- - Tuesday, August 30, 2016


The emperor has no clothes, and it’s “we the people” who are expected to butt out. President Obama has flaunted his disdain for the Constitution, and has assumed powers he was never meant to hold. Now Mr. Obama is playing coy about whether he will set U.S. climate change policy on his own uncertain authority. His act would make a flattering addition to his White House scrapbook, but scraps seldom make an enduring legacy.

The president will travel to China on Friday and plans are afoot for him to join Chinese President Xi Jinping in formally signing the Paris climate agreement fashioned by 200 nations last December. The problem is that Mr. Xi, as boss of the Chinese Community Party, can manufacture all the power to needs to seal the agreement, and Mr. Obama can’t. If he signs the pact, he’ll only be playing a word game.

Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution, the so-called Treaty Clause, specifies that international treaties with foreign nations may only be signed after they are ratified by a supermajority of the U.S. Senate. The Senate has not done that. Unfazed, the Obama White House has chosen not to call the work of the Paris climate session a treaty, thereby avoiding the inconvenient requirement. Instead, it would be considered a non-binding agreement. The president could try to enforce it as long as he occupies the White House, but that, God be praised, won’t be for much longer.

This doesn’t please certain members of the U.S. Senate who reject the terms of the Paris pact, which call for nations to hold the increase in global temperatures to less than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. “The Paris agreement, like the Kyoto agreement, is full of empty promises that will have no meaningful impact on the climate,” says Sen. James Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican. “The problem with international climate change agreements is that they ignore basic economic and political realities and therefore are doomed to failure.”

Nonetheless, Mr. Obama has proceeded with plans to cut back on carbon-dioxide emissions by waging a devastating war on coal-fired electricity. It’s only by Providence or the president’s dumb luck that the fracking revolution enabled utilities to make up for the loss of coal power with low-cost natural gas. Additionally, he authorized the payment of $500 million to the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund, part of a $3 billion scam he made to build renewable energy projects in Third World nations. A true believer in the idea that it’s humans, not the sun, who determine the Earth’s climate, Mr. Obama says the Paris agreement is “the best chance we’ve had to save the one planet that we’ve got.” It’s every ideologue’s dream that his wit, if not wisdom, will save the world.

Mr. Obama’s Paris accord is of a piece with other executive actions he has taken that demonstrate his disregard for the Constitution. His order, granting amnesty to the illegal immigrant parents of legal immigrant children, was suspended by the courts, and he used his pen to spring hundreds of felons, some of whom were serving time for drug dealing while armed.

Every president strives to leave the Oval Office with a record of accomplishment he and his friends can be proud of. Given Mr. Obama’s disregard for the limits of his office, all he’s likely to leave is a rendering of “Kilroy was here.”

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