Nothing came of complaints, voiced at the time, that Clinton was misusing or abusing the Antiquities Act when he created the controversial national monuments, sometimes in direct defiance of what representatives of the affected states thought. But even if the designations were constitutional, technically speaking, it would seem prudent for a chief executive to walk this path cautiously and not try to grab for more power than our system allots.
Clinton, as we know, was a rogue, who casually discarded such considerations (if they even flitted through his mind) in favor of political self-interest. He needed green votes to win reelection, and later to build a second-term “legacy,” and this was a quick, if typically slick, way to secure them. But more high-minded, less narcissistic presidents might exercise a little more self-restraint, putting what’s best for the country and, yes, the Constitution above political expediency. At least I hope we’ll have presidents of that character in the future.
Unlike his veep, Clinton was no eco-Calvinist. The only green he really cared about is found on a golf course. He was just a shrewd politician, who leaned green when his “triangulation” calculations called for it. But the precedent set by his go-it-alone, screw-Congress approach to green legacy-building could invite even greater temptations to eco-authoritarianism when the president is a committed ideologue, as our current president is.
Of course, going through Congress slows things down. That’s the point. It acts as a snare for nutty carbon-control schemes like cap-and-trade. But rather than take no for an answer on that issue, President Obama has instructed the EPA to pursue his ends through regulatory means. The “trading” part may be missing, but the “caps” are being put in place, whether Congress wants them or not, thanks to a spate of new federal rules — some executed, some still coming — that will make it nearly impossible to construct new coal-fired power plants, and could hasten the closure of existing plants across the United States.
And that’s undoubtedly just a preview of coming attractions in Obama’s second term.
This isn’t a president who retreats, or tacks to the center (“triangulates,” in Clinton’s term), when facing political headwinds. This president isn’t capable of admitting error. This is a president who doubles down on disastrous policies — whether on failed stimulus or failed green-energy “investments” like Solyndra — and defies somebody to stop him. We could thus see a major challenge to our system of checks and balances if this already-headstrong chief executive heeds the advice of those who are saying he should throw off constitutional shackles in order to take decisive action on climate change.
We’ll hear no squawks of protest about this from his fellow eco-authoritarians. It’s telling, for instance, that a number of prominent environmental groups have endorsed a plan to “reform” — meaning negate — Senate filibuster rules that give the minority a fighting chance.
Might this new wave of eco-authoritarianism rise to the level of a constitutional crisis in Obama’s second term? That depends on whether the other branches of government, along with the “watchdog” press, dare to precipitate a crisis by challenging presidential abuses of power. Such a crisis can materialize only when a power-grabber encounters determined resistance, from rival branches, from the press, or from the public at large. And that’s hard to envision under present circumstances.
A divided Congress doesn’t appear to have enough unity of purpose to confront an eco-authoritarian White House. And the lapdog media have shown no inclination to growl, or even bark, when this president crosses a line. If Obama remains as Teflon-coated as he has been, I’m guessing he could push the envelope much, much further than even Clinton did. And because he’s an ideologue, rather than just a political opportunist, this could take on an ominous aspect that was missing in the Bubba years.
No cause is so great that it justifies subversion of the democratic process. Those who argue otherwise are reckless people who ought to be treated with bipartisan suspicion and scorn. The health of the planet is in much less danger than the health of this republic, when people begin to seriously contemplate such acts of subversion. The rising tide we should fear is not an ocean tide swollen by ice melt, but a tide of tyranny that travels under the green banner.
— Sean Paige is deputy state director of Americans for Prosperity–Colorado and editor of MonkeywrenchingAmerica.com, a website that monitors the threat to our economy, property, and freedoms posed by green extremists.