It’s been interesting these last couple of weeks, watching Obama going around acting like a petulant child about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). It makes a real progressive like me angry. The president doesn’t act this way when the Republicans disagree with him. But when people in his own party disagree with him, they don’t deserve respect. He described Elizabeth Warren, one of the most earnest politicians I’ve ever seen, as “a politician, like everybody else.” No Mr President, you are a politician just like the rest of the rabble that are destroying this country. You are a politician just like the rest of the craven hordes begging for cash from the billionaire class. No Mr President, it is not Elizabeth Warren who is playing politics by asking that the details of the TPP be made public; it is you who are playing politics with your “Trust me!” act.
Well, yesterday the loyal but not authoritarian followers (which is apparently what Obama wants) struck back. I find the details of all this a bit confusing. But the basic story is that fast-track authority only got out of committee because Ron Wyden made a deal with Orrin Hatch to attach three other bills to it. But Hatch is a Republican and thus not to be trusted. Instead of packaging the three bills with fast-track authority, he made the bills separate. That made the deal pretty much meaningless. And that became clear when Hatch started making noises about pulling two of the three bills.
Behind the scenes, the Obama administration was putting on a full court press. Despite this, Sherrod Brown convinced the rest of the Democratic caucus to only approve fast track if the three bills were included in the same package. And he was successful. Only one Democratic Senator voted to allow a vote on fast-track authority. It’s a stunning rebuke of President Obama — and one that he richly deserves. I’m beginning to see what Republicans mean when they talk about him in terms of an “imperial presidency” — of course, those same Republicans don’t mind it when it is a Republican doing the same thing.
The fight is not over. In fact Sherrod Brown doesn’t think that he and the other Democrats will be able to kill fast-track authority in the Senate. He is simply trying to delay and improve the bill. But there is a good chance that the House — which is never as keen on “trade” deals as the Senate — will kill it. We can hope.
As we wait (in between calling and writing our members of Congress), David Dayen wrote a very informative article, The 10 Biggest Lies You’ve Been Told About the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And you know who’s telling those lies, right? That great truth teller in the White House and his minions. It’s worth reading the whole thing, but here’s the rundown:
- 40% — The TPP covers 40% of world’s economic activity. Well, sure; the US alone accounts for 22%. Big (deceptive) deal.
- Job Creation — Need I say more? See what Sherrod Brown has to say about that nonsense.
- Exports Only — This is something Dean Baker talks about all the time. It doesn’t matter what happens to our exports if our imports increase even more. And they will.
- Most Progressive — Have you heard Obama saying that the TPP is the most progressive trade deal in history? It turns out that Bill Clinton said the same thing about NAFTA. Also, Obama’s certainly wrong about this claim. And “most progressive trade deal” is like “least humiliating national sex scandal.”
- Changing Laws — We are told that the TPP will not interfere with our laws. Well, John Oliver has a few things to say about that.
- Never Lost — This relates to the last lie: we’ve never lost an Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) case. Dayen has his own reasons regarding this, but I think agreements shouldn’t just be judged from our perspective. ISDS is already being used to harm weaker countries. This isn’t right.
- Weakening Dodd-Frank — I’ve already dealt with this issue. Obama claims he was the big force behind Dodd-Frank. He wasn’t.
- Stopping China — This is the idea that we can beat China to the punch with this deal. Again, Dean Baker takes this on all the time. The idea is to eventually have China sign on to this deal. Nothing we do here is going to make China any less of a powerhouse.
- Secret Deal — It’s not a secret deal! People will have 60 days to look at it! Right after he’s given fast-track authority. After that, no changes can be made to it.
- Just a politician — Well, I discussed this above. The implication is that Warren is a politician, but not Obama! He’s just doing what’s best for the country. As Dayen put it, “His interest in building a legacy, when practically nothing else has the potential to pass Congress the next two years, is a political interest. His possible interest in rewarding campaign contributors who would benefit from TPP is also political, or his desire to earn the respect of the Very Serious People who always support trade deals.”
I don’t expect perfection from anyone. I’ve even been willing to give Obama a pass on his drone program. But the TPP debate kind of sums up his whole presidency. Obama doesn’t get along with the Republicans, but he seems to have a special animus for the true progressives in the Democratic Party. This goes back at least to when Rahm Emanuel called us “fucking retarded.” That was Obama’s Chief of Staff. That’s Obama’s kind of Democrat.