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Hillary Clinton Keeps Ducking Questions About the Keystone Pipeline

How many different ways can she say "no comment"? Let's count them.

Isaac Brekken, Getty Images

For the second time this week, voters asked Hillary Clinton to weigh in on the Keystone XL pipeline. And for the second time this week, she dodged the question. “I want to wait and see what [President Barack Obama] and Secretary [John] Kerry decide," she told an audience on Tuesday in New Hampshire. "If it's undecided when I become president, I will answer your question."

Clinton is the only Democratic presidential candidate who has not declared a position on TransCanada's proposal to ship 800,000 barrels per day of crude oil from the Canadian tar sands to the Gulf Coast. The former secretary of State insists that it would be inappropriate for her to comment on an ongoing application until her successor, John Kerry, completes his formal review.

"I'm in a different position than any other candidate. I was there," Clinton later told reporters. "I put this process together. I oversaw it for four years. I know what the president's standard is to make sure it does not increase greenhouse gas emission. And I would slightly disagree with you—there has been additional research and investigation done since I left that I'm not privy to." She concluded, "So that's where I'm leaving it."

Disregarding the finality of her remarks, I asked a campaign official for Clinton's position on Keystone. He pointed me to a transcript of Clinton's above remarks. When I asked another question, he declined to comment on the record.

Once upon a time, Clinton seemed to support the pipeline:

October 20, 2010: “So as I say, we’ve not yet signed off on it. But we are inclined to do so and we are for several reasons—going back to one of your original questions—we’re either going to be dependent on dirty oil from the Gulf or dirty oil from Canada.”

But ever since then, she's given some version of "no comment":

October 6, 2014: "I don’t want to inject myself into what is a continuing process or to in any way undermine my successor as he tries to make this decision. So, having said that, which is what I’ve said everywhere, including Edmonton and everywhere else I’ve been asked, I would hasten to add that regardless of what happens with this decision, there is so much we’re already doing together in energy. I mean this is one pipe line, there are dozens of pipelines that cross our borders every, bringing energy every single day."

March 5, 2014: “No comment.”

June 15, 2014: “I can’t really comment at great length because I had responsibility for it and it’s been passed on and it wouldn’t be appropriate, but I hope that Canadians appreciate that the United States government – the Obama administration—is trying to get it right. And getting it right doesn’t mean you will agree or disagree with the decision.”  

To a follow-up question: “I can’t respond.”

June 16, 2014: “Well I can’t say that because I was there […] That was a decision that rests with the secretary of state, and my successor is going to have to make that decision one way or the other and so I have said it’s inappropriate for me to comment on it.”

July 27, 2015: “No other presidential candidate was secretary of state when this process started, and I put together a very thorough deliberative evidence-based process to evaluate the environmental impact and other considerations of Keystone [...] So I will refrain from commenting because I had a leading role in getting that process started and I think we have to let it run its course."

July 28, 2015: "As you know, I was the secretary of State who started that process. I was the one who put into place the investigation. I have now passed it off—as obviously, as I'm no longer there—to Secretary Kerry. This is President Obama's decision, and I am not going to second-guess him because I was in a position to set this in motion and I do not think that would be the right thing to do. So I want to wait and see what he and Secretary Kerry decide."

At this rate, Clinton may have to continue repeating herself every day until the end of her campaign.