I am happy to see that in 2015, President Obama is finally taking my advice--which I had given to presidents nearly two decades ago when I undertook on a failed PhD effort at Texas A & M University. I was advocating at the time that the president who is facing a congress in strong opposition should be increasing the usage of executive orders --and possibly exercising more vetoes--or at least threatening to do so. Sadly, I had what is known as a narcissistic professor. He would review the data properly and did not appreciate the importance of presidential signalling to get his way with congress at times in implementing good policies in a timely manner.
As noted above, I had initially decided to write my first paper for my doctoral degree on the "usage of executive orders by presidents" and in doing so I needed also to discuss the issue of presidential vetoes. I made a strong recommendation to re-look at using and threatening to use both vetoes and executive orders more often, especially if a president is apparently weaker position before congress--either because his party is weak in the House or Senate or because he is starting his second or lame duck term in office. However, I failed to see that the professor sitting across from me thought he was an expert in everything.
Now as I see that president Obama is belatedly beginning to take my advice and use backbone in threatening vetoes and using his prerogative to undertake more executive orders, I feel it timely to narrate below, the main point I was trying to make to my professor way-back then--namely, i.e. that the American presidents in recent years, especially in their lame duck years have been under-utilizing executive orders, especially when their own party did not control Congress.
In short, American presidents seemed to have gotten gun-shy in the area of using executive orders throughout their presidencies and especially during their lame duck years.
APPROACHING VETOES AT THE WHITE HOUSE
By 1999-2000, as I prepared to return to college to do a new degree in political science, I was aware as a student of the field that some lessons seemed to have been wrongly learnt by presidents about when to use a veto and when to use an executive order. For example, less than half a decade earlier, "President George H. W. Bush [had] vetoed forty-four bills, of which twenty-nine were regular vetoes and fifteen were pocket vetoes. One was overridden (Item No. 2496)."  In short, theoretically, the Senior Bush had used his veto power almost perfectly in his 4 years in office--having had only 1 veto over-ridden in 4 years of office. From most any perspective, George H. W. Bush had used the veto skills to corral congress quite well in the 1989-1993 period even though Republican congresses were not particularly strong at the time.
In other words, by 1989-1993 period, i.e. under George H. W. Bush, it appeared that the presidential office (or the chief executive of state) had acquired the skill and finesse to realize when to fight congress and when to accept defeat. It was a simple game of tug of war. Game theory logic could be applied to determine when to compete and when to bail out. It seemed to most observers that if any president followed the strategy of George H. W. Bush in astutely picking his fights, the White House executive could avoid having most any veto over-ridden.
Amazingly, though, in contrast to the 40-plus vetoes carried out in four years by G.H.W. Bush, "President Clinton [had] vetoed [only] thirty-seven bills, of which thirty-six were regular vetoes. There was one pocket veto (Item No. 2551). Two were overridden (Item Nos. 2517 and 2534)." Astoundingly, "[t]here were no vetoes in the first and second sessions of the 103d Congress." However, when one contrasts the Clinton's approach to the Senior Bush's approach to undertaking vetoes, Clinton either (a) appeared to lack courage in carrying out vetoes or (b) he signaled well enough that bills he would veto bills so that they wouldn't land on his desk. Alternatively, (c) Clinton liked what came across his desk.
My thesis by 2000 was that Bill Clinton by not attempting vetoes was making his playing hand with Congress weaker and weaker when he should have been signalling a willingness to take on what we often see now as detrimental legislation.
APPROACHING EXECUTIVE ORDERS AT THE WHITE HOUSE
Until Bill Clinton took office in 1993, most presidents took off at a jogging rate when it comes to carrying out executive orders from the White House. Then in subeguent years they would slowly increase the number of executive orders over each of the subsequent two years. Both Jimmy Carter and G. H. W. Bush were typical in this.
Below, we can see the number of executive orders carried out by George Herbert Walker Bush during his first three years in office.
- 1989 -- E.O. 12668 -- E.O. 12698 (31 Executive orders signed)
- 1990 -- E.O. 12699 -- E.O. 12741 (43 Executive orders signed)
- 1991 -- E.O. 12742 -- E.O. 12787 (46 Executive orders signed) 
Similar was Carter's initial three years in office.
- 1977 -- E.O. 11967 -- E.O. 12032 (66 Executive orders signed)
- 1978 -- E.O. 12033 -- E.O. 12110 (78 Executive orders signed)
- 1979 -- E.O. 12111 -- E.O. 12187 (77 Executive orders signed)
At the very least most every single president of the USA in recent memory had increased the usage of executive orders in his second year of office. In contrast, here is what happened for William Jefferson Clinton's presidency in terms of employing executive orders:
1993 -- E.O. 12834 -- E.O. 12890 (57 Executive orders issued)