For political reasons, the U.S. president has put the kibosh on TransCanada’s plan to extend the Keystone pipeline from Cushing Oklahoma to Houston. That project would have immediately created 6,500 high-paid, high-skilled construction jobs, along with thousands more spinofff jobs. The employment situation in the U.S. has been persistently bad through Obama’s presidency, and you wonder what tipping point the country is approaching. On one hand there is this serious, persistent unemployment; on the other hand, banks are doing just swimmingly well and Wall Street execs are back to receiving enormous bonuses. Meanwhile, the federal government seems more interested in appeasing rich, Hollywood-supported “environmental” lobbies in Washington than jump-starting major job-creation and energy security projects like Keystone.
Even diehard Obama supporters like Mark Shields admit that on this jobs-versus-environment issue, the environment lobby won. Those who follow Shields, mostly in his regular Friday appearances along with David Brooks on the PBS Newshour, know he represents a very articulate and strenuous traditionalist liberal view—especially when it comes to working people and jobs. He has been locked on the plight of working-class Americans through the current recession, and over the past year has relentlessly analyzed the high-level political situation in the U.S. from the viewpoint of jobs and working class voters.
On Friday, Shields appeared deeply disappointed in Obama’s capitulation to loud environmental lobbyists at the expense of working people, as well as in how that will inevitably play in the 2012 electoral political game. The Republicans will harp on this, and if the employment picture does not improve between now and the election, they will score points.
Was this move to appease the green lobby a smart political gamble? Possibly. The president appears to have torn a page from the playbook of Dalton McGuinty, of all people. In the recent Ontario election, McGuinty consciously and deliberately appealed to affluent downtown Toronto environmentalists, at the risk of losing critical rural districts where opposition to wind turbines is overwhelming. He lost those rural seats but kept the downtown seats, squeaking to a very bare victory.
Obama’s campaign kick-off advertising appeals in exactly the same way to exactly the same crowd. Scroll to 09:50 of the following clip, which is from the Newshour of January 22:
Watch Shields, Brooks on Romney’s Message, Gingrich’s Defense, Santorum’s Struggles on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.
Shields and Brooks don’t often agree, but they’re in perfect agreement over the Keystone decision: it’s substantively a terrible decision both for jobs and the environment.
So the big question is, will Obama’s strategic decision to court the “environmental” lobby at the expense of the Big Labor lobby help him or hurt him as the presidential election year progresses?