Jonah Goldberg

On Good Friday, President Obama made a bad call. The State Department announced that it would delay its decision on the Keystone XL pipeline until after the Nebraska Supreme Court rules in a case involving the route. The administration insists the decision to punt has nothing to do with politics. Pretty much everyone else thinks otherwise.

Obama, who is rarely reluctant to act unilaterally when it benefits him politically, and who regularly brags about his red-tape cutting, is paralyzed by perhaps the only big shovel-ready jobs project he's been presented with.

He welcomes the Keystone red tape because he's trapped between an overwhelmingly popular initiative and an overwhelmingly powerful constituency within the Democratic Party opposed to it: obdurate rich environmentalists and the door-knocking minions they employ.

Obama's predicament is just the latest example of how climate change monomania has become a problem for environmentalists -- and the country.

The mark of a truly successful political constituency or lobby is clout in both parties. Since climate change started crowding out other concerns, the environmental movement at the national level has become little more than an adjunct of the left wing of the Democratic Party.

Conservation used to be a fairly bipartisan affair. Dubbed the "father of conservation" by the National Park Service, Republican Teddy Roosevelt did more than any other president to preserve large swaths of wilderness. Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency, expanded the Clean Air Act, signed the Marine Mammal Protection Act and proposed the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The relationship between environmentalists and Republicans soured under Ronald Reagan as he tried to pare back the excesses of the Carter and Nixon years. But the two sides truly broke up under George H.W. Bush. Actually, it was more like the GOP was dumped -- unfairly.

Bush fought for renewal and expansion of the landmark Clean Air Act, but most environmental groups wouldn't even attend the signing. He went to the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992, and he signed the U.N. treaty on climate change that established the Kyoto Protocol process.

"So how many environmental groups endorsed Bush for reelection in 1992?" asked environmental analyst Steve Hayward in a 2010 Weekly Standard essay. "In round numbers: zero."


Jonah Goldberg

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