I came to Washington during President Nixon’s first term. I have since witnessed six Presidents arrive and six Presidents depart. Three of those Presidents (Nixon, Reagan and Clinton) were elected for second terms. It is about second terms, and the pitfalls and opportunities that they create, that I wish to write.
Second terms (both real and expected) are fun to watch from the inside. When I asked one departing Carter appointee (after Reagan won the election) if he still believed that trapping would be outlawed nationally by 1990 and that hunting would be outlawed in at least a dozen states by 2000, he only glowered at me. When several of the Clinton appointees who had forced retirements on and fired career employees "who didn’t agree with the Administration" got near the end of Clinton’s second term, they converted to permanent employee status and held onto their government easy chairs like an octopus to a rock. The fact that they were diametrically opposed to President Bush and what he represented seemed to not be the problem it was when their political bosses were in power. Several of those Clinton appointees are still in high positions in Interior agencies.
If you agree that environmental and animal legislation of the past 30 years has created harm to individuals, businesses, families, rural residents, property owners, recreationists, farmers, ranchers, dog owners and many others too numerous to list, please keep reading. If you agree that Federal laws, Federal policies, Federal regulations, Federal agencies and Federal money have increasingly harmed American citizens from the richest to the poorest, please keep reading.
What I am about to discuss, while directed at the results of recent environmental and animal rights campaigns, also applies to those concerned about 2nd Amendment rights, property rights, abortion, affirmative action, the tax-exempt status of Churches, education and transportation. All of these areas are seriously affected by Federal laws, policies and programs. The President, his appointees and Federal agencies propose national actions to expand these program areas. The Congress acts on these proposals by enacting laws and authorizing budgets.
Presidential Second Terms
What is unique about them? Well, for one thing, appointees and bureaucrats no longer worry about the sitting President. He is not concerned about reelection and they know what he likes and dislikes after four years. For the first six months to a year everyone relaxes. Travel and long lunches become more common. Appointees no longer worry about eating lunch after a noontime workout session in the Department gymnasium. Bureaucrats take a deep breath and begin to think of their future in the political landscape of the next four years.
During this first year, the non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), from the Sierra Club and Wilderness Society, et al to the Humane Society and Animal Protection Institute et al, increase their phone calls to one another and their meetings and lunches. By the end of this first year, they are talking more and more to Congressional staffers, university professors and friendly bureaucrats. What they are talking about is something that the appointees are becoming vaguely aware of and something that causes bureaucrats and professors to drool about while it brings smiles to the faces of certain politicians. They are talking about LEGACY.
By the end of the first year of a second term, appointees are comfortable from lots of trips and they are in shape from lots of workouts. Some of them are beginning to think about "burrowing in" (i.e. getting a "permanent" government job), or eventually getting hired by some firm, or starting their own "consulting" business. Regardless of their plans, each of them realizes they need to be able to say not only that they worked for President Bush but that they were the (planner, implementer, manager, drafter, etc.) of the Bush (fill in the blank) initiative. They are as big a sucker for what the NGO’s and the bureaucrats are developing as a crappie is for a minnow. Here’s how it works.
The Federal bureaucrats want more funding; people; refuges; parks; control over hunting, fishing, logging, grazing, road construction, home building, etc. to "save" more things; control over more plants and animals (invasive species, "unprotected species," etc.); control of state bureaucracies; and a long list of other "mores."
The NGO’s want to eliminate hunting; fishing (both commercial and recreational); trapping; pets; cattle; non-native species; public land uses from hiking and hunting to logging and grazing; farms; rural residency; circuses and rodeos; dog breeding; medical experiments; animal ownership; animal use; SUV’s; energy development; fur products; and on and on. The NGO"s also want more wilderness regulations; laws; wildlands; control of citizens; control of private property; control of public land uses; power over any human activity that they can obtain; public funding for their causes; Federal employees who are activists in their causes; and more and more "mores."
The University professors always want more attention and more public funding for their "specialty," be it bats or The Interstitial Relationships of Selected Factors in Remote Native Plant Ecosystems of Sierra Wetlands. Certain politicians always want favorable press for environmental "warm and fuzzy" initiatives. The publicity clout and reelection assistance of the NGO’s is likewise something highly desired by the same politicians. And thus the witches’ brew begins to bubble.
