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November 18, 2013 11:42 AM Half a Mind To Build the Damn Thing

By Ed Kilgore

Certain pols should probably avoid certain turns of phrase. That is definitely the case with George W. Bush’s comments about the Keystone XL pipeline in an address to oil and gas industry honchos, per a report from Think Progress’ Ryan Koronowski:

I do think we’re underperforming economically. And I think the reason why is there’s not enough focus on private-sector growth. I think the goal of the country ought to be ‘how do we grow the private sector? That ought to be the laser-focus of any administration. And therefore, once that’s the goal, an issue like Keystone pipeline becomes a no-brainer. If private-sector growth is the goal, and Keystone pipeline creates 20,000 new jobs, build the damn thing.

Hearing these words, I remembered the state and local officials in Georgia I used to encounter who were willing to bulldoze the side of a scenic mountain or gut their own revenue bases to build a cut-and-sew plant paying minimum wage. Anything for a groundbreaking, a ribbon-cutting, and the political credit for being a “job-creator,” whether or not it improved the overall economy and regardless of the off-setting costs.

There are some credible arguments for building the Keystone XL pipelines, or at least for not treating it like a complete catastrophe. But it richly deserves to be deep-sixed if it’s going to set yet another precedent for putting on blinders and treating job-creation claims as self-validating—as a “no-brainer.” And in any event, even if you admire the man, it’s a sign of the Apocalypse that anyone would consider the 43d president an authority on the fruits of brainpower.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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