King works the press – again

Angus King did not kill the Keystone XL pipeline project.

There’s a mythical idea in Congress of politicians who cast “the deciding vote” on an issue – such as Tuesday’s vote on the authorization to move ahead with the Keystone XL construction. The premise is that a wavering pol falls on one side of the other of a vote thus determining its fate.

In this case, there are two flaws in that theory – the first, that King was going to be anything other than a vote against the polarizing project; the second, that his vote somehow was more consequential than Sen. Barbara Boxer’s against it or Sen. Mary Landrieu’s for it.

Let’s be clear: King is a master (if genial) politician. He successfully fueled an eager Washington (and local) press into believing he might caucus with the GOP in their new majority. It was a deke move that might have garnered him a great committee placement had Dems narrowly kept the Senate majority or if control had been in play. The Red November ended that charade.

In the days leading up to the Keystone vote, he similarly fanned the flames that he might change his mind about his previous opposition. But soon after the national Associated Press wire named him as a potential ‘gettable’ vote for the desperate Landrieu, King’s press office issued the senator’s official position.

“Congress is not – nor should it be – in the business of legislating the approval or disapproval of a construction project,” the statement, sent out at about 11:45 a.m., read.

King is a pro-environment politician. He always has been. He’s invested in wind energy and worked to protect Maine’s environment during his governorship. He was not going to offer his okay on something so vehemently opposed by environmental groups, even if the overall negative impact of the pipeline is up for debate.

And when it comes to this “defining vote” business – how can a guy that was clear on his position since six hours before the vote be considered the nail in the coffin? Landrieu, who faces a runoff election and is fighting for her political life, was wrangling Democrats up until the final moments. Could we not call Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., or Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., both of whom were reportedly approached by Landrieu, as “defining” votes?

But kudos to King for again showing just how easy it is to whip up a false frenzy in the press, who might be wise to remember the old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

Rebekah Metzler

About Rebekah Metzler

Rebekah Metzler is a breaking news editor for CNN's digital politics team in Washington. Previously, she was a senior news editor with U.S. News and World Report, where she began her three-year tenure as a political writer. She spent much of 2012 on the road covering the presidential campaign in battleground states across the country. Metzler proudly tells all who will listen she hails from the great state of Maine where she covered state politics for the Lewiston Sun Journal and MaineToday Media. Metzler earned her master’s degree in journalism from Boston University and her undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College.