2/25/08

It's Not Just NAFTA, But I'm Done With Hillary
By: Mark W Adams


It wasn't her unapologetic stance on the Iraq War, now or then. Truthfully, the moment any of us signed on to support John Kerry, we gave Hillary a pass on her vote for the AUMF, even if we reserved the right to nit-pick her votes to fund the war. It's not the triangulation, or Bill's clumsy rants on her behalf. It's not the two-faces of her flag-burning position, or health-care mandates.

It's the fucking lies about the economy, stupid.

"The notion that you can selectively pick what you take credit for and then run away from what isn't politically convenient, that doesn't make sense," Obama said. "If she suggested she had nothing to do with economic policy in the Clinton White House, then it would not be fair for me to bring it up but as you know, that's not the claim that she is making."
For her to insist that NAFTA not only was a bad idea, but that her wise counsel against it was ignored by her husband which allows her to take credit for much of the good from Bill Clinton's administration while distancing herself from one of it's most glaring examples of right-leaning policy mistakes -- only to be reminded that she herself includes it as something in her record of accomplishments to which she stands proud -- is a lesson in cherry picking.

David Sirota found the money quote from a 2002 speech Hillary Clinton gave to the DLC (the Republican wing of the Democratic Party):
"We all know the record of the DLC, the Progressive Policy Institute and, of course, the Clinton-Gore Administration. The economic recovery plan stands first and foremost as a testament to both good ideas and political courage. National service. The Brady Bill. Family Leave. NAFTA. Investment in science and technology. New markets. Charter schools. The Earned Income Tax Credit. The welfare to work partnership. The COPS program. The SAFER program. All of these came out of some very fundamental ideas about what would work. The results speak for themselves. Those ideas were converted into policies programs that literally changed millions of lives and, I argue, changed America."
I'll not argue with her that much of this was good, very good in fact. But here in the Rust Belt, NAFTA is a four letter word (a testament to our economic condition, not the educational system). She knows it, which is why, as the Ohio primary looms and the Pennsylvania primary looks increasingly like a contest she might not even get to, the last thing she wants around her neck is a trade deal so many of us here have concluded is responsible for wiping out what once was one of the most economically prosperous regions in the country.


Obama didn't tell anyone in the Buckeye State anything new when he said:
"One million jobs have been lost because of NAFTA, including nearly 50,000 jobs here in Ohio. And yet, 10 years after NAFTA passed, Sen. Clinton said it was good for America. Well, I don’t think NAFTA has been good for America — and I never have."
Despite some folks who have become unglued as of late, the fact that she praises the pact one day and believes it to be flawed and in need of readjusting the next is just political double-speak more worthy more of the "straight-talk express" than a would-be champion of the middle-class. Note Hillary's praise for NAFTA over the years.
According to NBC's Meet the Press, in 2004, Clinton said, "I think, on balance, NAFTA has been good for New York and America."

In her memoir, Clinton trumpeted her husband's "successes on the budget, the Brady bill and NAFTA."

And in 1998, Bloomberg News reports that she praised corporations for mounting "a very effective business effort in the U.S. on behalf of NAFTA." Another direct quote.
Forgive me, but from the department of blind squirrels and nuts comes this from Powerline, a rare, but fair analysis of the situation:
The Clintons were never really able to solve the central dilemma of their campaign: who is the candidate here, Bill or Hillary? It's true, as Mark Steyn says, that Hillary represents the Clintons with their pants on. In another sense, though, when she talks about her experience, she is the empress who isn't wearing any clothes. Obama's willingness to point this out, however gently, is another nail in Hillary's coffin.
Is it really fair that I use a quote from a right wing tool against a Democratic candidate? No, certainly this is inappropriate -- unless she defames her Democratic rival as some kind of Karl Rove.

Still confused, with a little help from our friend Jeff at Ohio Daily Blog, FactCheck parses the issues pretty fairly, that both candidates have been spinning like tops here.

It's true that Obama used a source that misquoted Senator Clinton, that she did not call NAFTA a "boon" to the economy. But holy cow, there's a big difference between misquoting someone who misquoted her, and deliberately misleading them on her record. The fact remains that even if Hillary resisted NAFTA behind the White House doors, her rhetoric hasn't exactly been stellar on the issue.

I remember why I wanted to vote for Bill Clinton -- his promise of universal health care trumped all. I still held out hope they'd get it done in his second term and held my nose and voted to reelect him on the chance they might still get it through a hostile Congress in his second term. Trading off that to get NAFTA was a betrayal as far as I'm concerned. She doesn't get any points from me that we find out she was on the side of the angels now that Ohio decides her fate next week.

Hillary is definitely trying to use bombast and righteous indignation to prove her point just like any good lawyer who pounds the table when she can't pound the facts. Jeff has more:
I got a robocall from Hillary Clinton tonight. This time she was angry, railing at Barack Obama's "dishonest" mailers about trade policy. She told me that she's the one who will have a "trade prosecutor," not Barack Obama.

"I have a plan," she declared. "My opponent does not. Ohio needs solutions, not distortions."

No more Ms. Nice.

Suddenly it all clicked into place. Her entire Ohio strategy is now based on convincing us that Obama is dishonest and untrustworthy. She's filled with righteous anger at his deceptions, and she expects us feel it too.

