With a sheaf of highly publicized executive orders, President Donald Trump in his first three weeks has broached several hot issues on several fronts.
The most obvious is the order that would temporarily ban travelers from seven nations, now hanging fire at the highest levels of the court system.
But not all orders are created equal.
The immediate impact of orders related to law enforcement that Trump issued last week was hazy. The best assessment seemed to be that while they don’t create new policy, these call on agencies to create task forces to probe and fight crime, anti-police violence and international drug cartels.
So while the American Civil Liberties Union slammed Trump for trying to solve problems the nation doesn’t have, defenders of law-enforcement institutions applauded the flavor and goals, hoping they’ll later result in legal changes.
Trump’s signature border wall proposal made it into one of his higher-profile directives, which he signed with bombast. It calls for a “secure, contiguous, and impassable physical barrier . . . to prevent illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking, and acts of terrorism.”
Even the order’s provision calling for a “comprehensive study” of what’s needed for the wall within 180 days leaves the “how” unclear. Scientists told Smithsonian magazine that such a project is quite complicated on several practical levels.
Another order directs the Treasury secretary to review the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial regulatory law. Still another told the Labor Department to delay an Obama rule requiring retirement advisers to put their clients’ interests first.
Larger matters — such as altering the national health insurance system and carrying out a massive public infrastructure plan — will require congressional action and negotiation.
For now, some of the orders are a bit confusing. During the campaign, Trump said he had a good plan to defeat ISIS, but couldn’t yet share the details. Once in office, he issued a memo directing the Defense Department to draw up a plan within 30 days to defeat ISIS.
Much was made symbolically of Trump’s reinstatement of a ban on federal funds to international groups that promote or lobby to legalize abortion. President Ronald Reagan instituted the policy — which has gone in and out of effect based on whether Republicans or Democrats were in office.
As with his predecessor, Barack Obama, Trump cannot rule the nation through executive choices, but he can show an agenda.