Unfortunately for President Obama, who wanted so desperately to create a lasting legacy, what is created with “a pen and a phone” can be undone with a pen and phone. Add control of both houses of Congress, and you have a recipe for a full-fledged legacy dumpster fire.
Donald Trump’s choice for White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, spoke with ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday and made clear that the dismantling of the Obama legacy would begin day one of the Trump administration. The first order of business: all those executive orders “hamper[ing]” businesses.
President Trump will “repeal a lot of the regulations and actions that have been taken by this administration over the last eight years that have hampered both economic growth and job creation,” said Spicer.
While he did not get into specifics about which of the “pen and phone” executive actions he will reverse, Trump has suggested several general areas: Obama’s unilateral energy regulations, unconstitutional immigration actions, and feckless foreign policy moves. Trump has also slammed Obamacare, suggesting he will lead Congress to repeal and replace it.
Spicer told ABC that Trump will also implement some important reforms to shake up Washington, including restricting members of his administration from working as lobbyists for a period of five years after serving for him.
“What we’ve had in the past is people who have looked in the rearview mirror,” said Spicer. “This time, we’re thinking forward. If you want to serve in a Trump administration, you’re going to serve this country, not yourself.”
Despite his repeated claims to be a unifier who has attempted to reach across the aisle, Obama’s two terms have been increasingly characterized by unilateral action to “bypass Congress,” a phrase that grew threadbare during his presidency. He (in)famously explained his executive action-oriented “leadership” in a statement to his Cabinet January 2014:
“We’re not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” said Obama.”And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward in helping to make sure our kids are getting the best education possible, making sure that our businesses are getting the kind of support and help they need to grow and advance, to make sure that people are getting the skills that they need to get those jobs that our businesses are creating.”
As is about to become painfully clear, the problem with such a legacy is it’s literally paper-thin.