If it were not for the three-ring circus (apologize to circus owners everywhere) in the Republican primary, today would be really rotten news day for the White House. As suspected, the decision to put off the Keystone XL pipeline is turning into a mini-disaster, even in Democratic ranks. Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) has put together an impressive list of Democratic lawmakers and governors, as well as union leaders, who are hopping mad at the president.
And they should be. Obama took a GOP stumble at the end of the year and converted it into a huge liability on the most important issue, namely jobs. The administration spent weeks, months really, laying the groundwork for the argument that any failure to increase jobs this year would be the fault of the Republicans. There are many ways to combat that argument, but the most obvious is the president’s action on the pipeline, something for which he had sole responsibility.
The Post editorial board put it this way:
We almost hope this was a political call because, on the substance, there should be no question. Without the pipeline, Canada would still export its bitumen — with long-term trends in the global market, it’s far too valuable to keep in the ground — but it would go to China. And, as a State Department report found, U.S. refineries would still import low-quality crude — just from the Middle East. Stopping the pipeline, then, wouldn’t do anything to reduce global warming, but it would almost certainly require more oil to be transported across oceans in tankers. . . .
There are far fairer, far more rational ways to discourage oil use in America, the first of which is establishing higher gasoline taxes. Environmentalists should fight for policies that might actually do substantial good instead of tilting against Keystone XL, and President Obama should have the courage to say so.
Moreover, there have to be better bones to throw to the environmental activists that don’t involve dismaying core constituencies and handing the Republicans a dynamite campaign issue. It’s one of many instances, I suspect, where Obama’s re-election strategy will clash with the interest of his fellow Democrats.