Barack Obama

All sensible measures considered, the president of the United States is the most powerful person in the world and is likely to remain so for a spell.

That’s true even if you happen to disagree with, disapprove of or just don’t like the individual who holds the office.

Forbes Magazine, toady to the 1%, panderer to 1% wannabes and America’s specialist in creating long, meaningless lists, says it’s Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, but they’re just trying to get up the nose of Barack Obama, whom they say is No. 2, because they don’t like Democrats in the White House very much.

They list Xi Jinping, leader of the People’s Republic of China, and Pope Francis, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, as Nos. 3 and 4, respectively, in case you were wondering. This is a major accomplishment for Pope Francis, seeing as he doesn’t have any divisions, unless you count the Swiss Guards, as a previous occupant of Putin’s office, more or less, once famously pointed out.

Regardless, there’s no doubt whatsoever about it, if you live in Ottawa or Edmonton, and your purpose in life is to see the Keystone XL Pipeline built from Alberta to the Gulf Coast, Obama is most certainly the most important person in your little world.

So it’s always seemed passing strange, when this project was perceived as so vital by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Premier Jim Prentice and the other members of the Calgary Elite who run things in this province as if by divine right and reckon they ought to be able to do so in Ottawa and elsewhere as well, that they have been so clear about their distaste and scorn for Obama and his hesitation to give Keystone XL the nod.

Harper famously said back in 2013 he wasn’t going to take no for an answer from the Most Powerful Person on the Planet. He made the remark to a room full of rich Republican toffs in New York, and it was easy to imagine the curl on his lip when he said it.

If the president said No, the prime minister said, “that won’t be final. This won’t be final until it’s approved and we will keep pushing forward.” This statement, in addition to rudely implying that Obama would soon be gone and Harper would be pleased about it, hardly seems like the right strategy when dealing with a guy who has the power to say yes or no to what you want. Moreover, it tells us more about Harper’s notions of democracy than the president’s.

Prentice recently exhibited the same sort of attitude before the same sort of audience in the same place, although to give him some credit he dialled down the outright scorn a little. But so what? Because the reality is that in Washington, D.C. — the Imperial capital, as it were — Prentice enjoys about as much power and prestige of the Sheriff of Jefferson County. Actually, less, seeing as the sheriff is certainly an American citizen, and probably an armed forces vet.

“The biggest problem we’ve had in the past is an inability to get our message out as Albertans,” Prentice said, studiously ignoring the audience he needed to get his message out to, that Most Powerful Guy on the Block, if not the planet.

Oh well, yesterday, the Most Powerful Person spoke with a tone of finality, through a spokesperson, as befits a truly powerful person. Yes! The answer is still No!

The Republican dominated Congress can pass all the bills it wants, but under the U.S. Constitution, the President of the United States has a veto, and Obama intends to use his to stop Keystone XL, which he reckons might be good for Canada, but won’t be much good for the United States.

Obama obviously figures that the Democrats’ hold on the White House is likely to last longer than the Republican hold on the Senate and the House. He might be right. Regardless, what’s more, he must figure that every day oil prices stay low is a day the pipeline he thinks will be bad for America gets less likely.

Who knows, maybe he plans to roll out cold fusion as the last act of his presidency!

One thing’s for sure: he’s a tough political operator from a tough town (Chicago) and he remembers who his friends are. Harper and Prentice have made it clear that’s not them.

In the mean time, the foot stompers and Republican cronies from Ottawa and Edmonton can say what they like and barely register on the political radar in Washington, which has bigger fish to fry.

It’s a fair question for our homegrown masters of the universe, anyway: How’s that won’t-take-no-for-an-answer stuff workin’ out for ya?

They should have remembered what my grandma used to say, and I bet theirs did too: You’ll catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar.

Just sayin’.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog,

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...