President Obama’s Keystone Explanations Not Fooling Anyone

John Boehner

It’s been a tough year for President Obama. Chuck Todd said his administration often “looks like they’re struggling to run the government.” Fred Hiatt used phrases like “besieged and befuddled” and “image of haplessness.” Peggy Noonan described the president as “unserious,” writing that “he seems disinterested, disengaged almost to the point of disembodied.” Even some Democrats were shaking their heads.

In this context, it was heartening to see President Obama do well at something last week, when he delivered a comedic monologue on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” that lasted nearly six minutes.

In the interview portion of the show that followed, however, things went off the rails. When asked whether he’d sign into law a bill approving construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, his answer was full of disingenuous, debunked talking points. Compare President Obama’s words to the actual facts:

“Keystone is going through an evaluation process.”

  • It’s been six years and three months (2,281 days) since the application to build the pipeline was filed with the State Department. Both World War II and the construction of the Hoover Dam spanned less time.
  • President Obama announced in November 2011 that his administration would not make a decision until after the 2012 election. Forced by legislation passed by the House and Senate to issue a decision, President Obama rejected the pipeline in January 2012. Within months, another application to build the pipeline was submitted to the Obama administration, which again delayed the evaluation process in 2013 and earlier this year.

“Right now, it’s being held up by a court in Nebraska[.]”

  • This has been roundly mocked as an “excuse” by newspaper editorial boards around the country, from the Chicago Tribune to The Washington Post to The Dallas Morning News. The latter called the court case “a side issue, and the White House knows it’s not a legitimate reason to delay a decision.”

“And in the first instance, I don’t make the initial decision, the State Department evaluates it.”

  • True – in the same way it’s true that the Defense Department made the initial decision to launch a raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout.
  • Every State Department evaluation of the project has effectively given it a green light (see below). Keystone sits unapproved for lack of a “Presidential Permit” – it’s called that for a reason.

“I’m going to make sure that if we look at this objectively, we’ve got to make sure that it’s not adding to the problem of carbon and climate change. … Keystone is a potential contributor of that.”

  • According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the “annual increase [in carbon emissions] from Keystone would amount to less than three-tenths of one percent of our total annual CO2-e emissions — [or] 0.286546 percent,” The Washington Post’s Wonkblog reported, also noting that “more than 10 times that much CO2-e gets released into the atmosphere each year from methane produced by cows.”
  • The government’s two environmental analyses of the project both concluded it would have little impact on the environment.
  • Looked at objectively, there is no scientific reason for blocking the pipeline.

“We have to examine that, and we have to weigh that against the amount of jobs it’s actually going to create, which aren’t a lot. … It could create a couple thousand jobs in the initial construction of the pipeline.”

  • The president earned a pair of Pinocchios from The Washington Post’s Fact Checker for a similar claim in 2013. PolitiFact rated it “False.” The Associated Press piled on with the headline “Obama understates Keystone XL jobs.”
  • According to the U.S. State Department, a “total of 42,100 jobs throughout the United States would be supported by construction of the proposed Project,” and it “would contribute approximately $3.4 billion to GDP[.]”
  • James Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, wrote last week that “Completing the final segment of the pipeline from Nebraska to the Canadian border would employ upwards of 2,500 Teamsters and would infuse millions of dollars into local economies. … It is like a private sector economic stimulus that could fuel improvements in small towns across the Midwest.”
  • Remember when President Obama thought temporary construction jobs were great? In 2009, one of his very first priorities was a massive stimulus package with nearly $1 trillion in new government spending, partly aimed at “rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, repairing our faulty dams and levees … upgrading mass transit, building high-speed rail lines[.]”

“Essentially there’s Canadian oil passing through the United States to be sold on the world market. … It’s good for Canada.”

  • President Obama made a similar claim in November that earned him a rating of “Mostly False” and three Pinocchios from fact checkers. “Most Keystone oil would stay in North America,” PolitiFact concluded.
  • According to the U.S. State Department, “Construction of the proposed Project would contribute approximately $3.4 billion to GDP[.]” It’s beyond dispute that Keystone is good for American workers and families.
  • President Obama is blocking Keystone because doing so is good for big campaign donations courtesy of a liberal, billionaire super-donor. The president’s stance is also very good for China.
  • “The connection between Canada and the United States should not be underestimated,” Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has said. “This is a pipeline that will connect two of the strongest allies in the world. They are an essential economic ally to the United States, and the partnership between Canada, the United States, and Mexico is absolutely critical to the safe and secure development of the United States.”

January marks the start of the new American Congress, and Republicans will have new majorities in both the House and the Senate. A strong majority of the American people support Keystone, and a bill approving the project will arrive on President Obama’s desk very soon. “Vetoing an overwhelmingly popular bill would be a clear indication that he doesn’t care about the American peoples’ priorities,” Speaker Boehner has said. “It would be [the] equivalent of calling the American people ‘stupid.’”

It would also be another indication that President Obama is hopelessly out of touch.

Leave a Reply