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January 30, 2014 12:08 PM Obama a Pretty Lazy Tyrant

By Ed Kilgore

Brookings’ Christopher Ingraham decided to take a look at the history of presidential executive orders, and found out Barack Obama is a real piker when it comes to “tyranny:”

Ted Cruz has already referred to Barack Obama’s use of executive orders as “lawless.” Considering it’s a safe bet we’ll be hearing a lot more of this rhetoric in the months to come, I decided to dig into the historical data on presidential executive orders. The American Presidency Project at UCSB helpfully maintains a table of executive orders issued per president, from George Washington onwards. This is super-useful, but it doesn’t account for disparities in the amount of time each president served. So I normalized the data against the number of days in office per president, taken from Wikipedia.
It turns out that the first half of the 20th century was the high water mark of presidential executive orders, with FDR issuing them at a rate of nearly one per day! Obama, by contrast, is currently issuing orders more slowly than any president since Grover Cleveland. It’ll be interesting to check back on this number again a year from now.
One more tidbit: Republican presidents issue more orders than their Democratic counterparts, at a rate of 0.23 vs. 0.18 orders per day in office.

The Obama/Cleveland parallel is especially rich, since Grover was Ayn Rand’s favorite president.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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