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Executive Orders: A Fair Ranking of Presidents From Least Active to Most Active

Lately, Republicans have been riding the hobby horse of charging the President with being a dictator. Well clearly he is not that, or he would have had them imprisoned, or worse, a long time ago. On the other hand, the President’s hands are far from clean when it comes to activities like illegal surveillance of Americans, drone strikes without due process, collusion of the Government with local authorities to repress Occupy exercising its rights of free speech and assembly, and failure to enforce the law with reference to torture of prisoners, and control frauds in the FIRE sector.Have I covered everything, or did I forget something?

Regardless, everything I’ve covered are anti-democracy activities that Republicans, apparently, have no problem with. On the other hand they’re mightily concerned about the what they think is the President’s “extremism” in increasingly relying on Executive Orders to get some of his objectives accomplished. Their faux outrage over this, centers around the claim that the President has issued an unusual amount of Executive Orders during his time in the Presidency.

This claim has been addressed by John Conyers and his staff using data made available by The American Presidency Project. Conyers’s graphic is slick and shows the President as issuing the second least number of Executive Orders out of the last 11 Presidents beginning with President Eisenhower. That rank of number 2 out of 11 certainly gives the lie to the Republican claim that the President relies on Executive Orders more frequently than most or all of his predecessors. But it still fails to provide a true historical perspective on where he fits among most presidents on relative activism as measured by the Executive Order indicator, and in particular fails to illustrate how relatively few Executive Orders have been issued by this president compared to others since the beginning of what might be called the modern period of the activist presidency.

In order to provide a better picture of that comparison, I went back to the American Presidency Project data and looked at the 23 presidents beginning with Chester A. Arthur and ending with Barack H. Obama. Here’s the Table I compiled to provide that more complete picture.

Ranking of 23 Presidents on Mean Number of Executive Orders Per Year Issued by Each of Them Since Chester A. Arthur

Ranking of Presidents on Mean Number of Executive Orders Per year

President Obama is ranked number 3 out of 23 on least number of Executive Orders issued per year in the Table. Only Chester A. Arthur and Grover Cleveland are ahead of him on least amount of Executive Order activity, and not by much either. Arthur issued 27.4 EOs per year and Cleveland, 31.6, to Obama’s 32.3. [cont’d.]

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