Erika Johnsen

Yet again, the coming summer's economic forecast includes a sharp uptick in the price of gasoline, and Team Obama is rushing to prepare for the highly visible and unpopular neighborhood effects that will certainly result from the increased prices -- which is to be expected, since they will be such an inconvenience for his reelection campaign:

President Barack Obama will try to head off the political impact of rising gasoline prices as Republicans vow to make the price at the pump an issue in the 2012 election campaign.

Obama plans events this week focusing on his administration’s efforts to expand domestic exploration and development of alternative energy sources to combat cyclical spikes in gas prices. ...

“Gas prices will be the number one issue by summertime,” U.S. Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House Republicans’ chief vote-counter, said in an interview.

Obama’s political team has been preparing to counter Republican attacks since the administration denied a permit for TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL oil pipeline, White House officials said. The renewed focus on what Obama has described as an “all-of-the-above” energy strategy kicks off with a speech tomorrow at the University of Miami in Florida.

Apparently, however, his administration hasn't quite worked out the kinks in their messaging strategy just yet, because Jay Carney's response to a Keystone question during Tuesday's White House press briefing was so desperately, ludicrously clumsy, it's laughable. Starting just after the nine-minute mark:

"In terms of Keystone, as you all know, the history here is pretty clear. And the fact is because Republicans decided to play politics with Keystone, their action essentially forced the administration to deny the permit process because they insisted on a time frame in which it was impossible to completely approve the pipeline," Carney said when asked about the pipeline by ABC News' Jake Tapper.

Later in the briefing, Carney says it is the Republicans' fault.

Jake Tapper: "How can you say that you have an all the above on approach if the President turned down the Keystone pipeline? And you blame the Republicans for making it political."

Carney: "But the President didn't turn down the Keystone pipeline. There was a process in place, with long precedent, run out of the State Department because of the issue of the pipeline crossing an international boundary, that required an amount of time for proper for review after an alternate route was deemed necessary through Nebraska at the request of the Republican Governor of Nebraska and other stakeholders in Nebraska and the region that needed to play out, to be done appropriately. You can't review and approve a pipeline, the route for which doesn't even exist.

"The Republicans were the ones who unfortunately decided because they were looking for scalps, I guess, or wins in a situation where they somehow found themselves on the wrong side of cutting taxes for 160 million Americans last December. They decided to play politics with this decision and attack the payroll tax cut extension. Even though it was made clear by the State Department that doing so would make it impossible for them to conduct the review responsibly, they did it anyway knowing what the result would be."

Heck, forget clumsy; that was flat-out dishonest. First of all, when the President signed his name on the dotted line of the payroll tax cut extension, he took ownership of the timeline encompassed therein for deciding on the Keystone pipeline -- and now the White House is fickly claiming that the alloted time, to which President Obama assented, actually wasn't enough time. No.

Secondly, the State Department does indeed have plenty of precedent with their long approval process -- the sort of unbearably slow, painful dragging-on that only federal bureaucracy can inflict -- but TransCanada submitted their application over three years ago. Given the very publicly contested nature of the pipeline, as well as the large-scale economic benefits/jobs/energy security it would bring to the U.S., let's not pretend the State Department shoved it to the bottom of the pile (last August, they even gave the pipeline a favorable review!). They approved a similar oil sands pipeline two years ago, and as to environmentalists' ostensible concern for terrestrial leaks (which is really just a convenient guise for their overarching hatred of fossil fuels), the State Department's "extensive studies" have concluded that those shouldn't be a problem, either.

Here's what happened here: no, Republicans absolutely did not force the President to deny the Keystone pipeline and decline on inviting wealth and jobs into the country; they merely forced him to actually declare a definite decision about a delicate political issue in an election year instead of snivelling about needing more time. Weaksauce, White House.


Erika Johnsen

Erika Johnsen is a Web Editor for Townhall.com and Townhall Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @erikajohnsen.