Before moving into the White House, President-elect Trump needs to double check the Oval Office for trip wires. His predecessor has spent the last month setting traps to ensnare the new administration.Surprised? Why? For his inspiration, Obama has to look no further than the final days of the Clinton administration laying traps for the unwary Bush 43 administration.
Obama has prepared what looks like a classic episode from Mad Magazine: Executive vs. Executive. Instead of delivering on his own agenda, Trump will be forced to deal with the aftermath of his predecessor's final binge. They could consume a notable portion of Trump's first 100 days, but if left unaddressed it would stain his administration long term.
Just days before President George W. Bush's inauguration, Clinton weaponized EPA regulations to set a trap for the new administration. Despite complaints from rural communities about crippling compliance costs and a lack of a scientific consensus, Clinton adopted aggressive arsenic standards for drinking water. When Bush eased the mandate, it unleashed a torrent of criticism that had been long planned, most notably from Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York.Remember this? It's the simplest thing in the world to do: tell the EPA to lower the standard for arsenic in drinking water, no matter what it costs. It inevitably will be seen as good by environmental groups and any action to consider the cost/benefit curve for not using the most aggressive levels will be seen as "killing the children!" and that will be screamed by the press. This year's equivalent? How about
Despite calling for studies based on "sound science," Bush couldn't shake accusations that he wanted to poison children. The attacks found their mark, and Bush later remembered the experience as one of the worst mistakes of his young administration.
With a stroke of his pen Wednesday, Obama declared 1.65 million acres of Utah's vast wilderness a national monument. The area, called Bears Ear, is certainly beautiful, but that is no reason for the feds to remove it from local control. Indian tribes, Gov. Gary Herbert and Utah's entire congressional delegation want the state to handle preservation.Add to this the example of closing areas off shore the US to oil exploration forever. Go watch the news video referenced in the previous paragraph: at the Salt Lake Tribune. As is the case with essentially everything, the country divides itself along essentially partisan lines, with one group in favor of anything Obama does and another group opposed to it. Trump would be wise to condemn Obama's weaponization of the government agencies and the weaponization of executive action (by any name) itself. There's a line between saying he should do this and him ending up sounding too much like Obama blaming everything on Bush until, oh, a few minutes ago. Unfortunately, I don't know how where to place that balance.
Most of Utah opposes the land grab and have already called on Trump to reverse the move. He should do so, but should also tread carefully. The pitfall is deep and the barbs at the bottom are sharp. Trump will certainly be branded an enemy of the environment if he overturns Obama's high-handed expropriation.