The executive branch of our federal government announced yesterday that it would no longer defend legal challenges to its enforcement of a statute duly enacted by the political branches (I say political branches because the president possesses some legislative authority as well, by virtue of the veto). Here’s what happened: a Democratic Congress passed a bill amending the Clean Air Act, classifying carbon dioxide as a pollutant and setting a timetable for reduction of it as a means of combatting global warming, and this was duly signed into law by a previous Democratic president. Oil companies, supported by conservative think tanks’ amicus briefs, challenged the law in court, claiming that it was unconstitutional (not within the scope of the Commerce power), and a federal district judge in Louisiana known to be angling for an appointment to the appellate bench agreed. To the delight of global warming skeptics everywhere, President Palin announced that her administration was now agreeing that the statute was unconstitutional, and that it would abdicate its responsibility to defend the law in court by even appealing the Louisiana judge’s historic ruling. At almost the same time, contrary rulings emerged from district judges in California and Vermont, and legal experts declared that the state of global warming reduction law would be in a state of confusion for years as a result. A handful of moderate conservatives criticized the decision as “a new form of executive activism circumventing democracy”, but were quickly silenced by cable television and talk radio pundits as “tree-hugging socialists.”
Oh, wait. That’s not what happened yesterday. That’s what happens five years from now.