Timothy Noah had a typically sharp article this morning in Politico about the Obama administration implementing new rules that help promote a progressive policy, the most important being the new overtime wage rule, which guarantees the dangerous and un-American notion that people should be paid for the work they do.
The reason there is a rush of rules is due, as Noah explains, to a regulation passed in 1996 by Newt’s Congress. Per Noah:
Blame the Congressional Review Act. Enacted by a newly Republican Congress in 1996 as part of Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America, the CRA law gave Congress 60 legislative days after a regulation was issued to block it by using an expedited procedure.
Aimed at taming the regulatory leviathan, the law proved almost entirely ineffective because presidents could — and did — routinely veto resolutions of disapproval against their own agencies’ rules. But under one circumstance, the CRA could be deadly. Late in a president’s final year, 60 legislative days (which extend much longer than calendar days) could carry over into another administration. A new president of the opposite party would be tempted to squelch a predecessor’s pet project.
Now, since then, there have only been two changes of administration: Clinton to Bush and Bush to Obama, so this is still new. Geroge W. Bush knew to protect himself. He was the first President to use the law, overturning a late-term Clinton regulation that instituted ergonomic standards to protect workers against the crippling problems of repetitive stress. It’s important to remember that Bush wasn’t a hapless doof thrust into global chaos; he was an evil boneheaded dork who ran a cruel administration from the jump.
Regardless, he understood the rules, and so did the same thing that President Obama is doing now. As Noah said, Obama is actually behind the Bush pace for pushing rules. Obviously, that means he’s a tyrant, because nothing that happened before Obama was elected counts, but that’s not really the point. I’m interested in Politico here.
I don’t know if Noah writes his own headlines. But the headline here is at clickbaity and incendiary odds with the rest of the piece: “Obama Rushes Out Rules To Guarantee Legacy.” To be fair, Noah’s first sentence includes the weighted and misleading phrase “shoveling out regulations nearly one-third faster in its final year than during the previous three”, mentions the cost to business, and has a GOP congressman talk of a “regulatory onslaught” before any explanation, but the rest is sober and measured and comprehensive.
So a lot of this is on Politic, though some on Noah. If you read the headline, and skimmed the beginning, you’d think this was some kind of dastardly new scheme. “Rushing out rules” and “shoveling” at a clip nearly 1/3rd faster (which isn’t that much faster if you think about it- I don’t know how much heavy lifting “nearly” does there). It’s dramatic, and makes the continuation of the job he was elected to do seem nefarious.
But it’s the word “legacy” that really sticks. Journalists, especially of the Politico ilk, love to do this. The Climate Change accord was Obama shoring up his environmental legacy. The deal with Iran was his foreign policy legacy. Now, Presidents, as are people who aren’t in history books, are concerned with how they’ll be remembered. There’s no doubt about that. But the quest for a”legacy” is really them doing the job they were elected to do. The Climate Change and the Iran Accord were smart policy: progressive and important and a chance to make the world a better, more livable, and more peaceful place. Even if you disagree, this was policy. It was policy he was elected to enact.
But to Politico, all is artifice. The actions don’t matter; just the perception. It’s a TV show and a ratings grab, a garish tent of fools. It’s not just that they paint these pictures. They assume everyone is acting in equally bad faith, and that makes it easy for us to believe they are. It’s both cynical and credulous, and misses the point in every way.
Politico’s main sin isn’t that it is a suck-up fest of conservative 3rd-wayism or that it is as shallow as it is insipid (writers like Noah notwithstanding). It’s that it wants you to be as dumb as it is. It believes that you want it. It degrades anything that is real because it can’t understand how someone can look beyond tomorrow’s headline. That’s the main reason Obama has always confounded them. He refuses to see the world in the same blinkered and pointless way that they do.