Progressives called ignorant, insincere, and motivated by politics, sparking fury among President’s base
by Brent Budowsky
President Obama’s performance in pushing for approval of fast track legislation of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal, in which he’s allied with Republicans and has spent the last week castigating and insulting liberal Democrats, has been one of the most bizarre and ill-advised performances of his presidency.
I spent many years working for senior Democratic Senators such as Lloyd Bentsen and House Democratic leaders beginning with the legendary Speaker Tip O’Neill, and have never seen any president of either party insult so many members of his own party’s base and members of the House and Senate as Mr. Obama has in his weeks of tirades against liberals on trade.
In Mr. Obama’s speech at Nike last week, his comments to Matt Bai of Yahoo over the weekend, and White House press secretary Josh Earnest’s comments to reporters on Monday, Mr. Obama and his White House staff have repeated a string of personal insults directed against prominent liberal Democrats in Congress, liberal Democrats across the nation, organized labor, and leading public interest and environmental groups who share doubts about the TPP trade deal.
Mr. Obama’s tirades on trade have included accusations that these liberal Democrats are ignorant about trade policy, insincere when offering their opinions, motivated by politics and not the national interest, and backward looking towards the past. Obama’s repeated attacks against Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), in which he charged that Warren’s concern about the trade bill is motivated not by a reasoned view of what is right for America but by her personal political motivations, is one of the most dishonest and repellant examples of character assassination and contempt by any American president, against any leading member of his own party, in my lifetime.
Of course Ms. Warren, the most nationally respected liberal leader in American politics, is motivated by what she believes is right for the nation. Doubts about the trade bill are not limited to Ms. Warren. They are shared by the leader of Senate Democrats, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the leader of House Democrats, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and a majority of Democrats in the Senate and House as well as a significant number of leading liberal economists.
For the President to suggest that he knows more about trade then all of them do, and that they are all ignorant about the trade bill and trade policy, is staggeringly false and contemptuous of many who have been working on trade policy far longer than he has and know far more about trade, in truth, than he does.
For Obama to question liberals’ knowledge of trade, when he has chosen to keep the terms of the trade talks secret from the American people and most leading trade experts, and classified them as though the terms of trade talks should be equated with nuclear weapons secrecy, is absurd. As Elizabeth Warren and many others charge that the game is fixed, does anybody seriously believe that the highest paid lobbyists for the most wealthy global conglomerates that will reap the greatest profits from the trade pact are not aware of the key details of the trade talks that are being kept secret from most of the nation?
Let’s be clear. The issue is not protectionism versus free trade. Globalization is here to stay; it cannot be wished away. The issues are what should be the fair terms of trade; whether these terms should be decided in secrecy, where the winners get special access to the terms of the deal where the losers and the nation as a whole are kept in the dark; and whether Obama can lead an informed national discussion based on shared knowledge and mutual respect that his tirades about trade have failed to offer.
Obama should be nervous. By the time the House and Senate finish their work on trade the headline will probably be either “Obama loses on trade” or “Obama and Republicans win on trade.” Either outcome is undesirable for Obama.
SOURCE: The New York Observer