A random juxtaposition of two articles I chanced to read in succession this morning produced my first good laugh of the day. First up, the latest effort to excuse President Obama’s incessant golfing, vacationing, partying, and fundraising from Michael Brendan Dougherty at The Week:
In truth, Obama’s golf habit, along with his newer practice of enjoying long dinners with people he finds interesting, is one of the best things about his presidency. Unconsciously, President Obama is doing a good thing for the American Republic. He’s helping us to disgorge an overly symbolic view of the presidency, in which the president is the ever-present lawman, the people’s official therapist, and the embodiment of the public mood. Obama golfing is a sign that the American presidency is still a job, not a divine office.
American presidents no longer take enough time off from their duties and from politics. Their vacation homes become a kind of mobile White House, where they receive constant briefings, conduct meetings, and negotiate with politicians here and abroad. The mania for the president to always be online extends even to his plane rides. It’s not enough that his security detail be able to communicate, the president himself must always be on call.
Early presidents like James Madison and Thomas Jefferson took months off at a time. John Adams left Washington for over half a year to tend to his wife. While presidents today could hardly go to these extremes, they could surely be more leisurely than they are.
There might be something to this argument if we were talking about President Woodrow Wilson (and if Obama wasn’t quite so obnoxious about enjoying his presidential perks.) It’s a knee-slapping howler of pure comedy when applied to His Imperial Majesty King Barack I, whose entire presidency – all the way back to using faux Greek columns as a backdrop to present himself as a demigod – is based on creating “an overly symbolic view of the presidency” as a “divine office.” Nearly everything this President does other than showing himself a good time at taxpayer expense is designed to elevate the stature of his office, or claim transcendent managerial wisdom for himself personally. To some extent, the Golfer-in-Chief reaps what he has sown for himself by claiming he can handle his duties just fine from the eighteenth hole.
But he’s also the president who perpetually claims to be out-of-touch and uninformed about major issues, saying he learns about every scandal by reading newspapers several days later. His image is a careful blend of overwhelming power and irresponsible helplessness, in which he alternates between posing as the nigh-omnipotent master of culture and industry – the smartest investor, finest doctor, and wisest manager in America – or the underdog victim of powerful forces within the Beltway and beyond America’s borders. Obama will bounce between these postures in a matter of hours, as political expediency dictates, trusting his friendly media to pivot on a dime with him.
Which brings us to incredible shift in Obama’s countenance that occurs when he’s focused on something he wants to do, such as shred the Constitution to cook up a “climate change” treaty that will vacuum power and money out of the American private sector. All of a sudden, he’s not the disconnected naif trying to sink a putt while Iraq burns to the ground behind him. No, he’s Super-President again, and who needs Congress to fulfill its constitutional duty of ratifying treaties?
For that matter, who cares that “climate change” is not happening, has not been happening for the better part of two decades… and maybe won’t return for another decade or two, when the Church of Global Warming’s voodoo doctors think the Mischievous Sea Gods might finally belch up all the warming from the Angry Sky Gods they’ve been hiding, in defiance of the clergy’s computerized climate models? Man-made global warming may be a load of bunkum, but the political science that uses it as a source of energy to fuel the growth of the State is still solid as a rock.
And so, the New York Times gives us the latest adventure of the overly symbolic divine Presidency:
The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress.
In preparation for this agreement, to be signed at a United Nations summit meeting in 2015 in Paris, the negotiators are meeting with diplomats from other countries to broker a deal to commit some of the world???s largest economies to enact laws to reduce their carbon pollution. But under the Constitution, a president may enter into a legally binding treaty only if it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate.
Constitution? You mean that old piece of paper that would knock down eighty percent of the mega-State if taken seriously? The dusty old relic that stands in the way of Really Smart People who are Better Than You doing what is necessary to save the Earth at your expense? No problemo:
To sidestep that requirement, President Obama???s climate negotiators are devising what they call a ???politically binding??? deal that would ???name and shame??? countries into cutting their emissions. The deal is likely to face strong objections from Republicans on Capitol Hill and from poor countries around the world, but negotiators say it may be the only realistic path.
