Introducing: Municipal foreign policy

So who’s formulating inter-national policy these days? Is it Gov. Schwarzenegger? Mayor Newsom? How about London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who, as part of British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s California entourage this week, signed a pact with several other municipal potentates to do something about global warming?

Oh, right: Bill Clinton was orchestrating the whole Los Angeles affair, his political legitimacy coming not from the sovereign people, but from his presidential foundation. (Talk about the growing clout of Non-Governmental Organizations!) President Bush? Apparently, he’s less significant now than, say, L.A. Mayor Anthony Villaraigosa, another progressive signatory.

Surely, this has been in the works since before Blair’s grand West Coast tour, which included a stopover in Washington where the PM pledged his continuing fidelity to civilization’s side in the global war on terrorism. There President Bush bid him safe journeys, which his co-warrior needed in order to re-cement his center-left bona fides.

Blair flew directly to the Golden State to meet with the governor, who — despite taking key campaign advisers from the president’s political shop — has found it necessary to distance himself from the nation’s top Republican. It gets rich. Eyebrow-raising, in fact: Together the British leader and the California governor announced a plan to share technologies that promise to reduce pollutants.

And — who knows? — maybe President Bush is OK with this. When last week he vetoed further funding of stem cell research, Schwarzenegger within moments sent a $15 million check to the state’s own voter-approved institute, based here in San Francisco. Was this a gubernatorial thumb in a presidential eye?

Not necessarily. You could postulate that Bush and Schwarzenegger were merely enacting the old federalism, a staple of GOP philosophy, in which the states get to do what the Constitution doesn’t authorize the feds to do — such as allocating tax dollars for medical advances. If it helped the governor’s re-election, then Bush was reasonably serene.

But how, we may ask, does he feel about the governor, the ex-president and all these mayors executing what looks like a foreign policy end run? Schwarzenegger was quick to deny his deal with Blair was a California-United Kingdom “treaty,” which would be unconstitutional. But Clinton and his mayors zestfully enter the constitutionally dubious realm of “municipal foreign policy.” To them, “Think globally, act locally” is holy writ.

There is religion, and not a little egomania, in the notion that massive political activity can save us from climate catastrophe. These global pols imagine, as true believers, that they act in the name of scientific consensus. Unwittingly, they prove an iron law: When science reaches consensus, it ceases to be science. It becomes politics.

Politics means coercion, and if we cannot locate its source within the Constitution we should prepare for legal and economic chaos.

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