Proclamation – February as American Heart Month

Finally, a non-controversial action.

On December 30, 1963, in a Joint Resolution, Congress requested the president to annually declare the month of February American Heart Month.

In addition, February 3, 2017 has been declared National Wear Red day, as is traditionally done the first Friday in February.

Presidential Proclamation signed February 2, 2017.

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Presidential Executive Order on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs

There is fundamentally only one point to this executive order and that is stated as:

“Sec. 2.  Regulatory Cap for Fiscal Year 2017.  (a)  Unless prohibited by law, whenever an executive department or agency (agency) publicly proposes for notice and comment or otherwise promulgates a new regulation, it shall identify at least two existing regulations to be repealed.”

The rest of the order is language that reiterates the two (or more) for one trade, establishes definitions, and determines how the order will be implemented.

While I certainly can support reduction of unnecessary regulation and limiting new regulations to those truly important and needed, the arbitrariness of this equation of two repealed for every one added is not only ridiculous, but ultimately not implementable.

Executive Order signed January 30, 2017.

Presidential Memorandum Plan to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

One item to note immediately in the title is a shift in language. The previous administration (and Democrats in general) used the term ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) rather than ISIS. (Here is a useful article to explain why and what the differences are.) I suspect the use of ISIS in this memorandum may simply be because this president wants to use the popular name that Republicans prefer, rather than any other reason.

The plan referred to here is to be coordinated by the newly re0rganized National Security apparatus as defined in the executive order on this same date. This “comprehensive” plan is to be developed and reported to the president in 30 days from the signing of this memorandum.

A stark observation and question: does he really believe a full and comprehensive plan to defeat ISIS can be developed in just 30 days when years have gone into the efforts to contain that organization with international cooperation?

Delusional at best.

Presidential Memorandum signed January 28,2017.

Executive Order: ETHICS COMMITMENTS BY EXECUTIVE BRANCH APPOINTEES

Some in the news media were looking for the now expected ethics order and finally it appeared Sunday.

It consists of a pledge all newly appointed administration officials will sign. Two notable points are: 1) when an official leaves this administration, he/she may not become a lobbyist for 5 years, and 2) any official coming from being a lobbyist may not act on anything related to that lobbying effort for at least 2 years. It also includes the typical “no gifts” clause. Other sections of the lengthy order include definitions of terms used.

Somewhat alarming:

Sec. 3.  Waiver.  (a)  The President or his designee may grant to any person a waiver of any restrictions contained in the pledge signed by such person.

(b)  A waiver shall take effect when the certification is signed by the President or his designee.

(c)  A copy of the waiver certification shall be furnished to the person covered by the waiver and provided to the head of the agency in which that person is or was appointed to serve.

This is a major loophole that allows for this whole order to be moot anytime the president wants to negate it!

Because this wording seemed to be so odd, and because I have so little trust this president will not abuse this power, I decided to research the previous presidential orders on ethics, and found an interesting NPR article about the similarities between this order and previous Democratic presidents’ orders. There is more similarity to Clinton’s and Obama’s, and much less similarity to the two Bushes’ orders.

Even though there are great similarities, there are significant differences when it comes to the waiver clauses. For example, the waiver clause in Obama’s order was far more restrictive and referred to current and past government employees not newly hired ones. Here is the corresponding Executive Order 13490 of January 21, 2009 by President Obama.

George W. Bush: Memorandum on Standards of Official Conduct

Interestingly, his is not an official executive order, but just a memorandum to department and agency heads. It contains no pledge requirements and no waiver clause.

William J. Clinton Executive Order 12834—Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees

The waiver clause requires a reason for each waiver. It also requires that waiver, including the reason for it, to be published in the Federal Register, an expectation not present in any of the three subsequent presidents’ orders.

George H. W. Bush Executive Order 12674—Principles of Ethical Conduct for Government Officers and Employees signed April 12, 1989.

I found it interesting that the date is substantially later than those by following presidents. His order also rescinds two previous orders – one by Reagan in 1986 and the other dating to 1965 – that are about financial disclosures for executive branch employees.

It appears that while this kind of ethics order has become more or less routine, the regularity of issuing it early in an administration did not begin until the 1990’s.

Would that ethical restrictions such as these also applied to the president.

Executive Order signed January 28,2017.

Presidential Memorandum – Organization of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council

Over the past weekend, this memorandum was widely reported due to the highly controversial changes in the Principals Committee (PC) of the National Security Council apparatus. Many of the reports are not quite accurate – conflating the PC with the National Security Council (NSC) itself, when in fact they are different parts of the overall National Security structure that now includes a Homeland Security Council. In fairness, part of the confusion has to do with the fact that political appointees are now to attend all meetings of the NSC.

It took some research to learn about the overall structure that has evolved since its beginnings in the National Security Act of 1947 signed into law by President Harry Truman. Only a few cabinet members were statutory members of the NSC at its inception; others members of the NSC were to be named by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate. Some news reports have subsequently indicated POTUS 45 was not aware of the advise and consent clause.

