Everything you need to know about President Obama's much-touted executive order directing federal departments and agencies to do a regulatory review is summarized in this forgotten quote from John Mitchell, President Nixon's first attorney general: "Watch what we do, not what we say."

Mitchell, who also managed Nixon's 1968 and 1972 campaigns and was convicted for his role in the Watergate scandal, knew his boss was the master of the Washington Wink-Wink -- saying one thing while fully intending to do something quite different, if not the exact opposite.

Tricky Dick often talked like a conservative, but most of his major domestic policies were conventional liberalism: Think wage and price controls, funding massive regional government bureaucracies at the expense of state and local authorities, creating the Environmental Protection Agency, expanding LBJ's War on Poverty, and imposing affirmative action race quotas on hiring.

Now along comes Obama, promising in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that his new executive order will result in "a governmentwide review of the rules already on the books to remove outdated regulations that stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive."

Sounds good, right? Maybe Obama really did get the message voters intended for him to hear in November about too much federal spending, too much government red tape, and getting the economy growing again.

Don't get your hopes up, Bunky. As with virtually everything Obama says, there is less -- and more -- here than meets the eye. For one thing, the new executive order isn't really new at all. It simply reiterates and restates principles and procedures President Clinton put forth in a 1993 executive order.

So Obama is doing nothing more than ordering the federal bureaucrats to do what they were told to do 17 years ago. And I am confident that most, if not all of Clinton's predecessors in the Oval Office signed similar executive orders.

The more to Obama's executive order is what he's already done, which is to impose an unprecedented deluge of costly new regulations that will drive up costs for consumers, make it harder for businesses to create new jobs, and stifle the very innovation and creativity the chief executive claims to want to encourage.

Just last year, federal departments and agencies issued 46 new major regulatory programs. According to the Heritage Foundation, that's the biggest single-year total since before 1990. Based on figures calculated by the bureaucrats, the total cost to the private sector of these new regulations will be in excess of $26 billion. And, trust me, since bureaucrats always underestimate the cost of their edicts, you can be sure that $26 billion is way too conservative.

Heritage analysts estimate the overall cost to the economy of complying with federal regulation to be in excess of $1 trillion. Think how many new jobs could be created if private businesses had that $1 trillion to invest instead of spending it complying with petty dictates from Washington bureaucrats.

Even more important, those 46 new regulatory edicts from 2010 do not include the red tape blizzard now being prepared by EPA in its unilateral move to regulate every nook and cranny of the private economy in the benighted drive against greenhouse gases.

Nor does it include the estimated 90,000 new pages of regulations to be promulgated by the Department of Health and Human Services in the implementation of Obamacare, which has already resulted in 10,000 new edicts.

Obama is trying to sound like a reformed admirer of private enterprise and moderation in government. Don't be fooled by this Nixonian attempt to distract from the reality of damages inflicted on the economy in 2009 and 2010 by Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Mark Tapscott is editorial page editor of The Washington Examiner and proprietor of Tapscott's CopyDesk blog on washingtonexaminer.com.