High Hopes, Low Expectations, and Deep Fears


It can be crazy-making to respond to every utterance and back-and-forth that happens in Washington, if for no other reason than the sincerity deficit plaguing our elected officials makes it largely pointless. There is an enormous industry here of making quite a lot out of every one of those utterances potentially relevant to their own lobbying jobs, and this is a blog, and one that’s clearly read in most quarters of Team Alarmism — including yesterday, I’m willing to bet, judging by the spasmodic and odd vow made today by Senate majority leader Harry Reid.

A Greenwire story this afternoon reported Reid’s sudden announcement of plans for Senate floor action on a “climate” bill by late summer (sung to the tune of “hi-i-igh hopes, he’s got hi-i-igh hopes”). Wrote Greenwire, “Reid’s plans also dovetail with those of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who has pledged a first-ever floor vote this year on a climate bill.”

Of course you two will!

Now, while this may have sent a few panicked trade-association lobbyists diving under their desks, rocking in the fetal position and clutching their worry beads, it is worth recalling various issues raised by such ambitions.

Some of the issues were admitted in the Greenwire story: Democrats do not know what kind of bill they want — cap-and-trade or a tax among other undecided, key features such as whether to include provisions demanded by unions (and some in industry) sure to start a trade war; further divisions exist within the Democratic caucus; and numerous committees will, ahem, “help” this time, on the heels of last year’s Barbara Boxer-led debacle. Now just toss those on top of the elephant in the bathtub — that the members are very wary of being blamed for doing this to you, particularly during a recession.

Still, for reasons cited below, it is important to recall that some of these advocates have in mind a best-case scenario of a) a near-term EPA endangerment finding that initiates a regulatory process; used b) as the excuse to threaten legislation; which will c) cow certain business groups into suing for peace; as the d) excuse/cover for actually voting on legislation — all to occur before December.

Whatever the likelihood of all of this falling their way — and what is, to my mind, the fanciful ritual of happy talk whenever their chances seem lowest — there is one thing that worries them (get your pencils ready, Reid staffers). That is the increasing evidence that we are seeing in this administration not clumsiness or a political tin ear, but serious and committed socialism (which is not something said lightly) — and, more to the point, a serious desire to ram such radicalism through as fast as possible and in as compressed a time frame as possible, as opposed to drip-drip-drip. Never let the threat of a carbon-emissions catastrophe go to waste. Paradoxical as it sounds, politically it is easier to defend imposing a Kyoto-style agenda along with the rest of the social democratic (at minimum) menu all at once, so that the radicalism of the constituent parts is obscured by the blur of haste.  An administration can find itself rejected by the public on corruption, a particular tax hike, a scandal; but a full complement of radicalism makes a harder target.

So despite the difficulty I have in respecting the nail-biting that I see among people who are paid to avoid having Washington do anything they can’t claim to have had a part of doing — even if it’s bad, because then they just say but boy you should’ve seen what it would’ve looked like — I think the Obama administration is not merely clumsy or reckless, but radical.

Despite the fact that Congress is not on board with their radicalism yet, they may find they are fully vested — having gotten into the foxhole with Obama, they may now conclude they are best served by digging deeper.
As a result, I say again that it is not time to simply wait to be hanged, or agree to the gallows but cheekily slow walk one’s way to the noose. It’s time to strike, to fight, to define this and to win.


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