During a Thursday morning appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, former Newsweek editor-in-chief Jon Meacham offered an incredibly silly criticism of President Obama’s plan to use executive orders to advance his agenda, when he picked two of the worst possible examples to “prove” his point that such a move would be unprecedented.
“We make fun of the executive orders and that is in fact something that — you know, you never really heard Lincoln and FDR say, ‘I’m going to rebuild America on an executive order,” Meacham told hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezkinski. “You know, it’s not something that resonates off the tongue.”
Of course, as Meacham — who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for his biography of Andrew Jackson — should know, this is completely and obviously false. Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued more executive orders than any other president in the 20th century, as this chart from MSNBC’s Maddow Blog makes clear (note that President Obama ranks last, with just 168 executive orders throughout his first five years in office).
As for Abraham Lincoln, it doesn’t take a history expert to know that he literally attempted to rebuild a war-torn America via executive orders — including, most famously, the Emancipation Proclamation.
Meacham’s odd attack against President Obama’s promise to use executive orders in precisely the same way his predecessors did — except with lesser frequency — fits neatly with a pattern that has emerged throughout Obama’s time in office. Whether it’s issuing executive orders, or making recess appointments, or nominating judges to fill vacancies on federal courts, or utilizing the NSA, the president’s critics have become alarmingly eager to throw historical precedent out the window in the name of crafting a good political burn.