President Obama's Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson got rock star treatment at the U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen this week.
The crowd of global environmental elites loved her, and one reason why may be that she continued her administration's unseemly practice of blaming its predecessor for all the world's ills.
But Jackson's biggest applause line was when she said she was "proud" of the EPA's announcement earlier in the week that it would regulate greenhouse gases as dangerous pollutants.
"That is a decision that has been a long time coming," Jackson said.
And it's true, a bureaucratic dictatorship has been a long time coming in America. And with this latest EPA ruling, it may have finally arrived.
Just as the polls are showing a dramatic decline in Americans' belief that climate change is a serious problem, Obama bureaucrats have conveniently come up with a way to make the polls meaningless. They are seeking to achieve "command and control" over the U.S. economy by bureaucratic dictatorship rather than democratic process.
For a nation under siege by the popular culture and the left with environmental alarmism, government regulation of greenhouse gases may at first glance seem like a reasonable step.
But take a step back and consider what this ruling means in practice. According to the EPA, greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and a host of other gases that are emitted whenever people heat their homes, drive their cars, mow their lawns, tend their farms, or, for that matter, breath.
Without so much as a vote being cast, the EPA regulation suddenly micro-manages all of this. It makes all economic activity more expensive. It makes creating jobs more difficult. It puts government bureaucrats, not entrepreneurs, at the center of our economy.
The ruling is alarming in its breadth, but perhaps even more disturbing is what it reveals about the Obama administration's view of democratic and constitutional government.
The Obama administration seems to regard government of the people, by the people and for the people as an inconvenience rather than a blessing. If the peoples' representatives in Congress do what it wants, great. If not, they will use their power to get their way by any means necessary.
Apparently, that includes issuing open threats to another branch of government. Here's what an anonymous senior administration official told Congress, speaking through the New York Times:
"If you don't pass this legislation, then . . . the EPA is going to have to regulate in this area," the official said. "And it is not going to be able to regulate on a market-based way, so it's going to have to regulate in a command-and-control way, which will probably generate even more uncertainty."
The arrogance and totalitarianism of this statement are breathtaking. Not only does it reveal shocking contempt for the rule of law, but the official concedes that he or she will allow the EPA to further damage the struggling economy--i.e. "generate even more uncertainty"--in order to enact the administration's climate change agenda.
With this bullying gesture, the Obama administration reveals its true goals. It's not interested in protecting the American people or our environment. It's not interested in creating jobs, no matter how many big-government "stimulus" packages it proposes.
Its interest is in power, and there is a word for a government whose primary purpose is the accumulation and exercise of power over the citizenry--totalitarian.
The fact that this totalitarianism takes the form of a bureaucratic dictatorship earnestly claiming to protect the environment doesn't change what it is.
A Congress that allows itself to be threatened and intimidated in this way will not long serve its purpose of representing the American people.
And an American people who allow the representative branch of government to be nullified by an imperial executive branch will not long have representative government.
Most of the international elite applauding the Obama EPA power grab in Copenhagen this week made their peace with bureaucratic dictatorship long ago. The question now is whether America will follow the same path.
Newt Gingrich is a senior fellow at AEI.