Hillary Clinton’s Keystone Crisis

Jamie Henn

Hillary Clinton’s pipeline problem started in earnest this July 28, when Bruce Blodgett, a retired software engineer, asked Clinton about her position on Keystone XL during a town hall forum in Nashua, New Hampshire. The video of Clinton’s response is painful to watch, in part because it’s so emblematic of the cautiousness and doublespeak that even her supporters wish their candidate would move away from.

“I am not going to second guess [President Barack Obama] because I was in a position to set this in motion,” Clinton said, referencing the pipeline review process that she oversaw as Secretary of State. “I want to wait and see what he and Secretary Kerry decide.”

She then followed up with what might be one of the worst rejoinders ever delivered from the campaign trail,  “If it is undecided when I become president, I will answer your question.” Translation: vote for me, and then I’ll tell you what I stand for. It’s the sort of answer that subverts the entire idea of having an election in the first place.

Within a few hours, a video of the fumble was plastered across nearly every major news site in the country. Politico called the answer a “dodge,” while the Times said that Clinton seemed “stumped,” and the Washington Post labeled the whole thing a “ridiculous hedge.” Clinton’s opponents also jumped all over the misstep. “Well, listen, needless to say, I have a hard time understanding that response,” Bernie Sanders told ABC. “I have helped lead the effort against the Keystone pipeline.”

Clinton, on the other hand, has done rather the opposite. Back in 2010, before the pipeline had even gone through an initial review process at the State Department, Clinton said she was “inclined to approve” the project. The process she then oversaw was so riddled with controversy and incompetence that the State Department was forced to go back to the drawing board multiple times, while their own inspector general investigated the department over serious conflict of interest allegations.

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