In a conference call with reporters today, communications director Howard Wolfson and Ohio director Robby Mook pretty much laid it out. Noting that Obama had criticized John Edwards in Iowa last December for failing to intervene when an independent 527 group run by his 2004 campaign manager bought air time for pro-Edwards ads, the two of them castigated Obama over a United Food and Commercial Workers ad buy set to begin on Tuesday in Ohio, with no apparent protest from Obama. "Barack Obama has a pattern of making statements and promises and walking away from them," Wolfson declared. His "promises are not followed through with action." It's "not about principles for Barack Obama, it's about politics." Barack Obama is "running on promises of strength and the strength of his promises." Voters "need to know that when they choose a president he will follow through on his promises." But Obama is not "consistent in his leadership."
With all due respect, on NAFTA, it's Hillary and not Barack who has been less than "consistent." Say what you want, the fact remains that Hillary Clinton has been running of the legacy of her years spent by Bill Clinton's side. She's no Tammy Wynett, but a true force in her own right. Nevertheless, the shadow of Bill Clinton, both the good and bad, is something she has inherited.
She's not running against Obama anymore -- she's essentially running against Bill. I mean, I really don't know how you utter the "It took a Clinton to clean up after a Bush" line in one breath, and then in the next admit that he fucked up the job.
I noticed that too, her smooth ability to condemn something that she herself can be found responsible for can be breathtaking. Just like Jeff's robocall, she distorts the fact that Barack Obama does indeed address trade policy directly in his platform, yet Hillary has the "audacity" to say: "I have a plan," ... "My opponent does not. Ohio needs solutions, not distortions."

Sorry, Hillary, that was an outright lie. Obama does have some things to say about trade, a "plan" if you will. Just go to his website and look for the subheading "trade" under "economy" at the "issues" tab. It's a hell of a lot easier to find than wading through Clinton's site to find just where she mentions NAFTA as one of her issues.

Actually, she doesn't mention it at all. The word "NAFTA" does not appear on Hillary's web site under "issues." The only part of her "plan" for trade as set out on her website is under "Strengthening the Middle Class" where she says,
She will also ensure that trade policies work for average Americans. Trade policy must raise our standard of living, and they must have strong protections for workers and the environment.
That's not a "plan," but a platitude. There's also a linky bullet point that says: Strengthening unions and ensuring our trade laws work for all Americans, takes us to a press release that also fails to mention NAFTA but does have some meat on it. Primarily it concerns enforcement mechanisms in a pretty detailed manner for our trade negotiators and administration watchdogs. But this is in the context of overall trade, and not specifically addressing the mess NAFTA represents. Basically, she intends to throw more money at the US Trade Representative's enforcement unit and sets out how future negotiations should be handled.

Seems to me that if she thought sitting down with the leaders of Mexico and Canada to fix NAFTA was a priority, she might have mentioned it before discovering that Ohio was now on her list of campaign stops. Obama cared, Edwards cared. Hell, Dennis Kucinich was screaming about it four years ago. I think she's late to this party, and knows it.

If she has something to say that's all that different than Obama on trade, why is NAFTA only something we see mentioned in her speeches and press releases, but not worthy of it's own talking point as part of her overall plan for America? How on earth can she be taken seriously by saying she has a plan and Obama doesn't when he already put his plan on his website and she didn't think it necessary to go into detail until recently -- and even tries to cop out of any real responsibility (again) by saying Bill "inherited" NAFTA.
CLINTON: But it was inherited. NAFTA was inherited by the Clinton Administration. I believe in the general principles it represented, but what we have learned is that we have to drive a tougher bargain. Our market is the market that everybody wants to be in. We should quit giving it away so willy-nilly. I believe we need tougher enforcement of the trade agreements we already have. You look at the trade enforcement record between the Clinton Administration and the Bush Administration, the Clinton Administration brought more trade enforcement actions in one year than the Bush Administration brought in six years.
It really shouldn't be this hard to find out where she stands on something she's now using as a club. But in the interest of being fair, I'll try to compare/contrast Obama's take on NAFTA versus what she said in speech back in October where she actually talks about it by name and her interview with TIME today.

From what I can tell about Hillary's "plan" is that she's troubled by NAFTA's lack of enforcement provisions and that we assess our trade relationships "every five years to make sure they're meeting their goals or make adjustments if they are not and we should start with doing that with NAFTA."

If there's something more concrete other than her idea that trade along with health care is part of her comprehensive approach to the economy, and of course her proposal that "workers who've lost their jobs because of global competition get the income support, the health care, the job training and the job placement assistance they need to get back on their feet," please feel free to enlighten me. That's all the googling I care to do on her behalf.

Obama presents something that looks for all the world exactly like, if not better than ... you know ... Hillary's "plan." Honestly, if you care, go read the bullet points he provides. It's all there. The ONLY difference in their approach is her suggestion that we reassess our trade agreements every five years.

Short of putting sunset language into all new treaties, I don't see where institutionalizing a reevaluation process gets us anything special that the current ad hoc policy of addressing problems where they arise does not achieve. Is she actually saying we should review Most Favored Nation status for every country every five years? Won't that just push off decisions to withdraw such status to the next reevaluation period if a country gets out of line?

And seriously, if the only difference between them is this reassessment every five years, how dare Hillary claim she has a plan and Obama doesn't? How dare she call Obama a liar by lying about his lack of a "plan."

Obama's amending NAFTA "so that it works for American workers" sounds just like Clinton's renegotiation and enforcement strategy, and his proposal on "Transition Assistance" sounds even more expansive than Hillary's:
Obama would update the existing system of Trade Adjustment Assistance by extending it to service industries, creating flexible education accounts to help workers retrain, and providing retraining assistance for workers in sectors of the economy vulnerable to dislocation before they lose their jobs.
She's attacked him where he's stronger than her, and lies about it. Sorry, but she's the one using Rove's playbook -- and that's about the last straw for me.

Who knows, maybe she would be a better president than Obama, maybe a great president. But she's run a shitty campaign, has shitty advisers, and has no excuse for being broke and sounding desperate.

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