January 29, 2013

President Obama's 23 Executive Orders

/ At: 9:15 PM/

I don't rightly know which astute news service made the mistake first, but I do know this: almost every single major news outlet followed down the same road.  Of course, we're talking about President Obama's infamous "23 Executive Orders" which in some way amounted to tearing the Constitution to pieces.  Whatever you feel about the Second Amendment debate argument shouting match, I assume you'll benefit from a tidy civics lesson and some clarification.  So let's get started.

The confusion appears to have begun over some jackass neglecting to understand that "Executive Action" is not equivalent to "Executive Order."  For the record.  Here's the formal, you heard it from a political scientist, definition of Executive Order:

  • directs an agency or agencies to engage in some course of action pursuant to the law. (Hamilton, C., 2011, interview)
It's really that straightforward.  Here's the definition of Executive Action:
  • There isn't one.
Even more telling, and indeed the thing which caught me on to this mistake, is the fact that despite having apparently issued "23 Executive Orders," not a single one is listed on the White House website. Indeed, the most recent Executive Order was published (as of this writing) December 27, 2012, and has not anything to do with firearms.  

So what's going on?  Well, it turns out that a bunch of confused people confused a whole bunch of additional people.  Here's what's really happened:

On January 16, 2012 President Obama presented a proposal titled Now Is The Time: The President's Plan to Protect Our Children and Our Communities by Reducing Gun Violence (whew).  The proposal included the issuing of three Presidential Memorandum, which he signed at a table surrounded by a bunch of children.  So what the hell is a Presidential Memorandum? Here's what it is:
  • "a public veto statement, or a definition to the public or to an agency of what the President understands legal policies to be." (Hamilton, C., 2011, interview)
The three Memorandum signed that day may be read by visiting the White House's website.  They are individually titled: "Engaging in Public Health Research on the Causes and Prevention of Gun Violence," "Improving Availability of Relevant Executive Branch Records to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System," and "Tracing of Firearms in Connection with Criminal Investigations."

So, if there are only three Memorandum, none of them are actually Executive Orders, and the proposal istself lists 41 bullet points for areas of action, where the hell did the number "23" come from?  Your guess is as good as mine, really.  From what I've gathered reading through the proposal, the "23" marks the fairly random number of points media outlets chose to run-with after scanning the document for concise statements (aka laziness).

So there you have it: a miniature civics lesson, and a bit of clarification.


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