The Biden campaign's strategy was to hide their candidate in the basement while letting a fawning press make the case for him as president. This case was short on substance and long on impression, particularly the impression that the former V.P. is a moderate, working-class guy and a statesman who would restore America's reputation in the world and restrain the Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren/AOC wing of the party.
Well, with the election over Biden's priorities are starting to become clear. They are anything but moderate and, insofar as they unnecessarily antagonizing one of our closest allies, neither are they statesmanlike.
This past weekend a memo written by incoming chief of staff Ron Klain was released which outlines the executive orders Biden plans to implement immediately upon taking over the White House. Highlights on this list -- which the Associated Press calls "a 10-day blitz of executive actions... to redirect the country in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency without waiting for Congress" -- include immigration reform; a national face mask mandate (mandating that they be worn on all federal property and "during interstate travel," whatever that means in practice); and an extension of the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures and the "pause" on student loan payments.
Among the memo's most consequential items is the bullet point which reads "Roll back Trump enviro actions via EO (including rescind Keystone XL pipeline permit)." That is, on his first day in office tomorrow Biden plans to employ the "pen and phone" tactic to kill a multimillion dollar international project that employs tens of thousands of people (in two countries!) in the midst of a pandemic-created recession. This is madness.
Meanwhile, in Canada, the Trudeau government are scrambling to make the case that this move is unnecessary from an environmentalist perspective. Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., Kiersten Hillman, released a statement on Sunday saying "The government of Canada continues to support the Keystone XL project and the benefits that it will bring to both Canada and the United States.” She went on to stress that the Keystone project was more environmentally friendly than the one the Obama administration rejected in 2015:
Not only has the project itself changed significantly since it was first proposed, but Canada’s oilsands production has also changed significantly. Per-barrel oilsands (greenhouse gas) emissions have dropped 31 per cent since 2000, and innovation will continue to drive progress... Keystone XL fits within Canada’s climate plan at a time when our economic recovery is a top priority... there is no better partner for the U.S. on climate action than Canada as we work together for green transition.
Alberta Premier Jason Kenney took a slightly more aggressive tone, saying: "Should the incoming U.S. administration abrogate the Keystone XL permit, Alberta will work with [pipeline owners] TC Energy to use all legal avenues available to protect its interest in the project."
These appeals are unlikely to sway Team Biden, who are riding a wave of anti-Republican sentiment in the wake of the recent disturbance at the Capitol. They believe they have a window of opportunity to make some big, cost-free moves which will garner them goodwill with activists but will be forgotten by voters still focused on the Trump show.
This could well be a miscalculation on their part. The issues which gave rise to Trump in 2016 won't go away when he does. And the most important of those, the alienation of America's working class since the end of the Cold War, will be aggravated by virtue signaling environmentalist moves like the cancelation of Keystone.