For political junkies — those of us who impose narrative structures on the news of the day — there are moments that frequently remind us of the movies.
Earlier this week, The New York Times reminded me of Uncle Frank from “Home Alone.”
If you forget who he is, don’t worry. He doesn’t play a major part in the story. However, the first time we see Macaulay Culkin’s character on screen, he’s complaining to his mother: “Uncle Frank won’t let me watch the movie, but the big kids can. Why can’t I? … It’s not even rated R. He’s just being a jerk.”
“If Uncle Frank says no,” Culkin’s mother said, pausing for a second, “then it must be really bad.”
I was reminded of that scene because, on Wednesday, The New York Times’ editorial board had a message for the new president: “Ease Up on the Executive Actions, Joe.”
If the Gray Lady says no, it must be really bad.
While noting that “President Biden is moving aggressively to turn the page on the Trump era” with executive orders — something that one assumes the editorial board doesn’t mind, per se — the board feared a “whipsaw” effect on key issues.
And there are a lot of them.
“A week into his presidency, Mr. Biden has issued a raft of executive orders and other actions,” the editorial board wrote.
“Already, he has committed to rejoining the Paris climate change agreement, ended the Muslim travel ban, canceled the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, rescinded funding for and halted construction on the wall at the southern border, reaffirmed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, mandated mask-wearing on federal grounds, moved to end the federal government’s reliance on private prisons, reversed the ban on transgender military service and called for agency assessments aimed at advancing racial equity — just to name a few. The coming days will bring more such action.”
And yes, the board also noted that your reaction to the executive orders depends on which party you’re in, with “Democrats and others eager to see the legacy of Donald Trump’s presidency dismantled posthaste” and “Republicans … grumbling about presidential overreach and accusing Mr. Biden of betraying his pledge to seek unity.”
Yes, Democrats and unspecified “others” are on board with dismantling the Trump administration’s accomplishments, while only Republicans are grumbling at this. There’s a bit of irony, considering there was a fair bit of grumbling ahead and one can say, with a fair bit of confidence, that only “Democrats and others” edited this document. But we plow on.
“But this is no way to make law,” opined the editorial board.
“A polarized, narrowly divided Congress may offer Mr. Biden little choice but to employ executive actions or see his entire agenda held hostage. These directives, however, are a flawed substitute for legislation. They are intended to provide guidance to the government and need to work within the discretion granted the executive by existing law or the Constitution.
“They do not create new law — though executive orders carry the force of law — and they are not meant to serve as an end run around the will of Congress,” the board continued. “By design, such actions are more limited in what they can achieve than legislation, and presidents who overreach invite intervention by the courts.”
A key example of this would be DACA, established by executive order by Barack Obama and then repealed by executive order by Donald Trump. (Trump’s repeal later was overturned by the Supreme Court, which found, in one of those trademark 5-4 John Roberts specials, that the administration didn’t end the program in a legally proper manner.)
The Times editorial board said DACA recipients “have had their lives disrupted in recent years” and that Trump’s decision to undo it was “[setting] off years of legal challenges and throwing these people’s lives into a nightmarish limbo.”
No discernible castigation can be found for Obama putting DACA recipients “into a nightmarish limbo” by choosing to pursue the legislation without Congress, but the point still stands — a White House that builds its legacy upon sand will see it slide away once the opposition party gets into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
“Undoing some of Mr. Trump’s excesses is necessary, but Mr. Biden’s legacy will depend on his ability to hammer out agreements with Congress,” The Times editorial board wrote.
“On the campaign trail, he often touted his skill at finding compromise, and his decades as a legislator, as reasons to elect him over Mr. Trump. The country faces significant challenges to recovering from the pandemic, from a global recession, from years of safety nets and institutions and trust being eroded. Now it is time for the new president to show the American people what permanent change for a better nation can look like.”
The Biden administration’s take? “Nah, we’re good.”
“As the NYT ed board criticizes Biden this am for taking swift executive action to reverse the most egregious actions of the Trump Admin, I can’t help but recall that during the primary they encouraged voters to consider what a president could accomplish through exec Action,” tweeted White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield.
“So my question is which actions that the President took to reverse Donald Trump’s executive orders would they have liked to see him not pursue?”
Action. So my question is which actions that the President took to reverse Donald Trump’s executive orders would they have liked to see him not pursue? /2
— Kate Bedingfield (@WHCommsDir) January 28, 2021
Of course we are also pursuing our agenda through legislation. It’s why we are working so hard to get the American Rescue Plan passed, for starters! 33
— Kate Bedingfield (@WHCommsDir) January 28, 2021
Bedingfield’s rhetorical question is intellectually dishonest; the editorial board named one and couldn’t go through each of the 24 executive orders Biden had signed through Wednesday in a brief editorial. They simply told him to ease up. Meanwhile, the American Rescue Plan, Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package, can’t be willed into being by executive order.
Ironically, candidate Biden seemed to acknowledge President Biden should ease up on the executive orders, too.
“That’s why — you know, the one thing that I — I have this strange notion,” Biden said during an October town hall event in Philadelphia. “We are a democracy. Some of my Republican friends and some of my Democratic friends even occasionally say, ‘Well, if you can’t get the votes by executive order, you’re going to do something.’ Things you can’t do by executive order unless you’re a dictator. We’re a democracy. We need consensus.”
So there you have it, Kate Bedingfield. If you won’t listen to Uncle Frank from “Home Alone,” at least listen to Uncle Joe from the campaign trail. It’s really bad.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
ARTICLE SOURCE: thefederalistpapers.org