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Rude Welcome For A President

Image of President Barack Obama

(I hope local media outlets here have now learned to review any information released by Oklahoma Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones with skepticism. His sensationalized analysis of “slush funds” he claims were used by the state Education Department under former schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett continues to unravel. Here’s the latest from Megan Rolland at NewsOK.com. Here’s my recent post on the issue. -Kurt Hochenauer)

The corporate media and power structure here has given President Barack Obama a rude welcome during his first visit to Oklahoma even though the president used his trip to announce an energy policy that directly benefits the state economically.

The president visited the oil hub of Cushing Thursday to announce he was going to push to expedite the southern portion of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which will run from Oklahoma to the Texas Gulf Coast. This will lead to both temporary and permanent job growth in Oklahoma and secure Cushing’s viability as a significant, national oil hub.

The president said the pipeline, which will be built by TransCanada, will relieve the current glut of oil in Cushing. (Note the word “glut.) The Obama administration has indicated it isn’t opposed to the northern section of the pipeline, which runs from Canada to Oklahoma, but that environmental concern over its placement in Nebraska has delayed its approval. One of those initially expressing those concerns was Nebraska Gov. David Heineman, a Republican.

So what do you get in Oklahoma when you announce a job-producing, energy initiative for the state, note your help at least indirectly for a Republican governor even though you’re a Democrat and show overall strong support for the fossil fuel industry?

You get rudeness, arrogance and ignorance thrown in your face. You’re maligned. You’re scolded. But Oklahomans are such nice people, right? Well, maybe in meaningless, hollow gestures. The truth is the Obama hatred in this state is as irrational as some of the religious-inspired legislation making its way into law at the capitol this year.

Here are some examples:

Before his arrival, four local energy executives, Harold Hamm of Continental Resources, Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake Energy, Larry Nichols of Devon Energy and Tom Ward of SandRidge Energy sent a “message” to the president that was published on the NewsOK.com site. (Can you imagine the size of the collective ego of that group?)

In the message, they arrogantly lectured the president, hoping he would “develop a better understanding of the oil and gas industry, one of the largest and most vibrant sectors in the United States, during your visit.” Right. I think it’s safe to say that Obama has a much better and broader grasp of energy issues than these local members of the 1 percent. These guys know how to drill and make money, and that’s great for the local economy. Obama, however, must and should look at the larger issues when it comes to energy policy and world affairs.

The group scolded the president for not pushing for the approval of the entire pipeline, which they argue should “happen now.” Me me me! Now now now! The message sounds like a group of spoiled two-year-olds. They also fail to note the context of Obama’s position on the northern portion of the pipeline.

The energy leaders end the message with direct criticism, which is based on no evidence. “Mr. President,” they write, “your words suggest you want the economic benefits American natural gas and oil can deliver. We hope your actions follow suit – to date they have not.” But the president was in state to announce his support for the pipeline, and he has supported oil and gas exploration as much as any other president. Their position is political and illogical. To date, Obama has supported the “economic benefits” of the fossil fuel industry.

The arrogance of the energy leaders was matched by an Oklahoman editorial titled, “Mr. President, welcome to the town fossil fuel built.” That statement, of course, is a disputable contention in itself. No one can deny the energy sector’s influence on the economy here, but there’s also the agricultural impact in this area on a historical and current level. It has one of the largest livestock markets in the world, for example. There’s also Tinker Air Force Base, which certainly impacts the Oklahoma City area. Take away the agricultural sector in this state and then take away the military bases, and what do you have then?

Also, what about the influence of native Americans in the city’s and state’s history? You won’t hear much from The Oklahoman on that issue. This much is sure on a historical level: There will come a time when there’s no oil or gas to drill here, and the energy companies will simply no longer exist. We live in the last belch of the fossil fuel age, which, in retrospect, will seem like a relatively short period.

The editorial also scolds the president for some previous remarks he made. According to the editorial, “So demagogue all you want about undertaxed oil barons. Just remember that you didn’t arrive here on a solar-powered aircraft. What flows in and out of the Pipeline Crossroads of the World is oil. Getting it to Cushing is expensive and risky.” I bet Obama really learned something there and will keep it in mind constantly as he travels in Air Force One.

Meanwhile, Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, didn’t even meet with Obama because she was out of state. She did release a statement, though, that contained this welcoming tidbit:

I hope that while President Obama is in Oklahoma he takes some time to listen to our citizens, many of whom work for the energy industry which he claims to support. I think they will tell him that – far from supporting the responsible domestic production of American-made energy – his administration has undermined it at every turn.

Obama has SO much he can learn here, right?

Welcome to Oklahoma, Mr. President. Really. I don’t blame you if you want to get out of here as soon as you can. Good luck in your next four-year term as president.