I have been following President Obama closely since he was first elected Democratic Senator Obama from Illinois in 2004.
From day one of Obama’s political career, even when he was a mere Illinois State Senator, it has been always about Obama.
The reasons for Obama’s veto will be primarily personal, and to a lesser degree, due to political and environmental factors.
Obama’s strengths have always been his gargantuan ego and his overweening belief in himself, his personal story, his destiny and his intelligence. Though Obama was an Illinois Senator, he always viewed himself as an outsider. A Washington outsider, who was above the grubby business of politics.
Since Obama saw himself as a brilliant and persuasive political orator who can move and influence millions of Americans with his words and style, Obama did not see the necessity of getting down and dirty with Congress, even a Democratic-controlled Senate in order to secure bipartisan legislative approval of his agenda.
No politics as the art of the possible for the imperious Obama. It was beneath the distant and disengaged Obama to engage in Lyndon Johnsonian glad-handing and horse-trading with Democrats and Republicans. That is applying the necessary oil to grease Washington’s legislative machinery.
Recall in the first two years of his first term, Obama had the benefit of a Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and Senate. Accordingly, he was able to pass his signature Obamacare without the support of any Republicans.
By Obama’s own admission, the midterm election of 2014 was a referendum on Obama’s Presidency, his policies and Obama, the man
But once the Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives in 2010 (mostly as a result of Obama’s own policies and his failure to compromise and attract bipartisan support) Obama’s legislative record has been dismal.
By Obama’s own admission, the midterm election of 2014 was a referendum on Obama’s Presidency, his policies and Obama, the man. In all three instances, the American people voted loud and clear against Obama. As a result, the Democrats lost control of the Senate to the Republicans. (As of this writing, the Republicans have elected fifty-two Senators.)
Accordingly, with two years left in his second term, Obama has become the lamest of lame duck Presidents.
Since Obama’s most effective years are behind him and he will leave the Presidency in about two years, I believe that Obama’s main priority, above all political concerns, will be his legacy, that is, his view of his place in history.
Obama has always looked upon himself as a pro-environment, climate change President. He has specifically courted and attracted the activist environmental base of the Democratic party. And the wealthy individual and corporate sponsors of the green environmental movement.
Though Obama has failed to enact any significant cap and trade legislation or carbon tax legislation, Obama has succeeded to date in doing an end run around the Republican Congress through executive fiat- by using his executive power to diminish America’s coal industry through punitive administrative regulations, which do not require Congressional approval.
In order for Obama, in his own mind, to solidify his reputation as a fierce defender of the environment, I firmly believe that Obama will oppose any proposed bill from the Republican-controlled Congress which would approve the construction of the Keystone pipeline for the purpose of transporting Alberta oil to American refineries in the south.
Though the US State Department has opined that the existence of this pipeline will have no material effect on the production of greenhouse gases, (Alberta oil will be produced and transported with or without the Keystone pipeline.) Obama to date has opposed the pipeline and has hidden behind process and review.
I also believe that Obama will reject Keystone in order to burnish his international green record image ahead of a global climate conference at the end of 2015.
Obama does not give two fracks about the future political fate of the Democratic Party
Obama does not give two fracks about the future political fate of the Democratic Party. However, I do believe that Obama does care about the opinions of his closest and long time advisers Valerie Jarrett and John Podesta and his many long time pro-enviro supporters in the western and eastern red states, including his wealthy liberal Hollywood supporters (Babs Streisand, New Agey Gynneth Paltrow) and his many multi-millionaire hedge fund financial supporters ( ie.Tom Steyer), all anti-Keystoners.
Again, with Obama, it is personal, not political.
If Obama was truly concerned about the political implications for the Democratic party and for the re-election chances of Democrats in 2016, he would not have permitted the Keystone issue to take on such politically dramatic and symbolic significance.
Because the politics of the Keystone pipeline cuts both ways in the Democratic party. It has deeply divided the Democratic party. On one side are those who are in favor of the pipeline, i.e., union members who support the pipeline for the construction and maintenance jobs that it will bring as well as a measure of energy independence and national security. Democratic advocates of the pipeline believe that it is in America’s national self-interest to import oil from Canada, a more reliable ally than Venezuela or certain volatile Middle Eastern countries.
On the other side, Democratic opponents believe that rejecting the pipeline will deal a grievous blow to the Alberta oil sands, significantly reduce Alberta oil production, which they believe will reduce greenhouse gases to the benefit of the environment.
Because Obama will be damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t, Obama will choose his personal legacy and veto the Keystone pipeline and force those Democratic Congressmen and Senators in pro Keystone states to fend for themselves in the 2016 elections.
Apparently the Republicans, with their fifty-two senators, believe they have to date sixty-one pro Keystone Senators onboard (nine Democratic Senators), sufficient to pass a pro Keystone bill.
I predict that when Obama vetoes this bill, he will be surprised that other Democratic Senators, based on their own fear of personal defeat in 2016, will abandon Obama and join with the Republicans in overriding Obama’s veto. (67 votes are required to override a Presidential veto)
Yes, Virginia, Barack Obama will have finally unified the Congress and the country – against himself. Now that would be truly epic and historic.