Wednesday, May 13, 2015

When the President disagrees with Democrats, and Republicans agree with Obama

The "free trade" zone
It used to be that when there was a “trade war” generally two European Countries that had little or no quarrel with each other, and barely even knew what they were fighting about, would fit out ships and guns, conscript men and outfit officers, and send them all out to some far corner of the world to fight a war that might last for months or years, and generally have little or no effect.

Fortunately, modern trade wars aren’t fought, for the most part, with guns, but with words. And the biggest trade war of words going on right now is actually a civil war, that is, a war among the Democratic Party. In a way it is tempting to say it is a war between the left, (President Obama) and the far left, (Elisabeth Warren) but would be making it too simple. Some far lefties (think Al Sharpton, no one has ever accused him of being rightist or moderate) stand with the president, in backing his trade agreement.

The trade agreement that it is all about if the Trans-Pacific-Partnership, and Elisabeth Warren and the other Democrats don't like it, while, apparently, the Republican congress and Mr. Obama do.
But, like the trade wars of old, we don’t really know what all the fuss is about. We don’t actually know what we are arguing about, because we don’t know what the Trans-Pacific Partnership actually entails. The talks, including more than a dozen countries have been going on for a decade, and have been secret all of that time. We know some of the things, or at least think we know some of the things, that are inside.
On his way out, the president is doing his best to
make his presidency worthwhile
For instance, it would create a humongous free trade zone on the Pacific Rim. To quote Rolling Stone “from Canada down to Chile, across to New Zealand, and up to Korea and Japan, by way of Australia, Singapore and Vietnam (notably excluding China).” All of that are would be a free trading zone suddenly.
But all the other stuff in it? Well we don’t really know, and the president isn’t telling us, despite Elisabeth Warren asking him to. We do not even know what exactly this massive "free trade zone" would even mean.
The agreement has yet to go to congress. Maybe it isn’t done yet, I don’t know, I don't think anybody outside of the White House and the other negotiators do.

But the president has asked for fast track authority. That is, the legislation will go to congress, and there it will be given a simple yes or no vote, in other words congress, if they find it is a great deal but it has a really bad clause they don’t like, can do nothing about it. They can only vote yes or no.
Republicans are all up for giving the president that fast track authority, so that they would be unable to amend the deal, only decide yes or no on it. Democrats are all down about it. And now, in a strict party-line vote, all Republicans voted yes, give the president fast track, and the Democrats nearly all voted against Obama. Enough of them voted no that, for the moment, fast track has been defeated.
I do not understand why. Not why the Democrats voted against the fast track, thus leaving congress with more power, what I do not understand is why this historically Republican senate voted yes. Our president has not, in the past, shown himself to be a genius at foreign policy, often times quite the opposite. The trade deal is certainly something-once it comes to congress-that should be looked at. But to give the president fast track is very risky indeed, and without leaving congress in control of its constitutionally given powers, could give us a bad deal.
Of course, fast track legislation is not yet dead. It lost this time, but at any time, with the Republicans in control, it could come up for another vote, and by then the president may have strong armed enough Democrats to give him the 60 votes he needs. That won't pass the agreement, which has not yet come to congress, but it would make it far easier to get through when it does.
For Obama, it is the 4th quarter of the game, and the clock is ticking out. He is desperate to do something that will mark his presidency as having been worthwhile. So far, it hasn’t been.

Andrew C. Abbott

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