Sometimes -- maybe almost always -- the world seems to run on Freudian projection. One of the salient recent examples is Barack Obama's supporters -- and Obama himself, literally and by implication -- calling Donald Trump "authoritarian."
But in non-projected reality, during his administration, Obama is the one who imposed what we might deem -- in appropriately Maoist parlance -- the "Three Authoritarianisms." They were the Paris climate accord, the Iran deal, and US intelligence agencies being used to surveil American citizens.
All three of these "authoritarianisms" were entirely ex-Constitutional. The first two were in essence treaties on which Congress (and by extension the American people) never got to vote or, for that matter, discuss in any serious way. The Paris accord probably would have failed. As for the Iran deal, we still don't know the full contents and therefore debating it is somewhat moot. We have, however, seen its consequences -- corpses littered all across Syria, not to mention untold millions of refugees.
Admittedly, too, the third of "Three Authoritarianisms" is still, shall we say, occluded. We don't know the extent of this surveillance and may never. But this too is typical authoritarian behavior.
Even a cursory look at history reveals that totalitarianism does not always come with the obvious iron fist of a Comrade Stalin. Sometimes it arrives in a subtler manner, as it did in the Obama administration when the then president's amanuensis/lackey Ben Rhodes was so naive or arrogant (or both) as to brag to a New York Times writer how he duped young and uneducated reporters into parroting what the administration wanted them to say about the Iran deal. The KGB couldn't have done it better.
In the cases of Paris and Iran, it's clear the (totalitarian) decision to avoid Congress was deliberate. But now Trump has put a crimp in the former by pulling out of the Paris climate (né global warming) accord. The international chorus of hissy fits was so instantaneous and predictable -- no more eminent scientist than actor Mark Ruffalo has declared "Trump will have the death of whole nations on his hands" -- one must ask the obligatory question: Was it ever really about climate or was it, in the immortal words of H. L. Mencken, "about the money"?
I learned firsthand just how much it was the latter when covering COP15 -- the UN climate conference in Copenhagen at the tail end of 2009. That the event occurred in near-blizzard conditions with temperatures hovering close to single digits was the least of it. As we all know, that's weather, not climate. Right?
Naturally, most of the conference was deadly dull -- except for watching junketing U.S. politicians scarfing down modernist Danish jewelry in the Marriott gift shop. But during one of the tedious panel discussions, I found myself sitting next to the representative of one of the Pacific islands said to be on the edge of being submerged. A pleasant fellow, I engaged him in conversation, attempting to commiserate with him about the fate of his homeland. The diplomat started laughing. "Don't you believe in global warming?" I asked. "It's nonsense," he said. He went to explain that his island was just fine. They had some bad weather and had put up sandbags, but now they were gone. So I then asked why he had come all the way from the South Pacific to Denmark and he looked at me in astonishment. "For the money," he said, continuing to stare at me as if I were some kind of cretin who had wangled a press pass. (Okay, I wouldn't have been the first.)
Look, I know that's entirely anecdotal but it is funny to think about and somehow meshes with the absurd amounts of money the accord would presumably have forced the American taxpayer to cough up in return for, at best, a puny amount of cooling. No one explained how that would be consequential and perhaps that's the point. It would have exposed the whole thing as a sham.
Of course, the folks who take global warming at face value like that other eminent scientist, the newly minted French president Macron, probably believed in imminent catastrophe even before they saw Al Gore's famous movie warning of a global armageddon that was supposed to have occurred five years ago. To have altered their opinions since in any way would have been to much of an effort, like trying to read a scientific paper by MIT's Richard Lindzen. Science is, after all, complicated and never settled. Worse yet, it takes background to understand it. Far better to accept the conventional wisdom and not be ostracized.
Anyway, Trump is to be congratulated for resisting all these would-be bureaucratic totalitarians and walking out on this absurd accord before it bankrupted us. I am reminded of a trip I took to then still fully Communist China in 1979 when signs urging the populace to "Resist the Gang of Four!" (Mao's wife and her Cultural Revolution colleagues) were everywhere. In that spirit I say "Resist the Three Authoritarianisms!" One (hopefully) down. Two to go.
PS: You will note I did not include the Affordable Care Act in my list of authoritarianisms. It was, after all, enacted by our representatives in Congress, even if most of them didn't read it. So you can't call it strictly totalitarian. You can just call it stupid.