Chuck Grassley, "Executive Actions" Truther

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 30 2013 11:56 AM

Chuck Grassley, "Executive Actions" Truther

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Committee ranking member Senator Chuck Grassley, R-IA, and chairman Senator Patrick Leahy, D-VT, talk to shooting victim former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband retired Astronaut Mark Kelly, before a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill January 30, 2013 in Washington, DC.

Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

The circusy gun control hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee is going much as expected, with everybody repeating his or her deeply felt beliefs, with the drama that comes with close-ups and wood paneling. I was just struck by the repetition of an easily debunked myth. Sen. Chuck Grassley, now a ranking member of the committee, insisted that the Obama administration was overreaching because it had introduced "23 executive actions" and "these actions are not even listed on the White House's website."

Haven't we been here before? The president didn't sign "23 executive actions" or "orders" this month. The White House released a list of 23 steps it was going to take. Several of them were literally just things Obama was going to do with Congress, like nominate and confirm an ATF director. Only three were "memoranda" that gave new marching orders to federal agencies — and Obama signed those at the announcement. I got the text of those memoranda by asking the White House. Grassley could do that, too!

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This sounds like a harmless flub, but it means something. Claiming that Obama signed 23 secret executive actions builds your case that he's acting above the law. Acknowledging what the actions really did — that doesn't make your point.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.