President Biden’s inauguration was a matter of mixed emotion for me. I was elated at President Trump’s loss. A man with a severe narcissistic personality disorder, given to demagogic arousal of nativism, protectionism, and distrust of international alliances, he lost to a mediocre opponent. He was only the third elected president since World War II to fail to win reelection. And he lost by a goodly margin: over 7 million popular votes, or a 4.5% margin.
But Biden’s inauguration day was disappointing. His speech was a bland dish of bromides served in soporific sauce, with a side of platitudes, in which he called for healing and unity. Well, fair enough: while I didn’t vote for the man, I certainly hope he can calm down the hysterical citizenry. Like all presidents, he has the power to choose what kind of ruler he will be. Biden is not a fine orator in the mold of a JFK or a Ronald Reagan, but he does have a knack of working with the opposing party to get legislation passed. If he runs an honest, competent, and centrist administration, he could earn for himself a fine place in history.
Yet what he did after his speech was disturbing, to say the least. He signed a large number of executive orders, which may signal that he will try (as both The Boss and Obama did) to govern independently of Congress. Admittedly, some of the orders were reasonable — aimed at the ending the epidemic that was so severely mishandled by The Boss’ administration, as well as providing relief for those put out of work and suffering through no fault of their own. But many of these executive orders signaled that Biden might well try to govern from the left.
Biden’s speech was a bland dish of bromides served in soporific sauce, with a side of platitudes.
For example, Moderate Joe signed an order killing the Keystone pipeline once again. That pipeline was reviewed and found to be safe repeatedly during the Obama administration, but Obama kept killing the deal — all during a period of high unemployment. And while the Trump administration approved the project, environmentalist activist groups kept it tied up in court. Centrist Joe never even waited to review the program — for example, by evaluating how much more damage to the environment and human deaths would occur from shipping the oil by train and truck than by pipeline. He just used his centrist pen.
And Accommodating Joe immediately restored Obama’s policy of halting the leasing of federal lands for oil, gas, and coal leases. As of today about 12% of natural gas, 22% of oil, and 40% of coal comes from federal land. Balanced Joe has just signed a 60-day moratorium on new federal land leases. This will hurt the western states of New Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah, all of whom have high extraction rates from federal lands, and the first three of these stand to lose collectively over 110,000 jobs from this order in the next year alone.
Now, under Obama, oil production doubled even as he stopped leasing federal lands, because the fracking revolution took off on private lands. But Restrained Joe also signed an order which stops career bureaucrats for the next 60 days from approving easements, environmental reviews, resource management plans, and so on for private land development. This presumably will allow Neutral Joe to appoint distinctly non-neutral officials to wage an immoderate war on fossil fuels. Is that his intention? We will see soon enough.
Oh, and Compromising Joe’s order putting us back in the Paris Climate Accord is hardly reassuring here.
Many of these executive orders signaled that Biden might well try to govern from the left.
Balanced Joe also issued orders ending the building of the border wall, ending the travel ban from some Muslim-majority countries, and creating a path to citizenship for millions of illegal aliens. Readers of this journal know that I support robust legal immigration. But the way to achieve it is by legislative compromise — with concessions to those who have quite legitimate worries about immigration, such as its possible impact on native workers, welfare programs, and social trust — rather than by presidential diktat.
Finally, there was Equable Joe’s highly unusual immediate dismissal of Peter Robb, the general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). It would be customary to let Robb serve the remaining 10 months of his term — hell, even Il Trumpe did that courtesy for Obama’s holdover appointment to the NLRB. But Even-Handed Joe clearly wants to reward his union supporters, and stacking the NLRB with union tools will help do that.
It is going to be fascinating to watch Juggling Joe balance paying off his environmentalist supporters without unduly alienating his blue-collar ones. The Boss took a lot of those disgruntled working class people from the Democratic ranks. Healing Joe will play hell trying to win them back, when he is doing things like cancelling the Keystone pipeline and shutting down — even temporarily — new energy leasing on federal and private lands. My guess is that Unifying Joe will do the Windmill Hustle: he will allow private extraction of fossil fuels — throwing more regulatory barriers along the way — which shoveling money at highly expensive, highly inefficient “renewable energy” projects.
That, of course, will not involve funding reliable, green-friendly nuclear power. No, get ready for a million new Solyndras.