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EDITORIAL: Presidential honeybee hysteria and hype

There’s panic in the White House over the latest disaster buzz

- - Friday, June 27, 2014

President Obama last week directed his national-security apparatus to put aside concerns over Crimea, the Syrian bloodbath, the Muslim Brotherhood, al Qaeda's incursion into Iraq and Beijing's ambitions in the South China Sea. From his desk in the Oval Office, the commander in chief told the chiefs of the major executive departments "to promote the health of honeybees and other pollinators."

The executive order applies to the National Security Council, State, Defense and even the departments of Transportation and Education. The message is, man must learn more about the plight of the bee before it's too late.

The White House campaign was ordered in response to news accounts (where the president says he usually learns about what's going on in the world) about apocalypse in bee world. The nearby environmental world has discovered something else to ban, a type of pesticide known as neonicotinoids. These chemicals may be killing honeybees. Or maybe not. The doom-criers can't really say how this happens. But they, like everyone else, know that without the bees, there would be no pollination and no flowers. Agriculture would be crippled without the little buzzers, and it's time to do something. The end is nearly nigh.

This sounds bad, but the facts, which can be as pesky as a bee in the ear, can't back up the hype. The Agriculture Department sends out workers whose job it is to count insects, and they counted 2.63 million honeybee hives in 2000. Last year, they counted 2.64 million. We presume this is done by extrapolation and estimation, but however the census is accomplished, it's clear there's no crisis requiring the urgent coordination of 14 Cabinet departments and agencies. Such panics, we suppose, are the inevitable consequence of electing a president long on style and short on substance. Barack Obama, our first metrosexual president, is first and foremost a man of fashion.

Mr. Obama, who grooves on hype, ridicules anyone who rejects the sky-is-falling hysteria over global warming. "In Congress," he recently said, "folks will tell you climate change is a hoax or a fad or a plot." He knows better. "I've got a bunch of scientists at NASA, and I've got a bunch of scientists at EPA." However, the views, like the scientists, come in bunches, too. These views change more frequently than the length of milady's hemline.

A headline in The New York Times in 1895 scared everybody: "Geologists think the world may be frozen up again." The scare lasted until The Associated Press speculated that the ice age might not happen, reporting in 1933: "America in longest warm spell since 1776; temperature line records a 25-year rise."

When bell-bottoms came into style, the fear of an ice age returned. The New York Times reprised the fright in a headline in 1975: "Major Cooling Widely Considered to Be Inevitable." Students of Generation X will recall dire warnings in their grade-school textbooks that the Earth would be freezing over any day. Now we're back to the warming scare. That's the very definition of a fad.

Whether the apocalypse is triggered by bees, warming, cooling, miniskirts or knee-length frocks, Mr. Obama will be there with the only solution he can offer: more government. He should take a baby aspirin and lie down for a while.