- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 21, 2001

That at least a few of Bill Clinton's last-minute executive orders were illegal or improper should come as no surprise to westerners, including those whose lands were not actually designated as national monuments.

Those who need additional proof should read a recent report by Todd F. Gaziano, senior fellow in legal studies and director of the Center of Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation. In setting up what he believes to be the proper boundaries for the legitimate exercise of presidential prerogatives, Mr. Gaziano describes how far Mr. Clinton went out of bounds.

Mr. Gaziano found that although there were numerous occasions when Mr. Clinton fairly exercised his presidential powers and prerogatives, he also "proudly publicized his use of executive decrees in situations where he failed to achieve a legislative objective," and "repeatedly flaunted his executive order power to curry favor with narrow or partisan special interests."

Mr. Clinton attempted to win backing from the environmental lobby through a series of national monument proclamations enacted under the Antiquities Act of 1906. Mr. Clinton's monumental designations exceeded those of practically every president since FDR, which is not surprising, since on its web site, the National Park Service notes, "Since 1943 the proclamation authority has been used very sparingly, and seldom without advance congressional consultation and support." In that regard, numerous legislators have expressed concerns about Mr. Clinton's repeated failure to consult with them about monument designations.

While the Antiquities Act specifies that monuments be "the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects protected," Mr. Gaziano noted, "All of President Clinton's proclamations … cover very large areas of land." In an interview, Mr. Gaziano said that Mr. Clinton designated "millions of acres of territory with no archeological or historical significance," and in such circumstances, the designations may have been "nothing more than other ways of evading property management laws."

In the end, it should also not come as a surprise that a president who would pilfer Oval Office furniture and who apparently put up pardons for sale would be equally intemperate with presidential proclamations. Said Mr. Gaziano, "The land designations appear to be at least in part a payback to left-wing environmental supporters and possibly a search for a lasting legacy."

Unfortunately, Mr. Clinton's most lasting legacy will probably be his unrestricted abuse of legitimate presidential prerogatives.

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