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Ron Radosh

Why Obama Turned Down the Keystone XL Pipeline

January 19th, 2012 - 1:17 pm

On the campuses, and among East and West coast types, environmental activism is the big cause of the day. Unlike working-class voters and even the unions that represent them and put jobs and the economy as their first concern, they like that their hero Al Gore puts nature and the environment first, and always paints a more deadly picture about the condition of the earth than is warranted by the facts. A prime example of this is the column on Huffington Post by the actor-activist Robert Redford, who praises Obama for “standing up” to Big Oil.

In Redford’s eyes, it’s all about Big Oil lobbyists paying off members of Congress to vote for the folly of an environmentally disastrous pipeline. The actor has not one word about the wide breadth of support for the pipeline, including from the AFL-CIO unions that support Obama on almost everything else. But Redford is precisely the kind of Obama supporter whose votes the administration is courting and that they deem as essential for a 2012 victory at the polls.

So if the unions supported the pipeline, as they did, why are they so silent now that the president has turned against a proposal they backed? The answer is that I suspect a private deal was made last week: The unions would downgrade their disappointment at the veto of Keystone XL, in return for the president unconstitutionally using his powers to override the Constitution and put in pro-labor recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the same  board that tried to penalize Boeing for wanting to move its new facility to South Carolina from the state of Washington.

For the unions, a pro-left-wing NLRB is more important for Big Labor to attain all of its goals even if it hurts the spread of corporations to a more hospitable climate where new jobs would be created. This kind of clout as well as promises to support other labor demands that  Congress might not sanction but which the president would try to implement by executive fiat are more important in their judgment than having the pipeline built at this moment.

And, in the process, Obama would try to energize the left-wing base in Hollywood and the campuses, which care little about the needs of the working-class and the unions, but respond with passion to the clarion calls of Al Gore, Robert Redford, and Laurie David.

So the president makes his move, and leaves the pipeline for the future while instead he makes his stand in an orchestrated speech to be given at Disney World’s “Main Street,” as far away as possible from any real American main street, and where the ghost of Walt Disney is turning over in his grave to learn what his beloved theme park is being used for.

The president, I think, will need a lot more to win next November than pandering to an invited Florida audience at the nation’s number one dream factory after those in Hollywood.

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