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A Civil Assessment: Partisan Bias Conditions Many to Accept or Reject Executive Orders

SAN DIEGO, CALIF. – With the recent rash of executive orders, political lines have been drawn in the sand. Supporters of President Trump have praised his use of executive orders as strongly as they had objected to it under the Obama administration. Correspondingly, critics of the Trump administration, who had previously endorsed former President Obama’s aggressive use of his “pen-and-phone” tactic, now shed tears and organize protests about the new administration’s mirroring of that approach. One thing is for sure: political bias has generally triumphed over fact.

For the most part, political bias is predicated upon a premature cognitive commitment to a belief structure that each of the major parties has worked hard to engrain. It is a matter of behavioral conditioning designed to create “brand” loyalty. In politics, the major gating factor of how you might view an issue is often whether your party is in power.

For example: President Trump issued four executive orders during his first week in office; President Obama issued five. Did their actions seem the same to you or did the actions of your party’s president seem more reasonable and less abusive of the office than those of the other party’s president?

What would happen if we were to take a fresh approach? What if we placed our emotions on hold and read an executive order before we formed an opinion or allowed outside influences to form an opinion for us?

Let’s try an experiment.

Here is a link to the full text of President Trump’s latest executive order:  Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States (as provided to the New York Times by the White House)

Read the text of the executive order and try to do so without bias (which admittedly is not easy). To facilitate the test, parse the information. Read each sentence or phrase separately. Then, decide whether it is reasonable. Divorce yourself from the content emotionally and determine whether you can attribute a rational basis for the particular sentence or phrase.

You do not need to agree or disagree with the statement or phrase philosophically; you only need to decide whether it is reasonable. You may even want to keep track of the number of sentences and phrases that you identify as factually acceptable as compared to the number you determine to be unreasonable.

When you have completed the exercise, evaluated whether the executive order was as “fair” or “unfair” as you believed it to be before you read it. That will give you an interesting insight into the degree of bias with which you perceive our political reality and, perhaps, the degree to which your belief structure may be influenced by media representations and by the behavioral conditioning orchestrated by your party.

One thing is for sure: political bias has generally triumphed over fact.
T.J. O'Hara

Then, pretend you are president. What elements of the executive order would you add, broaden, narrow or eliminate? How would you clarify other elements to lessen the opportunity for misinterpretation? Finally, determine whether your improvements have adequately addressed the possibility of adverse consequences if your assumptions prove to be wrong.

If you are particularly zealous, turn your attention to one of the equally controversial executive orders President Obama signed during his first week in office and complete the same exercise: Review and Disposition of Individuals Detained at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base and Closure of Detention Facilities.

Note: This exercise does not address whether executive orders are being used correctly or have been in the past. It merely focuses on whether your beliefs are factually or emotionally based. Do you gather facts and evaluate positions fairly, or are you more likely to be influenced by external sources who may not have your best interests in mind?


A Civil Assessment has been designed to serve as an Op-Ed forum for you. You are invited to offer your opinion and discuss your position in the Comment Section. Please be sure that your “assessments” remain “civil” so that they may earn the respect of others.


Photo Source: Reuters