The Cable

Jim Jones bucks Obama on Keystone XL pipeline

Former National Security Advisor Jim Jones called today for quick action on the Keystone XL pipeline construction, directly opposing the White House he worked for only a few months ago.

Jones, who rarely speaks in public and almost never contradicts his former boss President Barack Obama, lashed out against the administration in a press call and warned of grave consequences to U.S. national security if the project to build the pipeline doesn't move forward immediately. The call was sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute and Jones was joined on the call by API President and CEO Jack Gerard.

"In a tightly contested global economy, where securing energy resources is a national must, we should be able to act with speed and agility. And any threat to this project, by delay or otherwise, would constitute a significant setback," said Jones. "The failure to [move forward with the project] will prolong the risk to our economy and our energy security" and "send the wrong message to job creators."

The comments come at the worst possible moment for the Obama administration, which is trying to beat back an effort from congressional Republicans to attach language that would force a decision on the pipeline to legislation that extends unemployment insurance and the payroll tax holiday for middle class Americans.

Obama has promised to veto any bill that comes to his desk with the Keystone XL pipeline language, and the State Department has said that if it is forced to come to a quick decision on the pipeline, that decision would be no because there has not been enough time to properly evaluate environmental and logistical considerations.

The Cable asked Jones if he was getting paid by API for supporting its cause. Jones said he was not getting paid, and was speaking out because he believed in the pipeline cause.

"I've known Jack Gerard for a number of years... and when he called me a few days ago and asked me if I was willing to participate in this because of my interest in energy issues, I agreed to do so," Jones said.

Jones said the project was an important piece of the U.S.-Canada relationship and that if the United States doesn't act, Canada may decide to cancel the project and give its energy resources to the Chinese. He also said if they United States doesn't move forward with the pipeline, that would be another signal of fading U.S. leadership in the world.

"If we get to a point where the nation cannot bring itself to do, for whatever reason, those things that we all know is in our national interest... then we are definitely in a period of decline in terms of our global leadership and in terms of our ability to compete in the 21st century," said Jones.

Jones said that he was not in touch with the administration directly on this issue, but that he told Obama personally just before resigning that Obama had a chance to be the "energy president," but was failing to distinguish himself on the issue.

"I do not think the United States has a comprehensive strategy for energy writ large and that's a critical shortfall. Nor do I think we are properly organized," Jones said. "In my last few days I communicated that to the president."

UPDATE: A reader passes on this 2008 article from ThinkProgress that points out Jones was the  Institute for 21st Century Energy, a organization closely affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  According to the article, Jones' Transition Plan at the Institute "calls for billions of dollars in subsidies for the nuclear and coal industry, a dramatic expansion in domestic oil and natural gas drilling into protected areas, and massive new energy industry tax breaks and loopholes."

The Cable

Clinton says goodbye to 500 State Department employees

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presided over the retirement ceremony for about 500 career State Department employees on Friday morning, thanking them for their service and urging them to keep in touch.

"Your careers are part of the fabric of American history and our ongoing, never-ending mission to try to help build a better world," she said at the State Department. About 150 of the retirees were in attendance.

The civil service and Foreign Service officers leaving State today have served at 250 posts abroad, speak 55 languages, and have logged a total of 14,000 years of service to the United States of America. "But who's counting? You all look good to me," Clinton said.

Here are some of the retirees that Clinton singled out at today's festivities.

  • Ora B. Smith, who served 47 years with the State Department.
  • John A. Dooley, a nuclear energy policy expert for 38 years who passed away this year and was represented at the ceremony by his son Daniel Christopher Dooley.
  • Ada Adler, who began working at State in 1958 but had to resign when she met her husband Mike, because female Foreign Service officers were not allowed to be married at the time. She was allowed to rejoin State when the rule was changed in 1972. Her son, Michael J. Adler, is now deputy chief of mission in Kuwait. Her grandson, Michael Carlsberg, works in State's Education and Cultural Affairs bureau.
  • Sandra Keiser, who was the deputy chief of mission in Copenhagen when Danish diplomats were being threatened after a Danish cartoonist published a drawing of the prophet Mohammad.
  • David Dunn, who translated for Mother Theresa on her visit to Burundi to establish one of her first orphanages for children who lost their parents to AIDS.

Clinton shook hands and posed for a picture with several dozen of the retirees that were present at today's ceremony. She also urged them to be prepared to come back into service if and when an opportunity might arise.

"We may very well need your help in the future," Clinton said. "We have asked retirees to come in, to help out, to serve as charges while we waited for the Senate to act -- which is like waiting for Godot, one never knows when it will happen."