President Obama is in Oklahoma today, making a speech in Cushing and promoting his Administration’s new energy plan, which includes the construction of the southern half of the Keystone XL pipeline. The southern half of the pipeline runs from distribution points in Cushing (which calls itself the Pipeline Capital of America due to all the hubs and intersection points for continental pipelines located around the town) to Southeast Texas and the huge refinery complexes around Houston and Port Arthur.
But when President Obama arrived at Tinker AFB in Midwest City last night, not a single state official was on hand to greet him. Governor Mary Fallon and Lt. Governor Todd Lamb are both out of town. A spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, who is next in line as acting governor, said that the White House had not contacted his office about the visit. No other elected state officials or cabinet members were on hand to greet the President. Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett and Midwest City mayor Jack Fry were the only officials that met the President on the tarmac last night.
It’s possible that state officials considered this to be a visit by the Obama 2012 re-election campaign, rather than a visit by Obama in his official capacity as president. It’s also possible that bitterness over the Obama Administration’s hostility toward the US fossil fuel industry led to state officials declining to meet the President, since such a meeting might be construed by voters as support for the President’s policies. After all this is an election year, and President Obama won only 57% of the statewide vote in the OK Democratic primary earlier this month.
Still, it is rather rude and somewhat unprecedented for a President to be shunned by all elected state officials when he arrives for an official visit. As an Oklahoman, I’m not particularly proud of this.