By Katie Kieffer
Check your privilege, President Obama. Specifically, your executive privilege.
If we time-traveled to the days of our first presidents—George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson—we would discover that they all used executive privilege. Here’s the catch: on average, these presidents invoked executive privilege less than once per year (0.79 times/year).
Modern-day presidents abuse executive privilege, a license that is not overtly articulated in the Constitution. In some cases, the Supreme Court has upheld its use as a way for presidents to perform their existing executive duties.
Chief Justice Burger describes the privilege thus in the majority opinion for US v. Nixon: “Whatever the nature of the privilege of confidentiality of Presidential communications in the exercise of Art. II powers, the privilege can be said to derive from the supremacy of each branch within its own assigned area of constitutional duties.”
Today I’ll discuss why Obama is one of the worst modern abusers of executive privilege and encourage you to hold him and future presidents in check.
“Bush abused executive privilege too!” someone might protest. Bush is no longer president. Obama is. And Obama Junior—otherwise known as Hillary Clinton—has her eye on the White House.
Executive privilege must be held in check. Obama has said so himself. At least he did back in 2007 when he sought to buy our votes.
CNN’s Larry King to presidential candidate Obama: “Do you favor executive privilege?”
Obama: “…there’s been a tendency on the part of this [the Bush] administration to, to, try to hide behind executive privilege every time there’s somethin’ a little shaky that’s taking place. And I think, you know, the administration would be best served by coming clean…”
Once he became president, Obama was not shy about tooting his own horn: “This is the most transparent administration in history,” he said in 2013. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
Flash forward to 2015. President Obama has issued 219 official executive orders according to the American Presidency Project. On paper, Obama’s number seems “low” in comparison to Franklin D. Roosevelt (3,721 orders); or Woodrow Wilson (1,803 orders); and “reasonable” in contrast to George W. Bush (291 orders).
We can’t go back in time and impeach Roosevelt and Wilson. We can hold our current and future presidents accountable.
George W. Bush exerted executive privilege to prevent a “precedent” whereby a president’s staffers (like Karl Rove in Bush’s case) would be, in Rove’s words: “routinely subpoenaed” to discuss “internal White House deliberations.”
Rove told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren that Bush offered Congress a compromise: the ability to get “the substance of what they wanted” by making Rove available in a “private hearing” where Rove would be “sworn in” so that if he didn’t “tell the truth, he could be prosecuted.”
In this way, Bush invoked executive privilege in line with Supreme Court precedent—to protect internal White House communications—while still proffering Congress a way to obtain the information.
Obama does the opposite. He claims executive privilege on matters that he himself has declared the White House to have zero involvement in. For example:
Fast and Furious: In 2012,Obama exerted executive privilege to shield his cabinet member Attorney General Eric Holder—despite previously claiming that the White House had no involvement in Fast and Furious. The Obama administration again exerted the privilege in 2014 to protect Holder’s wife and mother.
To protect its shady secrets, the Obama administration has used executive privilege to classify practically anything and anyone as protected under internal White House deliberations. This is like saying: “my dog ate my homework.” C’mon!
Benghazi: In March of this year, Obama told CBS that he heard about Hillary Clinton’s private email server at “the same time everybody else learned it—through news reports.”
By October, when the State Department uncovered emails exchanged between Clinton and Obama, he had changed his story. The New York Times reported that the administration “will try to block” emails between Obama and the former Secretary of State. So, Obama threatened to use executive privilege to protect the same electronic communication that he denied existing a few months earlier on CBS.
Leaping Through Loopholes
Obama, like Bill Clinton before him, is also inclined to invoke executive privilege informally to help keep his “official” count down. The Wall Street Journal describes Clinton’s approach to invoking executive privilege: “Because he didn’t issue written directives asserting privilege, he didn’t make it completely clear when he was asserting the privilege.”
Though Congress may attempt to override an executive order, the President has veto power, making the Supreme Court the ultimate decision-maker. We need only look to the Court to see how abusive Obama’s use of executive power has become. On at least 12 occasions, the Supreme Court has “unanimously ruled against the Obama administration on the issue of executive power,” according to The Daily Signal.
One of Obama’s most notorious uses of executive privilege is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. By establishing the DACA program, Obama effectively re-wrote federal immigration law. The program gives a two-year deportation deferral to undocumented young people under the age of 30 who arrived in the U.S. before the age of 16. U.S. District Judge Arthur Schwab made headlines declaring DACA to be unconstitutional.
Even if someone were to think that DACA is constitutional—they’ll have to agree that its effects are very unethical. For example, the New York Times reported earlier this year how DACA has encouraged colleges to give undocumented citizens priority over American citizens for college aid. Obama’s DACA order incentivizes colleges to make life even harder for American college students who already graduate with $33,000 in debt on average. This is unethical and unjust.
Nearly one in four Millennials still lives at home with their parents. Rather than enjoying Michelle Obama’s self-described “huge recovery,” young Americans have faced 15% unemployment. Politicians are out to buy votes and they don’t care about the humanitarian needs of undocumented young people. The fact is, before we can truly help others we must help our own young people survive. It’s not fair to Americans or non-Americans to pretend otherwise.
Most young people will never hear these facts in their high schools or colleges. The onus is on those of us who are fortunate enough to be informed to educate Millennials.
The youth vote determined the past two presidential elections. Young people in particular will be burned by Obama’s wrongful use of executive orders and Hillary Clinton will be Barack Obama 2.0. This is why I wrote “Let Me Be Clear,” as an educational tool for parents and their Millennials so that we can win in 2016.
You and I have a powerful voice when we speak in unison. Let’s get this message out: Check your privilege, Obama. And don’t even think about following in his footsteps, Hillary Clinton.