Cheat-Seeking Missles

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Bush's Global Warming Moves: Legacy-Hunt Or Smart Stuff?

What in the world is President Bush doing talking about a greenhouse gas initiative after so bravely standing up against the alarmists for so long? Is it legacy-hunting? Tony Blankley, writing in Real Clear Politics, thinks so:
The last months of a presidential administration are often dangerous.
Presidents -- looking to their legacies -- go to desperate lengths to try to
enhance their reputations for posterity. A pungent example of such practices by the Bush administration was reported above the fold on the front page of The Washington Times Monday: "Bush prepares global warming initiative."

Oh, dear. Just as an increasing number of scientists are finding their
courage to speak out against the global warming alarmists and just as a building body of evidence and theories challenge the key elements of the human-centric carbon-based global warming theories, George W. Bush takes this moment to say, in effect: "We are all global alarmists now."
He's got it wrong. Bush is instead taking a moment to say, "We're outnumbered, circle the wagons, and let's try to get out of this mess with as little long-term damage as possible." Or, as Kenny Rogers would say, "You gotta know when to fold them."

Here's the current lay of the land. You've got attorneys general, state and federal judges, state and federal regulators, state legislatures, Congress, the Supreme Court, the Administration and special interests from Earth First! to the automakers, all focused on global warming, all running willy-nilly, nearly all embracing controls, and a few trying to contain the hysteria.

The WSJ agrees with my view:
Environmentalists and other groups already have gained ground without
comprehensive emissions legislation. They have successfully pushed lawsuits and
regulatory actions that would use the Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act and
National Environmental Policy Act to address the problem of global warming.
Bush looked at this picture and decided not to leave it for the next guy. He has not announced any plans to set any kind of limits; rather, he will attempt to establish a framework that will contain damage to the economy while addressing human greenhouse gas emissions. Again, the WSJ:
The White House fears a regulatory train wreck that could create a bewildering and costly set of rules affecting not just major emitters but office buildings and schools.
I was involved in a mirror-reverse situation at the outset of the Clinton Administration in 1992. The California gnatcatcher, a small song bird, was under consideration for an endangered species listing and the deadline for the decision was just 30 days after Clinton took office. Our efforts with the first Bush administration were going nowhere and we were looking at a $13 billion impact on the housing industry in SoCal.

Clinton was elected with the environmental vote, just as Bush enjoys the support of industry today. But he also had campaigned against an "economic train wreck" on environmental issues, and we were able to convince him and his Interior Secretary, Bruce Babbitt, that the gnatcatcher was his trainwreck.

Eager to avoid such a meltdown in the first months of his term, Clinton allowed Babbitt to be flexible, and we succeeded in getting a "threatened" listing rather than "endangered," which opened the door to more liberal regulatory processes, basically saving both the gnatcatcher and the SoCal economy. And throughout his term, the Greenies still loved Clinton.

The same idea is in play here. Bush appears to be going away from a core constituency -- industrialists -- and towards the enemy, but in fact he is trying to stop the trainwreck and realizes that counter-intuitive actions are needed.

This is why recent news that 61 percent of historians rank Bush's presidency as the worst is ridiculous and premature. The greatness, or great failure, of a president doesn't become evident until the years after he leaves office, and Bush's action today on global warming is just one more reason why I hold out hope that he'll go down as a much better than average prez, once the dust and greenhouse gas settles.

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