When the Republicans lost the White House in 2008, the George W. Bush administration was famously gracious and helpful to the incoming Obama administration. Kimberley Strassel observes that the Obama administration is not returning the favor:
Barack Obama isn’t known for humility, though rarely has his lack of grace been more on display than in his final hours in office. The nation rejected his agenda. The president’s response? To shove more of that agenda down the nation’s gullet.
Notice the growing and many ugly ways the Obama administration is actively working to undermine a Donald Trump presidency. Unnamed administration sources whisper stories about Russian hackers to delegitimize Mr. Trump’s election. These whispers began at about the same time Hillary Clinton officials began pressuring electors to defy election results and deny Mr. Trump the presidency. How helpful.
Trump transition-team members report how Obama officials are providing them with skewed or incomplete information, as well as lectures about their duties on climate change. (No wonder Mr. Trump is bypassing those “official” intelligence briefings.)
The Energy Department is refusing to provide the transition team with the names of career officials who led key programs, like those who attended U.N. climate talks. Sen. Ron Johnson recently sent a letter to President Obama voicing alarm over “burrowing,” in which political appointees, late in an administration, convert to career bureaucrats and become obstacles to the new political appointees.
Let that sink in: federal bureaucracies are so autonomous that they feel no compunction about not giving essential information to the incoming presidential team. And they intend to remain "burrowed" into a labyrinthine system.
This is bad enough but President Obama has another trick up his sleeve: an unprecedented barrage of new regulations. Midnight regulations are those issued between election day and the inauguration of a new president. As Strassel notes, all outgoing residents issue them. Obama is outdoing his predecessors. Strassel writes:
Since the election Mr. Obama has broken with all precedent by issuing rules that would be astonishing at any moment and are downright obnoxious at this point. This past week we learned of several sweeping new rules from the Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency, including regs on methane on public lands (cost: $2.4 billion); a new anti-coal rule related to streams ($1.2 billion) and renewable fuel standards ($1.5 billion).
This follows Mr. Obama’s extraordinary announcement that he will invoke a dusty old law to place nearly all of the Arctic Ocean, and much of the Atlantic Ocean, off limits to oil or gas drilling. This follows his highly politicized move to shut down the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota. And it comes amid reports the administration is rushing to implement last-minute rules on commodities speculation, immigrant workers and for-profit colleges—among others.
Any action that is rushed is likely to be shoddy, especially if it’s from the federal government. The point is for Mr. Obama to have his way and to swamp the Trump administration with a dizzying array of new rules to have to undo. That diverts manpower from bigger and better priorities.
President Obama is hoping this work will prove too much and his rules will stand. He’d be making a good bet. George W. Bush promised to undo last-minute Clinton regulations. Yet a paper done in 2005 by Jason M. Loring and Liam R. Roth in Wake Forest Law Review found that a whopping 82% were left to stand.
But maybe things might be different this time. As Strassel notes, a GOP Congress could invoke the Congressional Review Act, which would let them reject President Obama's last-minute regulations. And Donald Trump knows how angry the citizenry is about President Obama's tendency to act on his inner Louis XIV.