What The Media Gets Wrong About Trump’s Executive Orders

What The Media Gets Wrong About Trump’s Executive Orders

You may have been hearing quite a bit about all these executive orders going around. And you might not have had time to research the details of what they all are, or what an executive order really means, since you can't call into work with a case of "an orange hobgoblin is my president" flu. The deluge of news out of the Trump administration's first full week has been relentless and thoroughly negative. There are too many unbelievable stories to keep track of while still maintaining your life and healthy relationships. So here at Cracked, we've sacrificed both these things to do the research for you! Relax, grab a drink, then grab another drink, and read on to learn whether you should grab a third drink.

The flood of headlines started with news that Trump had reinstituted the "global gag rule," which stops U.S. aid from going to programs that have anything even tangentially to do with abortion.

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Then he banned our government's scientists from so much as twittering a tweet or Facebookening a book.

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He revived the Dakota Access Pipeline, dreaded nemesis of the Standing Rock protests, and the Keystone Pipeline, which is also not great, but did not attract as sexy of a protest movement.

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And most recently, he ordered the government to start construction on that stupid fucking wall. It feels like there's an obvious metaphor here, but we're having trouble thinking outside the wall.

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What do all of these decisions have in common? They're executive orders. That's a term you've been hearing a lot lately, and it's actually one of the simplest concepts in our government. It is a formal order the president issues which carries the full force of law. But it isn't simple as "King Donald the Orange decrees that you stop talking about his tiny hands." Firstly, executive orders can be struck down by the courts if they are deemed unconstitutional. They also cannot exceed the powers of the president, meaning he can't create brand-new laws or force everyone to observe "Trump's Taco Bowl Tuesdays." They also do not come to fruition overnight. The Keystone XL isn't being built right now; President Trump just opened things up so the company behind it can ask for permission again.

And Trump didn't order the bulldozers to start digging up more Native American burial grounds in North Dakota. He's just ordered that the Army Corps of Engineers complete the Environmental Impact Statement President Obama ordered them to do last year so the process can go forward. Don't get me wrong -- these executive orders are not progress in the right direction, as far as people who hate pipelines are concerned, but construction's not starting tomorrow, either. Remember when President Obama issued an Executive Order demanding Guantanamo Bay prison be closed?

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See the date.

And as for that damned wall, Trump didn't just order it into being. Congress still has to approve funds for it. And maybe they will, and we'll wind up spending a ton of our avocado tax money dumping concrete along the border. But it won't be because Trump demanded it be so; it'll be because two branches of our government went "Hold my beer bro, we're doin' the fuckin' wall."

What The Media Gets Wrong About Trump’s Executive Orders
Gregg Segal/Time Magazine

Some are already dressed for that exact exchange.

It's not too unusual that presidents dive headfirst into piles of executive orders. President Obama averaged around 35 a year, which is about the same number George W. Bush racked up. President Trump might wind up blowing that out of the water, but so far, he's sent out fewer during his first week, at least. Many of Trump's orders have been unusually stupid, like that aforementioned wall. However, that "global gag rule" is something every Republican administration reinstates. It's not evidence of any new misogyny; just the old misogyny we've been living under for years. But before you relax too much, this version of the "Mexico City Policy" goes drastically further than the old one, expanding the gag from just family planning organizations to all global health organizations. That could mean that any health organization, even ones whose mission is to fight AIDS or malaria, could lose funding if anyone utters "abortion." And as for the other gags, silencing social media accounts for government agencies does sound weirdly dystopian, but it may wind up becoming the new norm. No one really knows what previous presidents would have done, because the Badlands National Park didn't have a Twitter before 2011. It may be an incredibly bad precedent that causes our fiery deaths via meteor, but one that could theoretically have been set by any of the earlier, gag-happy presidents.

What The Media Gets Wrong About Trump’s Executive Orders
National Archives and Records Administration

Some more theoretically than others ...

We're not going to pretend it's been a good two weeks for liberal democracy, or that we're not writing this from our "hard times" bunker, but a lot of what President Trump's done is less "Emperor Palpatine" and more "George W. Bush on steroids." That's not good, but we're not yet at Defcon: Hitler. So ... yay?

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