Since 1947 various changes have been made to update that law, some by new legislation and some by executive actions. Most prominent is the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security and a then new Homeland Security Council (HSC).

Briefly stated: the Principles Committee (PC) now oversees the operations of the National Security Council and the Homeland Security Council, each of which has unique membership. Some individuals and offices are designated as “invited to attend all meetings” while others are invited to attend only when issues pertaining to their office are on the agenda. In the current memorandum, the PC “…shall continue to serve as the Cabinet-level senior interagency forum for considering policy issues that affect the national security interests of the United States.”

Each president since 1947, early in his tenure, has issued a memorandum to establish the official membership as provided for by the law. Thus, it should be no surprise that POTUS 45 would issue such a memorandum. What is surprising and controversial is the shifting the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Director of National Intelligence from regular membership of PC membership to a lesser status and the removal completely of the Secretary of Energy and the U.S. Representative to the United Nations from any membership. Most alarming was the naming of two political advisors – Steve Bannon, Assistant to the President and Chief Strategist and Reince Priebus, Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff – to the regular attending membership of the PC and NSC. All previous administrations studiously avoided mixing national security and politics by not having a chief political advisor in this role. Needless to say, this has sent Washington into a tizzy, and rightfully so.

So much has been written and reported about this order that I will provide no further comment other than to say Stephen Miller, Advisor to the President, appears to have been the author of the executive order. Over time we may learn he is the one writing the various presidential action documents after being given the general outlines by others. Whoever it is, I am not at all impressed.

In closing, I am going to add a strongly worded personal opinion (and that is why I have included ‘My Opinion’ as one of the categories for this post). In the George W. Bush presidency, the power of the office (or the ‘real president’) was Dick Cheney, it least until post 2006 election. In this presidency, the real president is emerging as Steve Bannon. I was hoping for what I thought was a best case scenario given all the bad options – one of his family members – to be the power behind this incompetent person, but that is not who is surfacing as having the most influence of and power over this president. Now that we know that, we need to be savvy in our resistance and act accordingly. We need to avoid being distracted by diversionary tactics and look for what is really happening or what is the longer term agenda not obvious in the immediate confusion.

Presidential Memorandum signed January 28, 2017

Presidential Memorandum on Rebuilding the U.S. Armed Forces

Because the immigration executive order took up so much attention of the national news media this past weekend, this memorandum was almost lost in the flood of information. I saw some reports, but not much analysis of this memorandum.

From the title, one can insinuate the president does not believe the current status of the armed forces is adequate. While the action here does not do much specifically other than direct the Secretary of Defense and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to do some reviews of the status of various aspects of the military and provide reports to that effect, it does give some clues as to what he wants to be emphasized with regard to the military.

A 30-day Readiness Review is the first directive that includes review by the OMB to handle anticipated budget reallocations for the current fiscal year.

Under the title of “Rebuilding the U.S. Armed Forces” one section directs the Secretary of Defense to develop a National Defense Strategy (NDS) based on a new National Security Strategy upon its submission to the Congress. “The goal of the NDS shall be to give the President and the Secretary maximum strategic flexibility and to determine the force structure necessary to meet requirements.”

Part of this “Rebuilding” section includes two more reviews:

  • a new Nuclear Posture Review
  • a new Ballistic Missile Defense Review

On the one hand, this should order come as no surprise given the campaign promises to strengthen the military. On the other, it is a chilling reminder that this unhinged individual is in charge of the nuclear arsenal and has threatened to expand it and use it. I am not particularly comforted by the fact the primary Cabinet officer who might dissuade him from using nuclear weapons goes by the nickname “Mad Dog”.

Presidential Memorandum signed January 27, 2017.

More Actions, More Time Needed

On January 28, 2017 POTUS 45 signed three executive actions, one of them highly controversial receiving significant media coverage. More have been signed since then.

In an effort to pace myself, I am going to review them one at a time and not worry about getting my reactions developed and posted here as soon after the actions are available for review as I was doing previously.

I have found reviewing even large numbers of non-controversial, routine, or positive actions was not as mentally taxing as doing the difficult, controversial ones. I’m going to take the liberty of conserving some mental energy, and being more methodical and deliberate in hopes of producing better reviews and comments.

As it turns out, at least for now, the news media are reporting virtually every executive action anyway. In fact, I may find myself not only reviewing and commenting on the executive actions themselves, but also doing some vetting of news reports of them. Not surprisingly, at least to me, some of those reports are not very accurate – even the ones that do not appear to be intentionally misleading or simply catering to their base of readers/viewers.

Finally, because I am a lone blogger editing my own work, I need to take time away from early drafts to catch typos, awkward phrasing, etc. Any readers here who find an item that should be corrected will help improve this blog by leaving a comment to that effect. I thank you in advance.