Good lord. Not only did he promise to veto the payroll-tax-cut extension if the Keystone provision was attached, he did it at a press conference with Stephen Harper standing right next to him. His own party must have realized the cave was coming, though, because Emanuel Cleaver was backing off the threat just two days after The One made it. The politics were poisonous: Not only did it give the GOP an opening to seize the mantle of job creation, it pitted labor against Obama and the greens — and on top of all that, a veto would have meant torpedoing a tax break for the middle class, which he was never going to do with an election less than a year away. (That’s also why he caved on the millionaire surtax, natch.) Reminds me of the GOP’s predicament in the debt-ceiling standoff: O took a hostage he simply wasn’t prepared to shoot.

There’s a funny Onion video from this summer (which, tragically, I can’t find anywhere online) goofing on The One from the left for bending too far in negotiations. Title: “Deal struck that will let Republicans kick Obama in the balls in exchange for nothing.” In this case, we’d be kicking him in the balls to create thousands of jobs that he’d rather sacrifice to satisfy environmentalists. You’re welcome, America:

White House spokesman Jay Carney declined several opportunities to say that President Barack Obama would veto the tax cut if it contained language aimed at expediting the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL pipeline project. Obama last week said he would reject efforts to tie the pipeline to the payroll tax…

Carney told reporters he would not comment on what language regarding the pipeline would be acceptable to the president.

Senate Republicans think there are 14 Democrats willing to vote for the Keystone provision, which would be just enough to beat the filibuster. The White House must think so too or else Carney wouldn’t suddenly be conspicuously noncommittal. To be clear, the provision wouldn’t automatically approve the pipeline, it would merely force Obama to make a decision on it within the next 60 days. But that’s no help to O: Remember, his goal here isn’t necessarily to cancel the pipeline but merely to postpone a decision until after the election so that he’s not forced yet to choose between labor and the greens. Henry Waxman’s confident that if the provision passes, O will turn around and cancel it on grounds that Congress didn’t give him enough time to study the environmental effects. Fine — let him make that decision under a media microscope and then spend the next 10 months defending it. Can’t wait for the GOP attack ads showing glum union members sitting around with unused oil equipment.