Replacing the Imperial Presidency in the Age of Global Warming

I’d like to use the occasion of Al Gore’s op-ed in the NYT today to expand on something I said in my talk on Curbing the Imperial Presidency. In his book The Imperial Presidency, Arthur Schlesinger argued that the Imperial Presidency derived from foreign policy:

The Imperial Presidency was essentially the creation of foreign policy. A combination of doctrines and emotions–belief in permanent and universal crisis, fear of communism, faith in the duty and the right of the United States to intervene swiftly in every part of the world–had brought about the unprecedented centralization of decisions over war and peace in the Presidency. With this there came an unprecedented exclusion of the rest of the executive branch, of Congress, of the press and of public opinion in general from these decisions.

We would only need to replace the word terrorism for communism to apply this paragraph today–to describe how the rationale of crisis and fear justified the dangerous consolidation of power under the Executive. At the close of my talk on the Imperial Presidency, I said,

Finally, we have to use the Administration’s botchedpropaganda against it. It is clear to most, now, that the invasion of Iraq hadnothing to do with an attempt to prevent the proliferation of WMD, a desire tospread democracy, or a fight against terrorism. We need to keep refuting thosewho want to claim this war is part of the war on terror. But we need to takethat a step further and talk about the real reason the Administration didinvade Iraq: to prop up America’s threatened hegemonic position using a grandstrategy that is not only outdated and immoral, but guaranteed to beineffective in an era of global warming and peak oil.

Not Quite the Energy Task Force

I get the feeling today’s installment of Cheney started out as a story about the Energy Task Force. It also tells the story of the Klamath fish kill and snowmobiles in Yellowstone. The big news, though, is Christine Todd Whitman’s side of several issues, where Cheney blindly put business issues ahead of environmental requirements. In some ways, last week’s Rolling Stone article on Cheney’s involvement in climate change–which relies heavily on FOIAed documents–provides a valuable complement to the WaPo story, so I’m going to read them in conjunction. Doing so, I believe, closes the circle, shows how Cheney’s unwavering ties to the energy industry drive the rest of his actions.

The WaPo describes the Energy Task Force as an unquestioning affirmation of business assertions that environmental regulations hamper business and energy development.

Sitting through Cheney’s task force meetings, Whitman had beenstunned by what she viewed as an unquestioned belief that EPA’sregulations were primarily to blame for keeping companies from buildingnew power plants. "I was upset, mad, offended that there seemed to beso much head-nodding around the table," she said.

Whitman said she had to fight "tooth and nail" to prevent Cheney’stask force from handing over the job of reforming the New Source Reviewto the Energy Department, a battle she said she won only afterappealing to White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr.This was an environmental issue with major implications for air qualityand health, she believed, and it shouldn’t be driven by a task forceprimarily concerned with increasing production.

Directly out of that effort, Rolling Stone suggests, arose the propaganda campaign that served to undercut EPA itself.

How High Will the Upcoming Oil Scandals Go?

Back when I was reflecting on why Gayle Norton resigned her position as Interior Secretary, I thought she might be resigning just three steps ahead of the Abramoff investigations. She still might. But now I think it just as likely that she resigned just before the Inspector General started investigating how her Interior Department gave away our country’s wealth to the oil companies.

The Justice Department is investigating whether  the director of a multibillion-dollar oil-trading program at the Interior Department has been paid as a consultant for oil companies hoping for contracts.

The director of the program and three subordinates, all based inDenver, have been transferred to different jobs and have been orderedto cease all contacts with the oil industry until the investigation iscompleted some time next spring, according to officials involved.

This appears to have been the scam: Some time ago, the Interior Department introduced a "royalties in kind" program, which allowed oil companies to pay for the privilege of drilling for oil on our land in kind–in oil and gas–rather than in cold hard cash. The gimmick is that it was supposed to facilitate accounting. Up until recently (don’t worry–I’m going to figure out these dates), the oil went into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).* But the SPR apparently is all filled up now, so recently the US government started contracting with companies to sell the oil on the "open market." But, as these things are bound to happen in the BushCo world, we didn’t take open bids for the contracts to sell the oil. We apparently just gave companies with ties to a bunch of Interior Department employees in Denver the contracts, which of course meant we got less money than we otherwise would have.

Lamont's "Single Issue" Voters

The Q-Poll shows that 44% of Lamont’s supporters support him mainly because of Lieberman’s stance on the Iraq war. And Markos anticipates a bunch of pundits frowning on the large number of "Single Issue" voters.

For a pundit to suggest the Iraq war is a "Single Issue" simply betrays their ignorance of the impact that war has and will continue to have on this country and the rest of the world.

Some are opposed to the war because they’re opposed to 2,500 Americans dead, 18,000 Americans wounded, perhaps 100,000 Iraqis dead, untold wounded. Some oppose the war simply because it uses violence to solve problems that should be solved using other means.

Some are opposed to the war because it has ruined our military. Two-thirds of our active army and three-quarters of our National Guard face readiness problems because it needs to replace equipment used in Iraq. Extended deployments and lowered recruiting standards are having bad effects on the military, their families, and our mission. The Iraq war–sold as a way to make our country safer–has only exposed it defensively.

Some are opposed to the war because it has thoroughly destabilized Iraq, and threatens to destabilize the entire region. By almost every standard, Iraqi quality of life is worse today than it was under Saddam.

Some are opposed to the war because it has created precisely the problem that it was cynically sold as a way to prevent. Iraq is creating terrorists, at a time when the threat of terrorism remains very real.

Some are opposed to the war because it has turned us into an international pariah. Some countries no longer trust us. Others want nothing to do with our aggressive ways.