???If you want a deal that includes all the major emitters, including the U.S., you cannot realistically pursue a legally binding treaty at this time,??? said Paul Bledsoe, a top climate change official in the Clinton administration who works closely with the Obama White House on international climate change policy.
So His Majesty will simply re-write the 1992 climate treaty, the same way he periodically rewrites the Affordable Care Act, and presto! You don’t need Congress to ratify economically devastating treaties any more, no matter what the American people want, or what the Constitution says.
Countries would be legally required to enact domestic climate change policies ??? but would voluntarily pledge to specific levels of emissions cuts and to channel money to poor countries to help them adapt to climate change. Countries might then be legally obligated to report their progress toward meeting those pledges at meetings held to identify those nations that did not meet their cuts.
???There???s some legal and political magic to this,??? said Jake Schmidt, an expert in global climate negotiations with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group. ???They???re trying to move this as far as possible without having to reach the 67-vote threshold??? in the Senate.
It doesn’t sound like that “legal and political magic” is doing much to bamboozle Third World nations, which have a clear sense of what they expect the developed world to give them, and care much more about cold, hard cash than the global-warming movement’s hollow political rituals:
A deal that would not need to be ratified by the United States or any other nation is also drawing fire from the world???s poorest countries. In African and low-lying island nations ??? places that scientists say are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change ??? officials fear that any agreement made outside the structure of a traditional United Nations treaty will not bind rich countries to spend billions of dollars to help developing nations deal with the forces of climate change.
Poor countries look to rich countries to help build dams and levees to guard against coastal flooding from rising seas levels, or to provide food aid during pervasive droughts.
???Without an international agreement that binds us, it???s impossible for us to address the threats of climate change,??? said Richard Muyungi, a climate negotiator for Tanzania. ???We are not as capable as the U.S. of facing this problem, and historically we don???t have as much responsibility. What we need is just one thing: Let the U.S. ratify the agreement. If they ratify the agreement, it will trigger action across the world.???
If this treaty was subjected to the American people’s representatives for ratification, there would be all sorts of uncomfortable questions about what it contains, and the pseudo-scientific assertions underlying its demands. (Someone might even dare to read the actual text of the U.N.’s latest climate-change report, which is far more reserved, speculative, and even apologetic than the brief summaries used to nudge the media herd in the right direction.) Some of those uncomfortable questions would come from nervous Democrats who don’t want to lower the economic boom on voters who already blame them for ObamaCare. Passing some weird hybrid of surgically altered 1990s treaty language and political carbon emissions will make those delicate political realities irrelevant.
The greatest con job in human history rolls onward, perpetuated far beyond the death of its “science” by politicians who know they can cudgel billions out of the private sector by selectively blaming it for bad weather. And anyone who thinks the “optics” of the presidency don’t matter needs to consider the difference in Barack Obama’s behavior when he climbs out of his golf cart and gets to work on the transformational power grabs he really cares about. He’s not much use when it comes to threats from America’s enemies, or even civil unrest within our borders… but he’ll stay up all night figuring out ways to subvert the Constitution, or load up talking points for his next domestic political drama.
Update: The saga of Obama’s climate-change end-run around the Constitution is also a very interesting contrast with his excuse for letting the border crisis swell out of control. After initially promising the American people that the border violators would be “repatriated” – and even talking about putting up billboards in Central America containing that promise, to dissuade people from throwing their kids across the border – the Administration suddenly began claiming its hands were tied by the William Wilberforce Act. The Act didn’t even apply to the Central American migratory wave, but no matter – it was supposedly a set of unbreakable legal shackles that prevented any significant number of deportations from taking place. That law was carved in stone, with even its vague penumbras preventing the Obama Administration from taking action… but the Constitutional role of Congress in ratifying treaties is a minor detail that can be finessed with clever procedural and semantic trickery.