December 31, 2016

WASHINGTON EXAMINER: How Trump Clears Obama’s Minefield.

Before moving into the White House, President-elect Trump needs to double check the Oval Office for trip wires. His predecessor has spent the last month setting traps to ensnare the new administration.

President Obama has more on his mind than an effort to solidify a legacy and nail down policy. He has adopted a guerrilla strategy designed to defame and debilitate. Inherently political, it’s administrative sabotage by extra legislative means and it threatens to hobble Trump.

Obama has prepared what looks like a classic episode from Mad Magazine: Executive vs. Executive. Instead of delivering on his own agenda, Trump will be forced to deal with the aftermath of his predecessor’s final binge. They could consume a notable portion of Trump’s first 100 days, but if left unaddressed it would stain his administration long term.

To avoid that hazard, an examination of President Clinton’s final days in office is helpful. After all, Obama didn’t develop these tactics on his own. He lifted them directly from a manual written by the Clintons.

Just days before President George W. Bush’s inauguration, Clinton weaponized EPA regulations to set a trap for the new administration. Despite complaints from rural communities about crippling compliance costs and a lack of a scientific consensus, Clinton adopted aggressive arsenic standards for drinking water. When Bush eased the mandate, it unleashed a torrent of criticism that had been long planned, most notably from Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York.

Despite calling for studies based on “sound science,” Bush couldn’t shake accusations that he wanted to poison children. The attacks found their mark, and Bush later remembered the experience as one of the worst mistakes of his young administration.

Now Obama’s running the same play. But while his midnight regulations haven’t escaped media attention, journalists continue giving the Obama administration charitable coverage. By focusing on the policy impact, they ignore and amplify the coming political fallout. . . .

Although Obama promised a smooth transition, he’s moved unilaterally to make that impossible. He lacks the grace and modesty to recognize that the country does not want him or his policies any longer. His indefinite oil ban in the Arctic Ocean provides a perfect example. Overturning the ban would require congressional action and incur significant political opportunity cost. For every regulation Trump overturns, he risks letting another slip into the Federal Register forever.

None of this should dissuade Trump from delivering on his pledge to roll back regulation. But he should proceed with the proper preparation and study on both the substantive policies and on the public relations.

Trump would be wise to condemn early and often Obama’s weaponization of executive action. Remember how Obama blamed everything on Bush until, oh, about the sixth year of his presidency. Trump should make sure the public knows where the blame really lies.

I expect he will.