They are all terrible ideas, and that’s just a sampling. They should all be scrutinized carefully so the nation understands the damage its new president is doing to the country.

But too much of the discussion is focusing on how many executive orders Biden has issued, along with the implication that he is merely using executive orders as a substitute for congressional support.

This represents a missed opportunity, not only because it’s substantively wrong, but also because most of the public doesn’t get animated about the nuances of governmental operation. They don’t care about 25 executive orders as opposed to two. They care about whether things are going to get better.

They’re not going to get better if Biden keeps pursuing policies like these. He has the authority to issue these orders. But the nation will pay a heavy price if these orders remain in effect.

A good president could surely issue hundreds of executive orders that would result in the government functioning better and the nation benefiting as a result. That would be great if it happened. But instead, we have Joe Biden, and we have these executive orders.

That’s the problem.

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Dan Calabrese has been editor of since 2012 and was the syndicator of Herman Cain's newspaper column from 2006 to 2012. He has written for a wide variety of publications, from The Detroit News and Human Events to Transport Topics and Pet Age. Dan lives with his wife and son in Royal Oak, Michigan.