The NGO’s decide that based on the events of the preceding four years, the Congress and the President would "go for," say, a large land acquisition program. Maybe they could hammer away that due to the slow economy the need for recreation (really unusable wilderness, roadless areas, parks and refuges) nearer urban areas is a national priority. Maybe the public seems susceptible to "saving" native species, or some long-term jihad against certain "invasive" species. The bottom line may well be the Wildlands Project disguised as "Urban Heritage" or "Native Species Restoration."
It may be tied to some sort of "Native American Heritage Preservation" where land acquisition, private property acquisition and increased citizen controls are proposed for the "common good." It will need certain professors to identify areas and consult about the government panaceas needed to give it a patina of science or legitimacy. Bureaucrats hungry for more land, more budget and more power eagerly listen to the NGO proposals and tailor them so that the Park Service gets "more" lands than the Fish and Wildlife Service, or so that more law enforcement funding and personnel go to the Forest Service than the Bureau of Land Management. This will all be done in close cooperation with the sponsoring politicians, who want to assure that "their" state, or district, gets a lion’s share.
Any LEGACY worth it’s salt will be at least a two- or three-year proposal with up-front commitments to fund succeeding years so that any opposition later can be painted as evil and insidious. Anyone who tells you this doesn’t happen, take a bet with him and give me 25% of your winnings.
Rather than take an Excedrin at this point, think of this as an opportunity. NOW is the time for those of us who are harmed by these environmental/animal rights extremists to go on offense on a level playing field. During this year leading up to the Presidential election, you can prepare for the next four years as you fight your day-to-day battles about the issues affecting bear hunting or dog breeding or the Mojave Desert or the latest government land acquisition in you area. Here’s what you need to do.
You and all others like you, whether you are game fowl breeders, taxidermists, ranchers or dog trainers, need to ORGANIZE yourselves. As your group fights the threats to your interests, seek out and ally your group with larger groups who are fighting similar threats. Groups like the National Animal Interest Alliance, IWMC, American Land Rights Association and others of a similar vein bring together other groups in common cause. Like the Animal Rights groups and Environmental groups, these groups must meet and plan, and coordinate, if any of us are to preserve the nation we know. I cannot over emphasize the importance of groups allying themselves with larger umbrella groups and those umbrella groups working as a team.
Those umbrella groups will do two things. The first is to give a stronger voice of opposition to radical proposals and programs and to advocate reforms of bad laws in the ever-present, day-to-day threats we face. The second thing is probably the more important at this time. The umbrella groups need to come together and develop one or more proposed LEGACIES for a Presidential Second Term. They, like their radical counterparts, need to be broad-based concepts that politicians and appointees can embrace. There may be some things you could build into it to please bureaucrats or professors, but I wouldn’t count on it or worry about it. It is something to energize the President and his appointees.
What about Strengthening Traditional State Authorities Over Plants and Animals? How about Affirming Private Property Rights Over Domestic Plants and Animals? How about Renewing Management of Natural Resources on Public Lands for Sustainable Uses? How about a National Natural Resources Law Reform Bill? How about Public Land Resource Management and Reform Program? What about a Traditional American Plant and Animal Use Protection Program? Any of these could involve new laws; amendment of old laws; modification of regulations; change of agency policies regarding land management, enforcement, land acquisition, land return; or the increase, decrease or reprogramming of current government dollars and employees. The opportunity to get affirmation in law of many of the activities and rights that the environmentalists and animal rights radicals have been eliminating may have never been greater.
I am not writing this to forecast the outcome of the next election. If some new President is elected, certainly none of this is relevant. But if President Bush is reelected, and that probability right now is not insignificant, being prepared for a second term isn’t a bad idea.
One other thing…. It is often said that second term Presidents are freed up to do what they wanted to do all along. It sure sounds likely, but I can’t ever remember witnessing it. The appointees’ "sit-on-your-duff" first year is followed by the two years of LEGACY building, followed by a fourth year of musical chairs, as many try to hide in case the other party "gets in." I think that whatever some of our umbrella groups might come up with, there will be sympathetic appointees that could fold them in with whatever may take place during the next Second Term. Better that than some Wildlands/Invasive Species push dressed up to make a vampire look like Little Bo Peep clothed in words like Heritage, Preservation, Natives, Ecosystems, etc. – Jim Beers, 28 September 2003.