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Charles Krauthammer / November 18, 2011

The Pipeline Sellout

WASHINGTON – In 2008, the slogan was “Yes We Can.” For 2011-12, it’s “We Can’t Wait.” What happened in between? Candidate Obama, the vessel into which myriad dreams were poured, met the reality of governance.

His near-$1 trillion stimulus begat a stagnant economy with 9 percent unemployment. His attempt at Wall Street reform left in place a still too-big-to-fail financial system as vulnerable today as when he came into office. His green energy fantasies yielded Solyndra cronyism and a cap-and-trade regime not even a Democratic Congress would pass.

WASHINGTON – In 2008, the slogan was “Yes We Can.” For 2011-12, it’s “We Can’t Wait.” What happened in between? Candidate Obama, the vessel into which myriad dreams were poured, met the reality of governance.

His near-$1 trillion stimulus begat a stagnant economy with 9 percent unemployment. His attempt at Wall Street reform left in place a still too-big-to-fail financial system as vulnerable today as when he came into office. His green energy fantasies yielded Solyndra cronyism and a cap-and-trade regime not even a Democratic Congress would pass.

And now his signature achievement, Obamacare, is headed to the Supreme Court, where it could very well be struck down, just a week after its central element was overwhelmingly repudiated (2-1) by the good burghers of Ohio.

So what do you do when you say you can, but, it turns out, you can’t? Blame the other guy. Charge the Republicans with making governing impossible. Never mind that you had control of the Congress for two-thirds of your current tenure. It’s all the fault of Republican rejectionism.

Hence: “We Can’t Wait.” We can’t wait while they obstruct. We can’t wait while they dither with my jobs bill. Write Congress today! Vote Democratic tomorrow!

We can’t wait. Except for certain exceptions, such as the 1,700-mile trans-USA Keystone XL pipeline, carrying Alberta oil to Texas refineries, that would have created thousands of American jobs and increased our energy independence.

For that, we can wait, it seems. President Obama decreed that any decision must wait 12 to 18 months – postponed, by amazing coincidence, until after next year’s election.

Why? Because the pipeline angered Obama’s environmental constituency. But their complaints are risible. Global warming from the extraction of the Alberta tar sands? Canada will extract the oil anyway. If it doesn’t go to us, it will go to China. Net effect on the climate if we don’t take that oil? Zero.

Danger to a major aquifer, which the pipeline traverses? It is already crisscrossed by 25,000 miles of pipeline, enough to circle the Earth. Moreover, the State Department had subjected Keystone to three years of review – the most exhaustive study of any oil pipeline in U.S. history – and twice concluded in voluminous studies that there would be no significant environmental harm.

So what happened? “The administration,” reported The New York Times, “had in recent days been exploring ways to put off the decision until after the presidential election.” Exploring ways to improve the project? Hardly. Exploring ways to get past the election.

Obama’s decision was meant to appease his environmentalists. It’s already working. The president of the National Wildlife Federation told The Washington Post (online edition, Nov. 10) that thousands of environmentalists who were galvanized to protest the pipeline would now support Obama in 2012. Moreover, a source told the Post, Obama campaign officials had concluded that “they do not pick up one vote from approving this project.”

Sure, the pipeline would have produced thousands of truly shovel-ready jobs. Sure, delay could forfeit to China a supremely important strategic asset – a nearby, highly reliable source of energy. But approval was calculated to be a political loss for the president. Easy choice.

It’s hard to think of a more clear-cut case of putting politics over nation. This from a president whose central campaign theme is that Republicans put party over nation, sacrificing country to crass political ends.

Nor is this the first time Obama’s election calendar trumped the national interest:

– Obama’s decision to wind down the Afghan surge in September 2012 is militarily inexplicable. It comes during the fighting season. It was recommended by none of his own military commanders. It is explicable only as a talking point for the final days of his re-election campaign.

– At the height of the debt-ceiling debate last July, Obama pledged to veto any agreement that was not long term. Definition of long term? By another amazing coincidence, any deal large enough to get him past Election Day (and thus avoid another such crisis next year).

– Tuesday it was revealed that last year the administration pressured Solyndra, as it was failing, to delay its planned Oct. 28 announcement of layoffs until Nov. 3 – the day after the midterm election.

A contemporaneous email from a Solyndra investor noted: “Oddly they didn’t give a reason for that date.” The writer was clearly born yesterday. The American voter was not – and (s)he soon gets to decide who really puts party over nation and re-election above all.

We can’t wait.

© 2011, The Washington Post Writers Group

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