Elliot: Living Winter Olympics


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As we slog along through this winter (which feels longer than the Todd Lickliter Era, which seemed like centuries), you’ll be disappointed to learn that walking a mile in the Iowa City wind chills will not be a Winter Olympic sport this year. It was just another Internet rumor.

And I was just getting good at walking a mile in the wind chill without swearing all that much. (You should try it; the Cambus is for wimps.)

Speaking of the Winter Olympics, the home of the Games, Sochi, Russia, is experiencing a grinding winter of its own — temperatures a bone-chilling low 50s, high 40s. Yeah, I know; life is tough all over, and then you get the Winter Olympics.

Oh, I know; you don’t care about the Games yet — you’re breathlessly awaiting the State of the Union address to see if President Obama will issue an executive order requiring the Democrats to applaud.

The president did issue an executive order recently (his aides have hinted, broadly, that he will issue more in the future if he can’t goad Congress into action on his proposals), and the conservative/Republican universe went nuts. No, Virginia, I’m not being redundant.

According to Forbes, that liberal-lefty icon, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Obama is “acting ‘like a king.’ ” Conservative radio talk-show guru Mark Levin contended that Obama’s executive orders were “un-American” and “fascistic.”

And, naturally the Limbaugh weighed in: “Now, [Obama] might have a pen and he might have a phone, but what he does not have is the constitutional power to run this country like a dictator.”

You’d think that Obama had invented the executive order. Not to mention fascism.

So, let’s see how accurate the conservatives are here (that’ always fun):

Obama has averaged 37 executive orders per year, fewer than the presidential average of 44 and only one more than George W. Bush’s average (36, if you’re too cold to do the arithmetic at home). And then there are these five Republican presidents, according to Richard Salsman of Forbes:

Gerald Ford (84 per year), Dwight Eisenhower (60), Richard Nixon (58), Ronald Reagan (48), and George H.W. Bush (41).

And Obama is the dictator?

In the history of the United States, presidents have used executive orders if not willy-nilly, then regularly. For instance, there are these famous presidential orders of the past (courtesy of NPR):

• Thomas Jefferson, the Louisiana Purchase
• Abraham Lincoln, the Emancipation Proclamation
• Franklin D. Roosevelt, reopened the banks, established the Civilian Conservation Corps, established the first National Labor Relations Board and the WPA
• Harry S. Truman, desegregated the U.S. military
• John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, established the framework for affirmative action

And then there is this one, perhaps not quite so earthshattering: Herbert Hoover (born in West Branch) in June 1931 signed an executive order about, well, executive orders. It outlined such items as size of paper, size of margins, spelling and grammar (what’s that? your inner sportswriter says), and other pressing issues of the day. Apparently, not much was going on in 1931.

Well, there was this New York Democrat preparing to run for the presidency. And run for the presidency. And run for the presidency. And run for, you guessed it, the presidency.

And over in Germany in 1931, a once-obscure Austrian was making waves as a bestselling author. His political party had become the second-largest such party in Germany.

But who can remember 1931? That was so 20th century.

Me, I’m going to hang on Obama’s every word this evening. I’m curious about that executive order on applause.

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