In the next few days, it will be fascinating to see whether the U.S. media and the political establishment give as much attention to the emerging scandal over Keystone XL insider back-scratching as they have lavished on the Solyndra issue.
Most Republican politicians, of course, will look the other way at the new revelations about the State Department's encouragement of conflicts of interest in the pipeline analysis process. With the exception of a few GOP politicians in the pipeline's direct path who have opposed the project, such as Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, most national Republicans have enthusiastically supported the pipeline. And with mainstream Democrats reluctant to criticize the Obama administration, that leaves liberals and environmentalists as the only ones likely to make noise.
I hate to quote Bill McKibben, who is so prolific and ubiquitous nowadays, but he's really on target, especially in his piece Saturday in the Daily Beast (with Naomi Klein), which included this riff:
This is quite possibly the biggest potential scandal of the Obama years. But there’s a danger that it will go ignored for three reasons:
First, it’s so incredibly blatant that it’s hard to believe—neither of us are naifs, but we are still astonished that they’d show their industry bias this clearly. There were plenty of other signs, of course—emails released last week, for instance, showed Department officials cheerleading for the pipeline. But the Entrix connection is truly mind-boggling. It’s the kind of thing Dick Cheney might have done, on a particularly sloppy day.
Second, the Republicans that have done such a noisy job of drawing attention to Solyndra will, we predict, studiously ignore the Keystone scandal. Why? Because the project’s biggest backers include the Chamber of Commerce and the Koch Brothers. We’re guessing cronyism gets a pass when it’s on behalf of the oil industry—in slightly less obvious guises, the old boy network has been steering subsidies to the fossil-fuel industry for decades.
Third, the officials in charge seem utterly unconcerned about the conflicts of interest that have plagued this project from the start. Hillary Clinton has stood by while her former deputy campaign manager took a job as TransCanada’s chief lobbyist; stories late last week on DeSmogBlog found several big-money bundlers from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign working for lobbyists under contract to TransCanada.
And Obama? Obama’s said nothing about Keystone all year long. Not when 1,253 people were arrested outside his door in late summer, the biggest civil-disobedience protests in 30 years. Not when 10 of his fellow Nobel Peace laureates wrote to tell him the pipeline was immoral. Not now that this scandal is breaking, even though he promised the “most transparent” administration ever.
Will the media and politicians make a fuss over this? Will normally hard-nosed reporters push State Department officials to go beyond the empty blandishments Friday from Kerri-Ann Jones, the Hillary Clinton aide at the State Department who is in charge of Keystone XL review?
If anything comes of this, we should all tip our hats to McKibben, who is emerging as not just a great organizer but one of the best environmental communicators of our time. In just the past week, his op-eds in the New York Times and the Washington Post have been masterpieces of messaging that is punchy, powerful and insightful.
Speaking of masterpieces, the current New Yorker magazine cover may well be the totemic image of our times: