The heated rhetoric that characterized the increasingly personal fight over a proposed free trade deal between President Barack Obama and his left flank, typified by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), did not cool over the weekend. Even “nerd prom” failed to heal the wounds.
Over the weekend, the president held a conference call with reporters over the weekend in which he ratcheted up his attacks on Warren and others who agree that the Trans-Pacific Partnership should be thwarted. According to The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, the president accused Warren and her fellow progressives of being “dishonest” and of having a financial motivation for their vocal opposition to this free trade agreement.
“When I keep on hearing people repeating this notion that it’s ‘secret,’ I gotta say, it’s dishonest,” Obama insisted. “And it’s concerning when I see friends of mine resorting to these kinds of tactics.”
And Elizabeth Warren has done precisely that. “The government doesn’t want you to read this massive new trade agreement. It’s top secret,” Warren said in a statement released on her website last week. “Why? Here’s the real answer people have given me: ‘We can’t make this deal public because if the American people saw what was in it, they would be opposed to it.’” She later sent out a fundraising blast in which she solicited donations based on the theme that Obama was trying to negotiate a secret trade deal at the presumed expense of American workers.
Obama accused those who engage in this tactic of disingenuously trying to agitate their supporters and fire up the donor base.
“Every single one of the critics who I hear saying, ‘this is a secret deal,’ or send out emails to their fundraising base saying they’re working to prevent this secret deal, can walk over today and read the text of the agreement,” Obama insisted. “There’s nothing secret about it.”
Those are fighting words, and there is every reason to believe that the president feels personally betrayed by his left-flank amid this revolt over trade. Speaking in deeply personal terms last week, the president asked why those who once admired him so have grown so deeply mistrustful of his judgment.
“When people say that this trade deal is bad for working families, they don’t know what they’re talking about,” The president told the remaining members of his waning campaign organization, OFA. “I take that personally.”
But he shouldn’t. This is merely a symptom of the onset of lame duck status. It is an inevitability that Obama has been able to forestall much longer than his predecessors, and perhaps longer than he should have given the suboptimal state of economic and foreign affairs.
“It is a frustrating reversal of fortune for Obama, who was embraced in 2008 as the progressive darling of ‘hope and change,’” The Washington Post’s David Nakamura reported. “Now, even his former secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom progressives abandoned in the 2008 primary, hedged recently in her support for the TPP as she lurches to the left to shore up support from the base ahead of her 2016 campaign.”
While Warren hasn’t responded to the president’s latest volley of insults directed at her and her allies, other devout progressives have. And it’s not pretty.
“It’s shameful to see President Obama compare Democrats who oppose fast-tracking the TPP through Congress to Sarah Palin and the delusional ‘death panels’ rhetoric,” Democracy for America Executive Director Charles Chamberlin wrote in a statement. “Frankly, it’s beneath this president to resort to such name-calling.”
This internecine squabble is a unique measure of the leftward drift of the Democratic Party’s activist base that Barack Obama is now not progressive enough for their tastes.