Holy Mama Cass: What Parallel Universe Is This?

If you look up “Living Constitution, advocates of,” one of the first entries you will find will be Cass Sunstein, perhaps the most famous (certainly one of the most published) left-leaning legal scholars of our time.  Consider just one of his many titles to get the gist of Sunstein: The Second Bill of Rights: FDR’S Unfinished Revolution and Why We Need It More than Ever.  Do I even need to explain further?  I could go on, but if you’re curious about a more complete deconstruction of Sunstein, head over to the Claremont Review of Books and see Joseph Postell’s terrific survey of Sunstein’s corpus, along with Shep Melnick’s review of The Second Bill of Rights, and Lawrence Mead’s review of Nudge.  (Though I should add that the greatest beatdown of Sunstein in history was the epic, in-person clash between Sunstein and Hillsdale’s great Thomas West at the 1994 APSA meeting in New York—alas, before the YouTube age.  But trust me—it was Sterling Archer-epic: Sunstein was reeling from Tom’s highly effective and original assault.)

This is prologue for the news that Sunstein, who came to know Obama when both were on the faculty at the University of Chicago law school, is stepping down from his post as the “regulatory czar” at OMB (technically he runs OIRA, the Office of Independent Regulatory Affairs), to return to Harvard Law School.  Fewer people are more eager to extend the regulatory power of government than Sunstein, and yet his departure is being greeted with cheers from the business community the Left!

From the descriptions in the media, you’d think Sunstein had ushered us back to the Reagan era. From the NY Times account:

“Cass Sunstein is the most well-connected and smartest guy who’s ever held the job,” said Rena Steinzor, president of the Center for Progressive Reform and a professor at the University of Maryland Carey School of Law. “But he’s also done untold damage.”

The Puffington Host’s article makes for even more comical reading:

White House regulatory czar Cass Sunstein is stepping down after failing to advance federal health and safety rules nearly as much as Obama supporters had hoped . . .

Isn’t that lede what poker players call a “tell”?  But the second paragraph of this next bit is where you should make sure you’ve swallowed your coffee:

Sunstein, who headed the White House’s little-known but hugely powerful Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, also got a warm send-off from his immediate boss. White House Office of Management and Budget director Jeffrey Zients credited him with helping design “numerous rules that are, among other things, saving lives on the highways by making vehicles safer and reducing distracted driving; dramatically increasing the fuel economy of the nation’s cars and trucks; protecting public health by reducing air pollution; making our food supply safer; and protecting against discrimination on the basis of disability and sexual orientation.”

But that is a modest record in the context of the wholesale deregulation during the Bush/Cheney era and the unprecedented regulatory failures of the recent past: financial crisis; the BP oil spill; the Upper Big Branch mine explosion; a bevy of food- and toy-related health scares and the imminent dangers of climate change.

Critics said he did more damage than good. “That’s small progress in comparison to the rules he killed,” said Rena Steinzor, a law professor at the University of Maryland and president of the pro-regulation Center for Progressive Reform.

“Wholesale deregulation during the Bush/Cheney era”???  They must mean deregulatory things like Sarbanes-Oxley and McCain-Feingold, new CAFE standards for cars, and several new environmental regulations (some of them court-ordered) like the off-road diesel rule, just to name one.  In fact, I can’t think of a single significant deregulation of anything during the Bush-Cheney administration.

That Sunstein isn’t left enough for today’s activist Left, and that an adult human being could write of “deregulation” during the Bush-Cheney years, shows how great the gulf is between Left and Right today.

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