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Defining 'power grabs' down

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Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, is not pleased with President Obama's new agenda on preventing gun violence, but Priebus' statement raises some follow-up questions the RNC may want to consider.

"President Obama's series of gun control measures amount to an executive power grab that may please his political base but will not solve the problems at hand. He paid lip service to our fundamental constitutional rights, but took actions that disregard the 2nd Amendment and the legislative process. Representative government is meant to give voice to the people; President Obama's unilateral executive action ignores this principle."

I suspect we'll hear quite a bit of this kind of talk today and as the larger policy debate continues, but it's worth pausing to consider what actually happened this morning.

The bulk of the president's agenda, not surprisingly, requires legal changes, which necessarily means it will be dependent on congressional action. At the same time, Obama also went as far as he could go in areas that don't need congressional approval, taking steps like nominating a new AFT director and informing state health officials about the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.

These "amount to an executive power grab" because ... well, actually I haven't the foggiest idea why they amount to an executive power grab. Here's a question for Priebus: name one of the executive orders that seems offensive and/or legally excessive. Just one.

If, however, the argument is that any executive order that touches on gun policy at all must be considered outrageous, there's a separate question: why is it fine when Republican presidents can take executive actions on guns but Democratic presidents can't? Why would the former be acceptable and the latter worthy of condemnation?

If the president's detractors want to critique his proposals on gun violence, fine. If they want to offer alternatives, great. If they want to offer a spirited defense of the status quo, no problem. But to argue that executive orders are themselves legally dubious -- and possibly even grounds for impeachment -- is silly and kind of pathetic.

Let's have a real debate; let's not define "power grabs" down.