Patterico's Pontifications


A Tale of Two Newspaper Stories — One with Disclosure and Context, and One Without.

Posted by WLS:

Today the  Washington post and LA times both run stories about the editing of proposed Congressional testimony of federal officials by members of the Vice President’s staff.  The subject of the deleted testimony was the impact on public health posed by global climate change.  The “whistleblower” — a novel description since this subject has been previously reported on — is former EPA deputy associate administrator Jason K. Burnett.   One of the edited officials was Julie Gerberding, the head of the Centers for Disease Control, who intended to testify that climate change is a “serious public health concern.” 

When that testimony was cut, Burnett attempted to send an Email to the White Houe on December 5 announcing EPA’s finding that global warming poses a danger to the public.  Burnett was responsible for climate change issues at EPA.  The WH declined to open Burnett’s email, because such a finding would obligate the agency to issue regulations to limit carbon dioxide emmissions.  The administration does not accept the accuracy of the science behind the issue of global warming, and the role of humans in causing global warming through the emission of carbon dioxide. 

Here is the disclosure for context about Burnett that the WaPo article included:

“The Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Office of the Vice President (OVP) were seeking deletions to the CDC testimony,” Burnett, 31, a Stanford-trained economist and a Democrat, wrote in response to an inquiry from Boxer’s committee. “CEQ requested that I work with CDC to remove from the testimony any discussion of the human health consequences of climate change.” …  Burnett — a grandson of high-tech entrepreneur David Packard and a member of the Packard Foundation’s board of trustees — has given more than $129,000 to Democratic campaigns in recent years, including $3,600 to presidential candidate Barack Obama (Ill.).

The LAT, on the other hand, had this to say about Burnett:

Burnett resigned as the EPA’s associate deputy administrator last month. He also has contributed $4,600 to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s campaign….

This disclosure is certainly warranted, but is it sufficient given Burnett’s admitted conduct?  The LAT article describes his effort to hijack administration policy as follows:

The Supreme Court ruled last year that the EPA was required to evaluate whether greenhouse gas emissions posed a risk and, if so, implement regulations on polluters….. In December, Burnett said, he sent the White House an e-mail finding, in response to the Supreme Court ruling, that greenhouse gas emissions pose a risk, a step toward regulation.   

This episode presents an interesting opportunity to consider the theory of the unitary executive.  Simply stated, the theory states that the President, as the only elected official of the Executive Branch of Government, solely possesses the executive power under the Constitution to execute the laws.  This theory would also hold that Congress cannot confer executive power on executive branch officials other than the President since the Constitution vests all executive Power in the President. 

By creating officials and agencies such as EPA, and imposing upon them mandatory obligations such as the one Burnett is attempting to force on the Bush Administration by putting his finding in an email, Congress is actually usurping the executive Power vested in the President by forcing the Administration to do something through an inferior administration official that the elected President is not prepared to do.   



2 Responses to “A Tale of Two Newspaper Stories — One with Disclosure and Context, and One Without.”

  1. A core issue is that we’ve delegated too many functions to government so that the public discussion must now be conducted within a political and bureaucratic framework and set of rules.

    Sure, write about some pet theory but FORCING that writing on another governmental official is gamesmanship and doesn’t add to the body of public knowledge.

    I’m about to advocate bringing back the spoils system – somebody stop me.

    Joseph Somsel (7fd130)

  2. No real takers? Why am I not surprised. Your argument isn’t going to win you any elections. But as an intellectual as opposed to political matter perhaps you should email Jack Balkin?
    But in the meantime the EPA has a job to do, under law, and the President is as bound by law as the rest of us.

    JAR (9c32c0)

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