By Jackson Omondi
That each President has powers to issue executive orders is an indisputable fact. In fact, it’s a privilege that a president enjoys and can use in bringing about desired changes in the face of congressional opposition. Several presidents have used these orders and Trump is no exception. The difference between what Trump is doing and what his predecessors did is that he is busy churning out microwave policies devoid of subject-matter expert scrutiny and interrogation.
Obama for instance, spent months comparing notes with policy wonks and agency legal luminaries before putting his John Hancock on the executive orders. This move, ensured that all loose ends were tied, any potential conflicting interests were sorted out, the government and the affected agencies were readied for any far reaching changes etc.
Not this new CEO.
These Executive orders are reportedly being written by one guy, the 32 year old longtime speechwriter and policy advisor and reviewed by chief strategist Mr Bannon. All West wing staffers are kept in the dark and sometimes ‘being let in’ on the contents of the orders just two hours before going live. In other words, senior policy staffers are largely ceremonial.
It’s no wonder that these new orders are lacking in depth and details. It’s almost like the West wing is still in campaign mode. Blanket bromides got them to the White House and they see no need to change tack. Most Washington policy think tanks are flabbergasted. The executive orders are rich in grandiose titles but are emaciated by way of details. The Muslim ban was signed without proper legwork and now anyone with a TV can see the mess in real time.
The State department experienced the largest pink-slip ceremony in the history of the United States. Five professional career diplomats in senior management with vast knowledge of foreign policy tendered their resignation letters after they found out that left and hand no clue what the right hand was doing.
With all Ambassadors gone and all green card and valid U.S. visa holders from the affected countries being turned away, a picture emerges of a not-so-well-thought out policy but with far reaching consequences. What will happen to Arab translators who are helping U.S. soldiers overseas? How will the US recruit new informers in war zones? Are they going to become ‘instant citizens’ because the current order eliminates even green card holders? These are fine details that stakeholders would voice before such a policy is adopted.
But since, campaign promises must be kept, we are continuing to see more obtuse policy prescriptions that sound more like campaign rhetoric than real meaty policy.
The Mexican wall thing is also turning out to be a policy fantasy and it will be interesting to see if a Republican Congress, will even consider taxing the American people in order to pay for the wall. But on paper, there is an order stipulating the building of a wall without a funding architecture.
The onus is on Congress to put a lid on some of these overreaching steps being taken. Arizona Senator John McCain has signalled that he is going to buck the White House and I must say that we need more Senators to come out and make it harder to govern in this drive-through fashion.