President Trump's executive orders establish 'point of spear,' professor says

Updated: Feb. 2, 2017 at 4:49 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Just one day shy of two weeks in office, President Donald Trump has issued a number of executive orders and executive actions so far.

According to University of South Carolina associate history professor Kent Germany, executive orders in presidential history have served many purposes. They've determined military action inside and outside the borders of the United States, decided what happens with lands, and they have also been major political tools. Executive orders can allow presidents to make key policy statements.

"These are very important tools for a president to use," Germany said. "They give you more flexibility in times of crisis, and when you want to do something quickly. So if you want to send a message to Congress, 'This is what the White House wants to do, you're moving too slowly on it,' an executive order is a way to speed action up in Congress, or to bypass Congress in some way. It's also a way to raise awareness of particular issues that are out in the public."

Some presidents have used them more than others. President Franklin D. Roosevelt holds the record for the most executive orders signed, reaching almost 4,000. In 1942, Roosevelt signed Presidential Proclamation 2537, which required aliens from World War II enemy countries - Italy, Germany, and Japan - to register with the Department of Justice. Proclamation 2537 also sent many Japanese-Americans into internment camps.

In 1948, President Harry Truman issued Executive Order 9981, which desegregated the military. This came at a time when the President's Commission on Civil Rights had outlined a recommended set of standards to protect civil rights, and southern senators threatened a filibuster to prevent those standards from becoming law. President Truman used his executive powers to bypass Congress and allow for full integration of the armed forces.

President Truman issued almost 1,000 executive orders.

In 1957, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued Executive Order 10730, which dispatched federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to prevent mobs from interfering with the integration of a local high school.

During times of war and times of internal crisis, the executive order has served as a valuable presidential tool.

According to Germany, the media blitz of executive order signing ceremonies within the Trump administration has been a signal of the kind of power President Trump is attempting to establish.

"Whatever kind of legislative writing is going on behind the scenes, this is sort of the point of the spear that is going to be there, showing Republican House members, Republican senators, this is where President Trump and his coalition of support, this is where we want to go."

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