Obama: From one extreme to another

Critics are shouting extreme things about the Obama administration, it’s said, and there is some truth to the charge as well as a reason for it — the administration is doing extreme, off-the-wall things, hopelessly leftist things, such as appointing John Holdren director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

There they go again, say Obama supporters about the Holdren complaints, but the complainers have been right about a wasteful, politically shaped stimulus package, about overreaching health-care proposals, about an utterly pointless, economically dangerous global warming cap-and-trade bill, and it seems to me they have a strong case against Holdren, a professor of zany alarmism.

Holdren’s actual academic title has been professor of environmental policy, and he has been at top schools, such as Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, which isn’t the same as saying he has had reasonable, balanced views, or that his impressive credentials have added up to impressive understandings.

The bloggers have had at him, and there seem to have been some overstatements, but it is no overstatement that he has repeatedly foreseen the world coming to an end through one catastrophe or another, that he co-authored a book that happily explored issues of forced sterilization and the like as means of rescuing the world from overpopulation, that he likes the notion of world laws as a means of our eco-salvation and fears free enterprise as a kind of doomsday machine.

He is pals with Paul Ehrlich, maybe the foremost apocalypse predictor of our times, and wrote a book with him as one of three co-authors. It was in that work that he joined in reviewing all kinds of extraordinary schemes to intervene in this business of people having babies, but hey, his supporters say, that was decades ago, he wasn’t necessarily advocating everything he and the others wrote about and, therefore, let’s move on. OK. Let’s move on to some other interesting tidbits.

Turn to Jeff Jacoby of The Boston Globe, who summed some of them up. The columnist noted Holdren once said that famines would soon be afflicting us big time, thanks to carbon dioxide. By 2020, a billion would die. Contrary to scientists who see sea level rises of 13 inches by century’s end, he sees a rise of 13 feet. He thinks we ought to "de-develop" the United States. A dogmatist on the subject of catastrophic global warming, Holdren believes those with different views "infest" public discussion.

All of this, along with lots of other mumbo-jumbo of the kind you usually encounter at the extremes of environmental activism, matters because here’s a guy who has the president’s ear, and his views could easily have a major impact on policy, such as the pushing of a cap-and-trade policy that will avail absolutely nothing positive unless India and China go along, and they won’t. It could simultaneously keep us in a gradually impoverishing recession for a very long time — forever, maybe?

Think of Holdren as a symbol of what we are learning about this administration, that what it reflects is not the Barack Obama who first came to widespread public attention giving a Democratic convention speech about finding a middle way, but the Obama who put together the most left-wing voting record in the U.S. Senate during that part of his tenure when he actually showed up for votes instead of campaigning for president.

As president, he has done some dumbfounding things, not least this health-care package that would worsen matters in a deficit-accumulating period instead of inhibiting spending, or, in foreign affairs, the support lent to a Hugo Chavez-lookalike in Honduras, despite the fact that the would-be dictator had been dealt with through democratic institutions.

Obama should quit relying mainly on his charm and brains and go back to the principles enunciated in that speech that got his rise to the White House started.

(Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)aol.com.)