The New York Times is vilified by those on the fringes of the right-wing as the paragon of liberal elitism, one step away from godless communism and the nightmare of “woke-ness.”
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However, as far from the like of Breitbart and Fox News as the publication’s prevailing ethos may be, it is still a profit-making corporate entity, a hometown newspaper in the city that’s home to Wall Street, with a strong incentive to not rock the status quo too much.
That reactionary bent was on display today in an editorial penned by The New York Times‘ Editorial Board that demanded that President Biden “Ease Up on the Executive Actions, Joe,” as the essay was entitled.
The opinion piece was inspired by the swift action that President Biden has taken in his initial week in office to rapidly reverse the worst damage inflicted by Donald Trump on the workings of the executive branch of government.
“A week into his presidency, Mr. Biden has issued a raft of executive orders and other actions. Already, he has committed to rejoining the Paris climate change agreement, ended the Muslim travel ban, canceled the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, rescinded funding for and halted construction on the wall at the southern border, reaffirmed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, mandated mask-wearing on federal grounds, moved to end the federal government’s reliance on private prisons, reversed the ban on transgender military service and called for agency assessments aimed at advancing racial equity — just to name a few. The coming days will bring more such action,” the editorial begins.
While such an extensive list both warms the cockles of a progressive’s heart and demonstrates just how inaccurate Trump’s characterization of the man who soundly defeated him as “Sleepy Joe,” the liberal use of executive orders to reverse his predecessor’s equally frequent use of the president’s tool to enforce policy without seeking congressional approval has rankled the fragile sensibilities of those who sit on The New York Times‘ Editorial Board, who see the reliance on executive fiat as a poor substitute for the codification of policy into well-debated legislation.
“’There’s a sort of tribalism when it comes to the use of executive orders,’ observes John Hudak, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. ‘When your party’s in the White House, it’s the greatest thing on earth. When your party’s out, it’s undemocratic. It’s basically Satan’s pen,’” the editorial relates.
“But this is no way to make law. A polarized, narrowly divided Congress may offer Mr. Biden little choice but to employ executive actions or see his entire agenda held hostage. These directives, however, are a flawed substitute for legislation. They are intended to provide guidance to the government and need to work within the discretion granted the executive by existing law or the Constitution. They do not create new law — though executive orders carry the force of law — and they are not meant to serve as an end run around the will of Congress. By design, such actions are more limited in what they can achieve than legislation, and presidents who overreach invite intervention by the courts,” the Editorial Board laments.
The vulnerability to court challenges isn’t the only reason that the editorial board dislikes President Biden’s flurry of executive orders.
The ability for the actions mandated by the orders to be quickly overturned by the next chief executive, just as Biden is doing with Trump’s legacy of bad policies and malevolent orders, is another reason that the newspaper’s Editorial Board believes that the changes should be permanently ensconced in legislation.
“But legal limitations are not the only — or even perhaps the biggest — point of concern. Executive actions are far more ephemeral and easily discarded than legislation, which can set up a whipsaw effect, as each president scrambles to undo the work of his predecessor. Just as Mr. Trump set about reversing as many of President Barack Obama’s directives as possible, Mr. Biden is now working to reverse many of Mr. Trump’s reversals. With executive orders, there is always another presidential election just a few years off, threatening to upend everything.”
The editorial goes on to cite the economic and human costs that the instability and uncertainty inherent in the easily overturned executive orders as further reason to use a legislative route to achieve those aims before reaching its conclusion.
“Undoing some of Mr. Trump’s excesses is necessary, but Mr. Biden’s legacy will depend on his ability to hammer out agreements with Congress. On the campaign trail, he often touted his skill at finding compromise, and his decades as a legislator, as reasons to elect him over Mr. Trump. The country faces significant challenges to recovering from the pandemic, from a global recession, from years of safety nets and institutions and trust being eroded. Now it is time for the new president to show the American people what permanent change for a better nation can look like,” the editorial sums up its primary point.
Here is where The New York Times‘ opinionated Editorial Board truly fails to give a nod to reality.
With a Republican party divided between those whose allegiance to their defeated party leader knows no ethical boundaries and those who know better but are too frightened of political reprisals that they refuse to even try to yank the levers of party power from their seditious colleagues, the ability to pass bipartisan legislation would elude even the most skilled negotiators and compromisers.
Donald Trump and then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) did not stop to try to compromise with Democrats when they passed tax cuts for the rich, ripped innocent refugee children from their parents, reallocated money from the military budget to build an ineffective and money-wasting border wall, or stole Supreme Court seats, among the many horrendous unilateral actions they implemented.
Ronald Klain, President Biden’s Chief of Staff, responded to the editorial with an explanation of what the poobahs on the Editorial Board are getting wrong about the President’s executive actions.
We are not taking executive action in lieu of legislation: we are taking executive action to fix what Trump broke in the executive branch, and to keep the President's commitments to use his power — within appropriate limits — to make progress on four crises. https://t.co/BUHLWRaYcp
— Ronald Klain (@WHCOS) January 28, 2021
As Ron Klain implies, President Biden needs to reverse the damage of the Trump era as quickly as possible using the tools he has at his disposal.
We are far past the time when the niceties of bipartisan legislation born of negotiation and compromise can accomplish what the nation needs within the time frame necessary.
The New York Times needs to stop pretending that the election of Joe Biden somehow means an immediate return to normalcy when the Republican party of today bears little resemblance to that of prior decades when there were at least a few members of the GOP who could be reasoned with in the absence of polarized partisan rancor.
Let President Biden do everything he can — as quickly as he can — to rid the government of the lingering effects of Trumpism and leave him be.
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