The NAFTA Dance continued today as Barack Obama tried to move from populist to centrist within a fortnight of clinching the Democratic nomination. Earlier, Obama tried wooing heartland voters by saying he would unilaterally opt out of free-trade deals, specifically NAFTA, while his economic adviser whispered to Canadian consular officials that Obama was just indulging in election-year pandering. Team Obama insisted that Goolsbee was misquoted, but with the nomination in his hands, Obama now admits to the pandering (via Memeorandum)
In an interview with Fortune to be featured in the magazine’s upcoming issue, the presumptive Democratic nominee backed off his harshest attacks on the free trade agreement and indicated he didn’t want to unilaterally reopen negotiations on NAFTA.
“Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified,” he conceded, after I reminded him that he had called NAFTA “devastating” and “a big mistake,” despite nonpartisan studies concluding that the trade zone has had a mild, positive effect on the U.S. economy.
Does that mean his rhetoric was overheated and amplified? “Politicians are always guilty of that, and I don’t exempt myself,” he answered.
Keeping track of Obama’s positions feels like being a spectator at a table tennis match. First he wants meetings with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (among others) without preconditions, then he only wants them if they agree to stop sponsoring terrorism and funding militias in Iraq, which sounds a lot like a “precondition” to everyone but Barack Obama. He wants to pull all the troops out of Iraq, but then tells the Iraqi foreign minister that he will be the second coming of John McCain. He tells AIPAC that he wants an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and then tells the Palestinians that he wants to divvy it up if that’s what they want.
Now we return to the scene of the first flip-flop to find another. It’s great that Obama doesn’t exempt himself from being a politician, but wasn’t that the entire point of the Obama campaign — that he wasn’t just another politician? Now the harbinger of New Politics, the man who would clean up DC, shrugs off an outright lie by calling it “overheated rhetoric”.
If we want just another politician, can we get one with some executive experience, military experience, and/or a legislative track record that exceeds what can be counted on the thumbs of one hand?
Obama wants voters to forget that when this issue first arose in March, Obama doubled down by insisting that the Canadians and Goolsbee had it wrong and that he opposed NAFTA. Obama’s credibility keeps dissipating with every new day on the campaign trail. Which Obama are we supposed to believe? Can someone please strap a thermostat to his mouth to determine when he uses “overheated rhetoric” instead of telling us what he really thinks, if he now claims that a difference exists between the two?