One of the great wrongs of the current presidential campaign is that Hillary Clinton is being allowed to define the terrain.
With the economy sinking like a torpedoed cruise liner, we leave NAFTA and Free Trade behind because Hillary has decided it is time to discuss thresholds for Commander-in-Chief. Little wonder: Any discussion of the economy that does not begin with trade policy is like debating which brand of aspirin we should purchase for a dying patient.
Hillary’s duplicity on Free Trade is a well-chronicled record. Husband Bill was, of course, the Free Trade champion who pushed NAFTA into law. Said the former president at the NAFTA signing ceremony (12/8/93): “We are on the verge of a global economic expansion that is sparked by the fact that the United States, at this critical moment, decided that we would compete, not retreat.”
If Hillary was opposed to NAFTA it was a well-kept secret. In Living History (2003), the Senator stated: “Creating a free trade zone in North America . . . would expand U.S. exports, create jobs and ensure that our economy was reaping the benefits, not the burdens, of globalization.”
As late as October 4, 2007, Peter Nicholas of the Los Angeles Times wrote: “Appearing before free trade supporters, she has praised the landmark North American Free Trade Agreement . . . but speaking to a union audience as a presidential candidate, Clinton said NAFTA hurt workers.”
Even now, Clinton’s trade policy amounts to little more than a “time out” on Free Trade — presumably, a temporary pause that will end when she is elected president.
In fairness, there is room for doubt on Barack Obama’s Fair Trade credentials as well, but it is richly ironic that he should take the hit in Ohio for the kind of “wink and nod” approach that Clinton has practiced all along.
The Senator from New York has the New York media in her back pocket yet Hillary is allowed to cry foul on alleged media bias favoring Obama.
So now Hillary says it is time to move on and the media fall in line. She declares that the candidacy of the ancient Republican John McCain means that the general election will be all about national security. Despite the grave misgivings of Republican military leaders, she further declares that McCain has passed the commander-in-chief threshold but her opponent has not.
Hillary’s analysis is wrong on so many counts it is difficult to know where to begin. First and foremost, Senator John McCain is a leading supporter of the Neoconservative foreign policy that has delivered the catastrophe in Iraq. He is a fervent defender of the Bush Doctrine of aggressive warfare and military domination. His first response to every foreign policy crisis since Beirut in 1983 has been aggressive provocation. His criticisms are invariably that we need more troops, more bombing and greater destruction. He famously blames the American people for bailing out on Vietnam with only 58,000 American and three million Vietnamese dead.
If John McCain were president today, we would likely be at war with Iran, Syria and Lebanon. We would be dangerously close to war on any number of fronts in Latin America and the Cold War would be infinitely closer to its second coming.
What is it about the foreign policy credentials of John McCain that Hillary Clinton so admires? Could it be that she is in fact a lot closer to McCain’s war mongering than she is to her own stated positions on diplomacy and withdrawal from Iraq?
Hillary was wrong on her vote to authorize the Bush war in Iraq (the fact that she neglected to read the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq prior to her vote is even more revealing). She was wrong on her vote to authorize military intervention in Iran (by declaring the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization). She was wrong in her unqualified defense of Israel in its aggressive and ill-fated invasion of Lebanon. She was wrong in her blanket defense of Israel in its bombing of a suspected military site in Syria. She was wrong again in her aggressive provocation of Venezuela and Ecuador when Columbia violated Ecuadorian sovereignty with a military strike inside its borders — a provocation that may have endangered three American hostages.
Time and again, Hillary Clinton (not unlike John McCain) has demonstrated that her first response to any crisis is a knee-jerk threat rather than a reasoned response.
Who do we want to answer that mythical red phone in a middle of the night crisis?
I can think of no one I would want to answer that call less than John McCain unless it is Hillary Clinton trying to prove she’s as tough as McCain.
The real threshold we are fast approaching is the one beyond which supporters of Barack Obama will not support Hillary Clinton under any circumstance.
One last thought: When someone as thoughtful, authoritative and fundamentally non-political as Pulitzer prize winner Samantha Power decries Hillary as a monster — even in a political context — it deserves a second thought.
Now, let’s get back to trade policy. I propose a debate moderated by Fair Trade Journalist David Sirota and Free Trade Economist Paul Krugman.