Opinion: Obama Throws SOPA and Keystone Red Meat to Liberals

President Obama speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House.

Maybe you've met President Barack Obama.  He's the guy who is going to be our next president.

After years of disappointment and disillusionment on the left, reactionary resentment on the right, and sinking approval ratings all around, the president has turned a corner.  It helps that the economy ticked up in the last jobs report.  It helps that his rivals are a pack of vultures -- vulture capitalists and otherwise -- who seem to think that the best way to deny Obama a good meal is by picking the meat off their own candidate carrion first. 

The big change is that president learned his own position grew stronger as he stood firm, instead of constantly shifting to find the elusive middle-ground with an intractable Congressional Republican Caucus.  It's not just sticking it to the Tea Party (though I love it when he does); it's sticking to something.  Showing conviction - left, right or center - is serving him well.

Sometimes that infuriates the left, as when he signed the unconstitutional NDAA which allows for the indefinite detention of American citizens.  Through the looking glass, both Ron Paul and Rick Santorum have this one right; while Romney, Gingrich and Obama are in the cadre of the wrong.  However, it further snatched the security issue away from his would-be rivals while showing his willingness to stand against the fury of his own base.

Yesterday, he turned the tables by x-ing the XL Keystone Pipeline.  While pipeline proponents argues this would create American jobs and free us of Middle East oil (you can't claim independence from "foreign oil" since Canada is still a separate country), they have been unapologetic about the environmental devastation it would cause. 

Liberals have fixated on this issue since environmental leader Bill McKibben said that building this pipeline would mean: "Essentially, it's game over for the planet."  Led by CREDO, 350.org and others, protests outside the White House led to a historic level of civil disobedience arrests.  Buoyed by bi-partisan objections (the Republican governor of Nebraska is a vocal critic), the Obama Administration postponed a decision.  Forced by the House GOP, in an act of Congressional game-playing, to rush a decision, the President gave us one: "No."

It's rare for environmentalists to cheer loudly for this president, who overturned his own EPA measures to reduce the impact of climate change.  Liberals have been engaging in increasingly noisy, but still fantastical, scuttlebutt of Secretary Clinton swapping onto the ticket to ensure Obama's popularity with true-blue Dems.  Then a move like this shows loyal Democrats that President is still hanging at the party.

Add to it the administration's carefully-worded objections to SOPA and PIPA, siding him with the liberal netroots - and tech-industry supporters - on the issue of free speech…and you see a president who has decided to re-excite those whose enthusiasm carried him to victory four years ago.

If he continues in this vein, he'll have one more advantage over the Republicans, whose voters are circling unenthusiastically rally around their team of rivals.  Ensuring some spark among those who support him most is a smart move for the president - and a fire he'll stoke in next week's State of the Union.

At the same time, just showing conviction makes him stand out from his likely Republican rival who will need to do a few more back-flips to the center after his pandering in South Carolina.

And in the end, the president - win or lose - knows he took a right stand on the environment.  On energy bills, cap-and-trade, the carbon tax, Congress has stood in the way, and the president has failed to lead.  By taking action in an area controlled by executive power, the President is showing he will act where he can, and that he's learning how to wield power in Washington.  A little late in the game, but at least not "game over."