The President's self created trap on Keystone XL

At this point it’s feels as if we’ve been debating and fighting and waiting for some sort of resolution to the Keystone XL pipeline question since roughly around the beginning of Eisenhower’s third State of the Union address. Are we at least close to the point where President Obama is going to finally make a decision on this? Don’t hold your breath.

Got questions about the Keystone XL oil pipeline? Don’t ask the White House.

Amid growing anticipation over the decision on the controversial project, the White House is swatting away reporters’ questions, directing them to the State Department, which is deep into a lengthy analysis of the pipeline. The State Department is the ultimate decider on the pipeline, not the president, White House aides say.

“Again, this is a decision that’s housed within the State Department and made on the merits,” press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Thursday, reiterating his long-standing response to questions about Keystone.

This is truly a case of trying to eat your cake and have it to. Having turned this into a huge political wedge tool in his early days, Barack Obama is now looking for an escape hatch where he can sluff off the blame – no matter which way it goes – on somebody else. To do so, he’s relying on an executive order signed by his predecessor (it’s still Bush’s fault!) which says that the Secretary of State can make the call if all eight related agencies agree. But given the fact that Obama can sign new E.O’s whenever he feels like it, that doesn’t hold much water.

But why should the President care at this point? He doesn’t need to win any more elections and his base absolutely despises domestic energy that doesn’t come from windmills or buckets of algae. Why not just nix the whole thing and take credit for it? The Wall Street Journal may have solved this puzzle for us, and the president has literally billions of reasons to keep walking the tightrope on this one.

President Obama hit California for some fundraising this week, including stops with various billionaires who fervently oppose the Keystone XL pipeline. The visit had the virtue of showing how Mr. Obama is cross-pressured between his superrich green friends who don’t need to worry about a job and the blue-collar types who wouldn’t mind laying oil pipe for $25 an hour.

Our favorite anecdote from the tour, however, came when some protesters against Keystone XL chanted outside another rich man’s home, ‘What do we want from the President? No pipeline for the 1%.” These protestors need to have their consciousness raised too. The 1%-ers writing checks to Mr. Obama loathe the pipeline. The folks who need and want it are the 99%. They’re the working stiffs who are ‘struggling to get by’ in this economy.

My, that is a bit of a sticky wicket, isn’t it? He wants to punish the evil millionaires and billionaires, but he needs some of them to keep writing checks. He wants to pit the 1% against the 99%, but it’s a big chunk of the 99% who would like to have some of those jobs which are waiting – literally – in the pipeline. So what’s a chief executive to do?

Punt it to John Kerry, of course.

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David Strom 5:21 PM on March 31, 2023