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Dennis: Keystone XL delays get embarrassing

The stakes couldn’t have been higher when President Barack Obama faced the “Go/No go” decision to get Osama bin Laden. A disastrous outcome would have haunted his administration. It would have been even more humiliating than the Desert One debacle in 1980, which ended with two U.S. aircraft destroyed, eight servicemembers dead and Jimmy Carter a one-term president.

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And yet, confronted with that stark possibility, Obama made the tough call.

“Go,” he decided. And the Navy SEALs went.

Can this be the same president who not only keeps punting his decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, but announced the latest delay in a “news dump” late in the afternoon on Good Friday?

The Obama who OK’d the bin Laden mission should be embarrassed and ashamed. For just as that decision showcased the president’s willingness to put his political fortune on the line in defense of the national interest, the Keystone XL delays highlight a timidity that borders on cowardice and a craven refusal to offend his political base.


  • As columnist Charles Krauthammer describes, delaying the Keystone XL yet again represents “a spit in the eye to Canada, our closest ally.”

Canada, remember, is the country that “helps us in all kinds of tight spots around the world (and is) trying to help us with Ukraine.

“And this is absolute disrespect of the highest order to our closest friend.”

  • The delay does more than insult and offend our neighbor to the North. It also damages America’s national security in other crucial ways, including this one:

“The environment matters; oil spills must not happen; aquifers must be protected,” a Forbes magazine columnist noted.

“But the bottom line is this: as long as North America still relies on oil shipped from the other side of the globe to keep our cars and trucks running, it makes far more sense to keep those petrodollars sloshing around Calgary, Houston, Ottawa and Washington instead of Moscow and Riyadh.”

Or as TransCanada’s CEO put it, “We are also disappointed the United States will continue to rely on suspect and aggressive foreign leaders for the 8 to 9 million barrels of oil that is imported every day.

“A stable, secure supply of oil from Canada and from the U.S. makes better sense, and I am sure a majority of Americans agree.”

  • But don’t take TransCanada’s word for this.

“Once again, the administration in making a political calculation instead of doing what is right for the country. It’s clear the administration needs to grow a set of antlers, or perhaps take a lesson from Popeye and eat some spinach.”

That was not TransCanada’s CEO talking, nor was it Republican House Speaker John Boehner or any other of Obama’s political foes.

It was Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of America.

Here’s another would-be Obama ally who’s fed up:

“It’s absolutely ridiculous that this well over five-year-long process is continuing for an undetermined amount of time. This most recent delay leaves everyone waiting in limbo — federal agencies, construction and energy workers and companies, state officials and Canada. It hurts all of us when no decisions are made.”

Thus spoke U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.

Two weeks ago, Heitkamp and 10 other Senate Democrats wrote to Obama, urging him to approve the pipeline. The Good Friday news-dump announcement was what they got for their trouble.

The Osama bin Laden decision was this president’s finest hour. But that decisiveness has vanished, and we’re left with an already five-years-overdue decision being put off in still another months-long, election-conscious delay.

Dennis is the opinion editor of the Grand Forks Herald, which is a part of Forum News Service. Email him at