Pres­i­dent Obama’s part­ing shots

Free at last as his pres­i­dency ends, he paints a dis­col­ored legacy

The Washington Times Daily - - EDITORIAL -

Pres­i­dent Obama is mak­ing sure that Amer­i­cans won’t for­get him soon. From shut­ting down promis­ing sources of do­mes­tic en­ergy pro­duc­tion to throw­ing open the na­tion’s pris­ons and bor­ders, the lame duck in the White House em­ploys a lit­tle quack­ery to make good on his prom­ise to fun­da­men­tally trans­form Amer­ica.

Mr. Obama hur­ried off last week for his an­nual Christ­mas va­ca­tion in Hawaii, leav­ing be­hind a stun­ning ex­ec­u­tive or­der that ex­ploded the fol­low­ing day like a grenade. The pres­i­dent as­serted ju­ris­dic­tion over large ex­panses of the At­lantic and Arc­tic Oceans, ban­ning oil and gas drilling, which his lawyers are try­ing to make per­ma­nent. This was clearly or­ches­trated with Canada, which an­nounced a com­pan­ion pro­hi­bi­tion on en­ergy ex­plo­ration in its Arc­tic wa­ters. Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials cited the 1953 Outer Con­ti­nen­tal Shelf Lands Act, which they say au­tho­rizes the pres­i­dent to pro­tect wa­ters from drilling but con­tains no pro­vi­sion for how the or­der can be re­versed.

The pres­i­dent had a sur­prise for the coal in­dus­try: new rules gov­ern­ing the mon­i­tor­ing of wa­ter qual­ity of streams and wa­ter­ways in the vicin­ity of coal mines. The reg­u­la­tions are meant to take ef­fect just as Mr. Obama leaves of­fice and will cost coal com­pa­nies an ex­tra $81 mil­lion a year. The Stream Pro­tec­tion Rule may be tem­po­rary. The Con­gres­sional Re­view Act gives Congress au­thor­ity to re­verse reg­u­la­tions pro­posed within the pre­vi­ous 60 leg­isla­tive days, and House Speaker Paul Ryan says that’s ex­actly what Congress will do.

Mr. Obama’s prom­ise to Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump of a “smooth and ef­fi­cient” transition of power evap­o­rated quickly. His en­ergy pro­duc­tion reg­u­la­tions and re­stric­tions are booby traps that will stall Mr. Trump’s plans to cre­ate hun­dreds of thou­sands of jobs by un­do­ing the Obama war on fos­sil fu­els. In his haste to tie his suc­ces­sor’s hands, the pres­i­dent set a record for writ­ing new rules. The Fed­eral Reg­is­ter, the unabridged com­pi­la­tion of all rules and reg­u­la­tions, hit 91,642 pages last week, sur­pass­ing the pre­vi­ous mark by 10,000 pages.

Mr. Obama par­doned 78 fed­eral pris­on­ers this month and granted 153 com­mu­ta­tions. His acts of cle­mency have set records that will be hard to break, 148 par­dons and 1,176 re­duc­tions in sen­tence, in­clud­ing 395 life sen­tences. Only non­vi­o­lent crim­i­nals are el­i­gi­ble for cle­mency, but the pres­i­dent in­cluded sev­eral drug deal­ers who en­forced their cru­elty with guns. The pres­i­dent is try­ing to empty the Guan­tanamo Bay de­ten­tion fa­cil­ity of the worst of the for­eign ter­ror­ists. Eigh­teen of the 59 re­main­ing pris­on­ers are said to be sched­uled for re­lease be­fore Jan. 20, the pres­i­dent’s last day in of­fice. The pres­i­dent’s cam­paign prom­ise to close the prison is likely to be bro­ken, de­spite his best ef­forts.

The Is­raelis won’t eas­ily for­get Mr. Obama’s part­ing shot at them, re­fus­ing to veto a U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion con­demn­ing the con­struc­tion of Is­raeli set­tle­ments on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. In do­ing so, the pres­i­dent broke with long­stand­ing tra­di­tion of de­fend­ing Amer­ica’s clos­est friend in the Mid­dle East. His rep­u­ta­tion for be­tray­ing Amer­ica’s friends will live long af­ter him.

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