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Obama stuck in pipeline fight

by BYRON YORK

A brief moment Feb. 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 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 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  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 supporters very unhappy.
Environmentalists seem deeply afraid 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.
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 Network host Neil Cavuto the day she was arrested. "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.
The AFL-CIO has donated many millions of dollars to Democratic candidates and many millions of man-hours to Democratic campaigns -- more than the environmental movement and Hollywood combined.
The other problem for the protesters is public opinion. Polls have consistently shown most Americans support building the pipeline. In a Rasmussen poll released in January, 59 percent of those surveyed were in favor. This month, the petroleum institute released its own poll putting the number at 69 percent.
Given that pressure, and especially given the new fact of a safer route for the pipeline, it's hard to see Obama saying no. But so far, the president just can't face his environmental and Hollywood allies with the bad news. Even when they come to the White House to see him.
Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.


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