Democrats spent the post-Cold War era’s first two decades relaxed about Russian provocations and revanchism. Today, Dems are in high dudgeon over the closeness of secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson, to Vladimir Putin.
Tillerson, as head of Exxon Mobil, made deals with Russia, received Russia’s Order of Friendship and opposed U.S. sanctions. That’s troubling but not necessarily disqualifying. At the time, Tillerson was working for Exxon Mobil.
The question is whether and how he distinguishes between the United States’ interests and Exxon’s and whether as agent of the United States he would adopt a tougher Russia policy.
We shall soon find out. That’s what confirmation hearings are for.
The left is equally angry other Cabinet picks don’t appear to share the mission of the agency they are nominated to lead. As if agency missions are divinely ordained. They aren’t even constitutionally ordained. The Department of Education, for example, was created by President Carter as a payoff to teachers’ unions for their support.
Teachers are wonderful. But teachers’ unions protect benefits and privileges and don’t necessarily improve schooling. Which is why, for instance, they oppose school choice.
Conservatives believe the purpose of schooling – and therefore of the Department of Education – is to give students the best education. Under Trump’s nominee, Betsy DeVos, a school choice proponent, the department will no longer be an arm of teachers’ unions.
She is also less likely to allow the department’s Office for Civil Rights to keep appropriating to itself the role of arbiter of social justice issues – including transgender students and bathrooms – which are best left up to states and localities.
The most incendiary nomination, however, is Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. As Oklahoma attorney general, he has been part of lawsuits to curtail EPA power. And has been upheld more than once by the courts.
Liberals think he is unfit to serve because he doesn’t believe in anthropogenic climate change. They would love to turn his confirmation hearing into a Scopes monkey trial. Republicans shouldn’t allow it. The challenges to EPA actions are based solely on the Constitution. The EPA has exceeded its authority and unilaterally created rules.
Pruitt’s is the most important nomination because it directly attacks the adminstrative state’s insidious growth. We have reached the point where the Waters of the United States rule – meant to protect American waterways – is interpreted to mean if a storm leaves a pond on your property, the feds may tell you what you can and cannot do with it. (The final rule excluded puddles.)
On a larger scale, Obama’s Clean Power Plan essentially federalizes power generation and regulation, not coincidentally also killing coal. This is the administration’s end run around – a Democratic – Congress’ rejection of Obama’s proposed 2009-2010 cap-and-trade legislation.
Pruitt’s nomination is a test of the proposition that agencies administer the law but don’t create it.
This reassertion of basic constitutionalism seems extreme to some. But the Obama administration can blame only itself for its liberal overreach. Some legislation will be repealed. Some executive orders will be canceled. But most important: the bonfire of the agencies. We may soon be secure not just in our puddles but our ponds.