Why is a right-wing think tank cheering for Obama?

The Competitive Enterprise Institute applauds the new administration's efforts to roll back Bush's last minute regulations. But they're fooling no one

Published January 22, 2009 3:04PM (EST)

Here is what happens to conservative think tanks whose ideological standards have been shredded into tatters, rejected by the American people and proved wrong by the course of current events: They retreat into self-mocking absurdity.

How else to explain the press release sent out Wednesday by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), applauding President Obama's efforts to halt the last minute flurry of Bush administration regulations?

"This decision by the Obama administration is an important signal, suggesting that the new administration is going to pay attention to our regulatory system," said CEI Senior Fellow Eli Lehrer. "That's a good thing."

...The regulatory freeze was recommended by CEI Vice President of Policy Wayne Crews in November last year, when he said, "Upon raising his hand from the Bible after taking the Oath of Office, President Obama should declare a one year freeze on all new government regulations; he'd naturally exempt those he regards as addressing immediate threats to public health and safety."

How stupid does CEI think we are? Yes, the Competitive Enterprise Institute is anti-regulation. The free market fundamentalists at CEI oppose any law that would strengthen environmental protections, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase fuel economy or energy efficiency or in any way restrict the operations of profit-seeking corporations in the marketplace. And of course, many of the eleventh-hour Bush regulations expressly serve CEI's agenda, in that they are specifically designed to reduce regulatory environmental constraints on business!

A quick summary from US News & World Report:

One of the new rules makes it easier for coal-mining companies to dump waste into nearby rivers and streams. Another exempts so-called factory farms, in which animals live in confined quarters, from federal air pollution laws. Another eliminates a long-standing provision in the Endangered Species Act requiring "independent scientific reviews" before construction or drilling can occur in an endangered species's habitat.

On a normal day, CEI would support each and every single one of these Bush initiatives. Their applause for the Obama's administration's efforts to roll them back is hypocritical, unashamed, bullshit. But where once their corporate propaganda used to enrage, now all it can provoke is a titter.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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