Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Why Won't Hillary Pipe Up on Keystone XL?

Clinton dodges Keystone...again!

It's the news that isn't really news, as she's been saying the same thing on this issue for quite a while now. But whether you agree with it or not, she did offer a logical explanation in Des Moines on Sunday:
“No other presidential candidate was Secretary of State when this process started, and I put together a very thorough deliberative evidence-based process to evaluate the environmental impact and other considerations of Keystone,” Clinton said.
“As such, I know there is a very careful evaluation continuing and that the final decision is pending to be made by Secretary Kerry and President Obama. Very simply, the evaluation determines whether this pipeline is in our nation’s interest and I’m confident that the pipeline impacts on global greenhouse gas emissions will be a major factor in that decisions, as the president has said. So I will refrain from commenting because I had a leading role in getting that process started and I think we have to let it run its course,” she said.
Again, this is not news. Last October, Clinton made clear that this is about not undermining her successor:
"I can't really talk about it because I was in the office that has primary responsibility for making the decision. I don't want to inject myself into what is a continuing process or to in any way undermine my successor as he tries to make this decision."
So the answer is right there: It's all about letting John Kerry do his job, and keeping as much politics as possible out of this until the State Department's recommendation finally comes down. Considering the enormous environmental and political ramifications, it's understandable that the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton would like to have as much non-partisan legitimacy as they can get.

As for what that forthcoming decision might be, Kerry seemed to give some hints about it during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Lima last December:
Kerry must make the final recommendation to Obama about whether the $8 billion pipeline that has been delayed more than five years is in the national interest and whether he should approve it.
Neither Obama nor Kerry have said publicly whether they favor approving the pipeline but said they will wait for the Nebraska court ruling.
Environmental activists in Lima said if Kerry approves the project, he would be going against the spirit of his speech.
“Secretary Kerry sure sounded like someone who was gearing up for rejection," said Jamie Henn of green group 350.org. "(He) has left himself no logical option except to recommend President Obama say no to Keystone XL."
So, what's the upside for the president or the former Secretary of State taking a hard stand on Keystone XL before the final recommendation from Kerry is made? A years-in-the-making, non-partisan, science-based State Department report could be a crucial springboard to a wise decision on what will likely be a major 2016 wedge issue. Jumping the gun might turn Clinton and Kerry's years of hard work into merely a partisan afterthought.

It's also quite possible that there is some messaging coordination with the White House going on. You'll recall that President Obama also "dodged" Keystone XL in his well-received State of the Union address in January, with his lofty but ambiguous request to "set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline."

But perhaps his was the more artful dodge. Plus, he's not running for anything anymore.

I have no idea what stance Hillary Clinton will eventually have on Keystone XL, but for some hints about that as well as what kind of environmental president she will be, check out this handy list as well as her 82% lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters...which is actually 10% higher than the score of our current president.


  1. http://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2015/07/28/hillary-clinton-is-stumped-on-question-of-keystone-pipeline/?smid=nytpolitics

    I think she could have gave a more artful answer. "I think we should approve if it proves to be carbon neutral" or something instead of "you have to elect me to find out" basically. Now, stupid new york times is turning up the snark.

    1. The NYT did it again!: "The response left a silence in the un-air-conditioned gymnasium of the Amherst Street Elementary School..."

      Nope, you can hear from this video that she got some applause for her answer. The "elect me and find out" probably wasn't the best thing to say, but she seemed to be lighthearted about it. Otherwise, it's the EXACT same answer she's given before, as described here.


    2. Yeah I read the "silence", then watched the video. They just make up facts as long as they're not caught.