Featured US History and Constitution
Bethanne Kim  

Executive Actions

In writing this blog, I focus on facts and historical information. In recent months, I have regularly seen articles about President Obama signing “Executive Orders” on a variety of topics, including immigration and gun control. Upon further investigation, many of these are actually Executive Actions, which are different.

It is extremely difficult to find the text of these Executive Actions because there is no requirement to make them public. The complete text of Executive Orders must be published in the daily Federal Register. Publishing the text of Executive Actions is entirely optional, so of course most are not published.

The logic behind this is that Executive Orders are just – orders – and as such are not optional, so they are similar to laws and are made public in the same way. Executive Actions, on the other hand, are more advisory and not mandatory. As in, the President thinks it would be a great idea if you did__________, but it’s your choice. That logic sounds fine, but I find it concerning.

When your boss or teacher “suggests” that you do something, what is your response? Do you go do that thing? If you don’t, do you expect to get a negative result – written up, bad grade, in trouble – for not doing it? In short, does it really feel optional?

In 1961, something called Groupthink led to the Bay of Pigs disaster under President Kennedy. That is a different subject, but it does show how subtle pressures can cause an individual or individuals to do something that they believe to be wrong.

What do you think of Executive Actions? Do you think government employees will truly view them as optional, or do you think they will act as if they are orders? Why? Why is it potentially dangerous to have documents that the public cannot read but that employees may treat as orders? What do you think the point of Executive Actions really is? If the POTUS simply wants to give his opinion, why does he need to do it in this “official” manner?

Some recent examples of these include an Executive Action on or near June 16, 2012, related to young illegal immigrants and twenty-three (23) Executive Actions (plus two Executive Orders)  in January 2013, related to gun control. After much searching, I finally stumbled across the complete text of these and all other Presidential Actions on the White House website. I have done multiple online searches for the text of these in the past, so they aren’t easy to find.

The next time Executive Actions are being discussed, what question will you bring to the conversation?

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