- - Monday, June 5, 2017


The mainstream media has tortured the truth in reporting on President Donald Trump’s renunciation of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. It’s been called a treaty, but it was nothing of the sort. Instead, it was a unilateral act by President Obama that had no basis in the U.S. Constitution.

That’s not to say that the agreement wasn’t a treaty, and therefore something that required Senate ratification by a two-thirds majority, under the Constitution’s Treaty Clause (Art. I, § 2, cl. 2). That’s how the Framers of the Constitution understood the Clause. Here’s Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 75:

“The power of making treaties…relates neither to the execution of the subsisting laws, nor to the enaction of new ones; and still less to an exertion of the common strength. Its objects are CONTRACTS with foreign nations, which have the force of law, but derive it from the obligations of good faith. They are not rules prescribed by the sovereign to the subject, but agreements between sovereign and sovereign.”

The Paris agreement is also a treaty as defined by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, i.e., “an international agreement concluded between [two or more] States in written form and governed by international law….” 

So why does Senate confirmation matter? The Framers wisely believed that it would be unsafe to give one man alone the power to bind the country through a treaty. Again, here’s Hamilton in Federalist 75:

“[A] man raised from the station of a private citizen to the rank of chief magistrate, possessed of a moderate or slender fortune, and looking forward to a period not very remote when he may probably be obliged to return to the station from which he was taken, might sometimes be under temptations to sacrifice his duty to his interest, which it would require superlative virtue to withstand. An avaricious man might be tempted to betray the interests of the state to the acquisition of wealth. An ambitious man might make his own aggrandizement, by the aid of a foreign power, the price of his treachery to his constituents. The history of human conduct does not warrant that exalted opinion of human virtue which would make it wise in a nation to commit interests of so delicate and momentous a kind, as those which concern its intercourse with the rest of the world, to the sole disposal of a magistrate created and circumstanced as would be a President of the United States.”

Of course, presidents don’t like going to the Senate for approval of their pet projects. Back in 1998 Bill Clinton signed the Kyoto Treaty on global warming without submitting it to the Senate for ratification. He knew that, if he did so, the treaty would be DOA.

President George W. Bush withdrew the signature of the United States from the treaty in 2001, even as Donald Trump backed out of the Paris accord. In both cases there was a lot of huffing and puffing from the left, but Mr. Bush and Mr. Trump were simply doing what their voters wanted. They were also more faithful to the Constitution than either Mr. Clinton or Mr. Obama had been.

Mr. Obama’s signing of the Paris Climate Accord had no more constitutional standing than the currency of the Confederate States of America, and Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement did no more than officially bury a legally dead corpse.

Article 28 of the Agreement purported to prohibit any signatory nation from withdrawing until three years after its entry into force on Nov. 4, 2016. But that restriction—like the entire Agreement—was constitutionally null and void. No President can tie the hands of successors via executive agreements as opposed to treaties. Thus, President Trump is also constitutionally entitled to repudiate President Obama’s executive agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear weapons ambitions, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, because it was never ratified by the Senate nor enacted by Congress as a statute.

The Paris Agreement, moreover, is a hoax. It is to global warming what the Kellogg-Briand Pact was to international peace: sound and fury signifying nothing. The Agreement doesn’t create a means to verify that signatory nations are accurately reporting greenhouse gas emissions or enforcing limitations. China is in a pollution league by itself accounting for 30 percent of worldwide emissions. The United States is a distant second at 15 percent. While the mainstream media swoons over China’s professed commitment to renewable energy, it under-reports that air pollution masks in Beijing are necessary to survive, and that more than 1 million Chinese die annually from contaminated air.                

For the left, the fundamental extra-constitutional principle is “By any means necessary.” In demonizing Mr. Trump, however, it might want to consider how he might bind the United States if he could dispense the Senate oversight. The Framers were right. No single individual should have so much power, even if (and perhaps especially) if he’s the president.

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