A brief moment on February 13 showed why President Obama can't win when it comes to the Keystone XL pipeline. In front of the White House, protesters led by actress Daryl Hannah and the head of the Sierra Club demanded that Obama kill the project. Just a few blocks away, the head of the AFL-CIO's powerful Building and Construction Trades Department joined with the American Petroleum Institute to demand that Obama approve it.
Obama's friends in the environmental movement and Hollywood on one side. Obama's friends in Big Labor allied with his enemies in Big Oil on the other. What's a Democratic president to do?
Both sides were unhappy that Obama, who took the time to talk about wind power, solar power, fuel efficiency, global warming and all sorts of other related topics in his State of the Union speech, did not mention Keystone at all. Not a single word.
They know that last year the president put off deciding on the pipeline until after the election Now it appears he would rather do anything than make a choice that is going to make some of his most influential supporters very unhappy.
Environmentalists seem deeply afraid that Obama will rule against them. The Sierra Club called the situation so urgent that it decided to suspend a century-old policy against its officials taking part in civil disobedience. "Today is a one-time event to face arrest in order to elevate discussion about a critical issue," blogged club President Allison Chin, who, along with executive director Michael Brune, was arrested at the protest.
Their nervousness is no mystery. The Obama administration has already approved some parts of the pipeline, and the president's opposition to a crucial link in the line has been based on specific conditions and not on principle. "We've never heard him say that he's against it," Hannah told Fox Business Channel host Neil Cavuto on Wednesday. "And in fact, it seemed as if he was hoping to push it through."
At the same time Hannah and others were being arrested -- they used plastic zip-ties to attach themselves to the White House fence -- Sean McGarvey, president of the AFL-CIO building group, was taking part in a conference call with Jack Gerard, head of the American Petroleum Institute.