Americans already know that President Obama is bad at math. When met with historic deficits, which require cutting spending to balance, Obama instead adds more spending items to the agenda. But, he’s even worse at figuring out the political calculus behind certain policy choices.
The most stunning example is Obama’s utter fumbling of the Keystone XL pipeline. His decision to reject the infrastructure project has no redeeming virtues. As the Washington Post editorial board wrote in January:
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.
Not only would it do nothing to help the environment, but it also actively hurts American interests.
It threatens one of the largest, safest sources of oil, and one that happens to be just next-door: Canada. Given the political upheaval in the Middle East, which is still dotted with unstable regimes who are less than friends with the United States, developing a relationship with Canada, whose only disputes with the US happen on hockey rinks, seems to be a no-brainer policy.
If that wasn’t enough, there’s the little issue of job creation, which, if you hadn’t notices, will be the defining issue in the coming election. Although there are some questions over just how many jobs the Keystone XL project it would create, what’s not being disputed is that the number would be big. Not only would thousands of construction workers and engineers be needed to construct the pipeline, but thousands more high-paying jobs could be created when the oil gets to the refineries in Texas.
So why did Obama reject it? Despite the Washington Post’s “hopes,” there is no other explanation other than politics. Somehow he calculated that the good it would do among the rabid (but wrong) environmentalists would outweigh the negatives with Americans in general and unions (yes, unions) in particular.
Except it was a completely flawed equation that has led many Democrats to question the political calculus. The New York Times reports:
“President Obama is finding himself increasingly boxed in on the Keystone pipeline fight as more Congressional Democrats are joining Republicans in backing the project, which has strong labor support and could generate significant numbers of jobs in economically hard-hit states.
On Wednesday, the House passed a short-term transportation bill that included a provision that would pave the way for the construction of the next stage of the oil pipeline, a measure that Mr. Obama has said he would veto. The bill passed 293 to 127 with 69 Democrats supporting it.”
Signaling the strength of the opposition, Democrats are not just quietly casting their votes then quietly lining up once again behind their president. Nope, they’re happy to express their views.
“I think the president has made a very serious mistake here,” said Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA). I’m still supporting the president. But we have to do what’s right.”
Pressure is also coming from Democrats in the states. “I am a very large advocate of Keystone, and it disgusts me that instead of solving the issue, the people in Washington just fight,” said Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D-MT).
With Obama feeling increasingly isolated among his own party members, will his team pull the plug on their opposition to the job-creating project? Unlikely, if for no other reason than hubris. But pride has no place in political calculus. Maybe that doesn’t compute with Obama. keystone