Republican presidential candidates quickly lined up in vehement opposition to President Obama’s decision on Wednesday to reject the permit application for the Keystone XL pipeline, indicating that the issue will remain one of the front-burner environmental controversies through the fall.
The Republican candidates portrayed the decision largely as a jobs issue, in stark contrast to Democrats, who say the pipeline would cause severe environmental risks.
"This is a stunningly stupid thing to do.… These people are so out of touch with reality it's as though they were governing Mars,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said. “Stupidity No. 1, we need the jobs. Maybe when they're unemployed in November they'll figure out jobs matter. "
Obama’s decision “is as shocking as it is revealing,” echoed GOP front-runner Mitt Romney. “It shows a president who once again has put politics ahead of sound policy. If Americans want to understand why unemployment in the United States has been stuck above 8 percent for the longest stretch since the Great Depression, decisions like this one are the place to begin.”
Both former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Texas Gov. Rick Perry charged that the administration’s action complicates making the United States energy-independent in the future.
“Getting this country independent of foreign sources of crude from countries that are not our friends is really problematic,” Perry said. “So this Canadian oil, there's a possibility we could lose it to China with that decision. I hope Americans will really become unhinged with that decision because it is a really bad decision for our country, for energy independence, and sends a horrible message."
Santorum called the decision "another capitulation to the radical environmental fringe, and in turn putting our national security and economy at risk ... As president, I would approve the pipeline on Day One."
In responding to the candidates’ criticism, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt singled out Romney, using a line of attack the campaign is expected to repeat in the months ahead on other issues.
“Mitt Romney has made clear that he would rubber-stamp whatever the Republicans in Congress demand of him, whether it’s a budget that would make the middle class and seniors foot the bill for more tax breaks for the wealthiest or refusing to evaluate how a pipeline would affect our public health and natural resources,” LaBolt said. “President Obama has pursued a comprehensive energy strategy that has increased our domestic energy production, reduced our dependence on foreign oil to below 50 percent for the first time in 13 years, and supported more than 224,000 clean-energy jobs.”
Sarah B. Boxer contributed