Chelsea Ratterman, Assistant Editor
Over spring break, Oklahoma had a very high profile visitor. President Barack Obama came to the state to address the Keystone XL Pipeline extension. The Pipeline would go through Cushing on its way from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
The pipeline has been a topic of contention for Congress and the White House since the beginning of the year. When payroll tax cuts made their way through Congress, and as a stipulation for renewal of the tax cuts, Republicans insisted that the permit for the Keystone XL Pipeline be passed as well. The Obama administration announced in January that they would halt the project due to the “ rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by Congressional Republicans [that] prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment,” President Obama said in a statement.
On March 22, the president announced in Cushing that he was expediting the permit for TransCanada to build the southern portion of the pipeline. This turnabout in policy may have been prompted from the harsh criticism he faced from Congressional Republicans and governors, including Oklahoma’s own Gov. Mary Fallin.
Mayor Mick Cornett of OKC and Mayor Jack Fry of Midwest City were on hand to greet President Obama along with Tinker officials. Come that night, the question on many Oklahomans’ minds was, where was Gov. Fallin, or any other high-ranking Oklahoma official? There were no state officials there to greet Obama as he arrived at Tinker Air Force Base. Many did have reasons as to why they did not attend, some citing the lack of notice as to why they were unavailable, but such is the nature of presidential travel. Many saw this as an intentional snub by the governor, who they believed to be placing political ideology over respect for the Executive Office of the President. A statement released by the governor’s office later revealed she was in Puerto Rico for a family vacation.
State Representative Mike Shelton responded to Fallin’s comments on Obama’s decision to expedite the permit.
“For the governor and most major state officials to skip President Obama’s visit is insulting to the president and an embarrassment to the state… While the governor did not have time to meet or even greet the president, she did have time to issue press releases attacking him… Today, Oklahomans looked good on energy, but poor on leadership,” he said in a statement released March 22.
With a past of high tension between the two, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer shared an intense exchange in January on a Phoenix runway with the President when he visited her state. Even when they do not agree with their policies, it is seen as a duty of the governor to greet the president and other high -ranking federal officials when they come to the state.