Jonah Goldberg

So we're a go, right? Au contraire, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough explained Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." The State Department study is but "one of many important inputs into the process." Other departments get to weigh in. Which ones? Well, almost all of them, it seems: Defense, Justice, Interior, Commerce, Transportation, Energy and Homeland Security, plus the Environmental Protection Agency. Those poor saps at Housing and Urban Development must feel like chopped liver.

But it gets funnier. "What the president's role is now is to protect this process from politics," McDonough said, "let the experts, the expert agencies and the Cabinet secretaries make their assessments both of the study ... as well as its impact on the national interest."

It all sounds so reasonable. The only problem is that the Keystone XL pipeline has been under constant study since the U.S. extension was proposed in 2008. Friday's State Department report -- weighing in at 11 volumes! -- was initiated for political purposes. In 2011, after extensive study, State called the pipeline the "preferred alternative."

The hitch is that environmental groups stupidly made the pipeline a litmus-test issue for climate seriousness. And so Obama's EPA ordered a do-over that conveniently punted the decision until after the presidential election.

According to the Pew Research Center, the overwhelming policy priority for Americans in 2014 is "strengthening the economy" (80 percent of respondents) and "improving the job situation" (74 percent). Dealing with global warming ranks second to last (29 percent).

But by all means, let's hear more talk about this being the year of action with heroic penmanship and red tape cutting. Because it appears talk is all we ever get.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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