THE BLOG
11/18/2014 04:09 pm ET Updated Jan 18, 2015

President Barack Obama vs. His Conscience: Why His Veto of the Keystone XL Pipeline Is a Symbol That Matters

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI via Getty Images

Fresh off his perceived victory at the G20 Summit and what's being heralded as great strides made with the Chinese Government on the drawing down of carbon emissions over the next several decades -- the president is looking into the fiery face of Keystone.

The facts are in, the spin is in, the polls are in and the science -- to most -- is undeniable.

These are not the issues anymore...

The politicians on both sides of the aisle have chosen their masters and decided how they are going to justify their vote. In the case of the house, that happened yesterday. And newly minted Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared with total certainty that moving forward on the XL pipeline is just "common "sense." A "shovel-ready jobs project" that will increase American energy and make virtually no impact to the changing climate. The Senate will vote later today, and right now, the bill is one vote away from either passage or failure.

The environmental leaders, non-profits, think tanks, activists, journalists and artists have waged a valiant war against the propaganda perpetrated by big oil and their lap dogs that continue to believe that this pipeline will create tens of thousands of American jobs and make us more energy independent from foreign oil. But even these truth tellers have been successfully labeled as hysterics, tree huggers and environmental extremists.

Nothing they can say matters anymore...

The latest argument on the endless lineup of news shows is that this is just another pipeline, why is everyone digging in so deeply? Even Chris Matthews -- and I say that because I really like him most of the time -- yesterday on Hardball criticized the president for threatening to veto the bill. "It seems to me that the country, overwhelmingly, per capita, is for this Keystone pipeline. They like energy, they like any job they can get. It's infrastructure to most people," Matthews observed, adding that President Obama is staking himself out as the "Lone Ranger" against Keystone with his veto threat of a bill likely to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate. I don't mean to single Matthews out -- he is not the only one who has chosen to focus on the political machinations of this pipeline rather than being willing to earn lone wolf status himself and stare into the eye of the storm -- literally and figuratively of what is really happening here.

Two weeks ago the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued the harshest report yet about the state of our climate crisis and the role that human beings play in pushing that crisis to the brink of disaster.

This report was the result of over 830 authors, representing 80 countries and covering a range of scientific, technical and socio-economic views and expertise. So to all of those politicians regurgitating the latest talking point "... I'm not a scientist but ..." should take great comfort in knowing that they don't have to be in order to make a scientifically accurate decision on Keystone and the array of decisions made everyday that bring us all closer to that brink.

Theirs are the voices that matter now.

And perhaps the most powerful voice piercing our conscience and speaking the starkest truth to the hubris of the powerful came yesterday from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, whose territory in S. Dakota rests along the trail of the proposed pipeline. They called congressional approval of the project "an act of war." The Tribe's President, Cyril Scott, said in the statement: "When I was elected and took my oath of office, I said I would protect the next seven generations," Scott told reporters. "I have that obligation not only as president, but as a warrior of the tribe."

So I am asking President Obama, can you share President Cyril Scott's oath of office and make it your own? Can you stand with these voices, alongside the many others -- the non-politicians -- like the organization Bold Nebraska a grassroots effort to oppose the pipeline comprised mostly of farmers who know all too well the impact the building of this pipeline will have to their water, their fields, their livestock. It is the classic David and Goliath scenario -- in this story the grassroots and environmental movements pushing back against big money and political interests. There are rare moments in history when David has beaten back Goliath and we all celebrate those because they give us hope that it possible - no matter how impossible it may seem -- for the powerful to be vanquished by the less powerful. But sadly in this case -- the environmental lobby in Washington D.C. is repeatedly silenced by the money and power that fights every hour of every day to beat them. And they have succeeded many more times than they have failed.

So It all rests now with President Obama. Will he choose the political path over the patriotic one? Will he choose the cattle, the crops, the water, future generations over oil futures, bottom lines and trading Keystone for immigration as a way to offer this as his symbol of being willing to work with the new congress.

The Keystone XL Pipeline debate is being called bad political theater as a way to discredit it and label it as just a symbolic fight.

These are the times when presidential power can really mean something.

Veto this bill. You know it's the right thing. Stand with us -- the "us" that elected you -- twice. You are the one who said we had to have the "audacity of hope"

Here's to me hoping. Audaciously.