Kathy Bates doing some hobbling. Image via AMC
Obama's sweeping ambitions for quelling climate change and creating a clean energy economy have so far remained largely unfulfilled. The New York Times goes so far as to say he's been 'hobbled'--his goals metaphorically smashed to pieces by the Senate like James Caan's legs by a psychotic Kathy Bates in Misery. Ahem. Okay, so those are my words, not the Times'. I don't know about any of you out there, but whenever I hear or read the word 'hobbled', I picture that scene in Misery, where the crazed Kathy Bates character coolly says to the bedridden James Caan:
Paul, do you know about the early days of the Kimberly Diamond mines? Do you know what they did to the native workers who stole diamonds? Don't worry, they didn't kill them, that would be like junking your Mercedes just because it has a broken spring. No, if they caught them, they had to make sure they could go on working, but they also had to make sure they could never run away. The operation was called Hobbling.And then she breaks his ankles with a sledgehammer.
Excuse the digression, but the famous scene is an unfortunately apt (though admittedly waaaay melodramatic) parallel to what the Senate has done to Obama's capabilities on the climate front. He's been immobilized, rendered largely helpless on the international negotiating scene.
Until the Senate passes meaningful climate legislation, Obama has next to no bargaining power or authority--the entire international community still well remembers what happened after the Clinton administration helped to draft the Kyoto Protocol. Congress promptly refused to ratify it. The Senate needs to get its act together before Obama can play ball--whether or not you think Obama could be doing more to speed the process, that much is true.
And as the Times points out in its piece, Obama has already used his executive powers to advance his climate change-fighting agenda to a great extent:
Mr. Obama has been a champion of climate change regulation. He has moved unilaterally to limit greenhouse gases from vehicles and large sources such as coal-burning power plants. And in recent months, China, India, Brazil and some other developing countries have issued promises to slow the growth of emissions, although with the knowledge that a binding treaty to enforce such pledges will not take effect for at least several years. Yet Mr. Obama has found himself limited in his ambitions by a Congress that is unwilling to move as far or as fast as he would like.In fact, you could argue that the fate of the world rests on 100 American senators--many of whom are fighting clean energy reform tooth and nail--and not be too far off the mark. The opposition in the US Senate has so far succeeded in hobbling the president's plans for climate progress--and in so doing, it's hobbling the entire international negotiation process.
More on Obama and Climate Change
Obama : US Ready to Lead Fight Against Climate Change
It's a Long Road to Copenhagen: Here's What Obama Needs to Do