My friends over at Mental Floss (brethren/sistern of Neatorama and Miss Cellania) have come up with an old essay regarding the power of the President, specifically, Executive Orders.
Much had been made in the blogosphere with regard to recent E.O.s (like the one about the so-called Dream Act) and other actions taken by this and previous Presidents.
Is it LAW? Is it overreaching and/or unconstitutional? Is it both a dessert topping AND a floor wax? (sorry)
They reach into their archives to bring us author Chris DesBarres history and humor regarding this very serious and complex subject.
Critics call them “legislation by other means.” Supporters defend them as a necessary tool for leading the country – especially in the face of a Congress unwilling or unable to make tough choices. Whatever your position, the Executive Order has been used by presidents for good, for ill, and sometimes for just plain odd reasons.
Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution contains a vague reference to executive orders, giving the president the power to “take care that the laws are faithfully executed.” Strict constructionists interpret this phrase to empower the president only to enact laws approved by Congress, but presidents have shown a remarkable mental flexibility to overcome this potential obstacle. Executive orders have covered every topic from school desegregation, to starting wars, to providing political supporters with cushy government positions.
These orders went largely unchecked until President Harry Truman signed Executive Order 10340, which placed all U.S. steel mills under Federal control. The Supreme Court ruled that Truman had overstepped his authority because he attempted to make law rather than clarify an existing piece of legislation. Justice Hugo Black, concerned that his majority opinion had offended the President (which it had), invited Truman over for dinner. Truman, overcome by the Justice’s hospitality, remarked, “Hugo, I don’t much care for your law, but, by golly, this bourbon is good.”
Patronage: Is that civil service exam too hard? Not a problem if you’ve got friends in high places. Presidents have frequently used executive orders to award jobs. Theodore Roosevelt seemed particularly fond of this hiring practice, doling out over two dozen jobs to clerks, engineers, doctors, and administrators. Of note, his Executive Order of June 23, 1904, appointed Dr. William L. Ralph as curator of the section of birds’ eggs in the National Museum, and his E.O. of November 2, 1903, made Mrs. Roy L. Quackenbush a permanent clerk in the Post Office.
Go to the link above and be both disgusted and amused. As I am simply by seeing the name Quackenbush.
h/t Miss Cellania