“You can’t open up negotiations unilaterally,” senior Barack Obama adviser Linda Douglas told Joe Scarborough this morning about NAFTA. Really? You could have fooled Barack Obama himself. She claims that Obama made it clear that we cannot act to end a trade agreement without working with our partners … but Obama in fact made the opposite point during a February presidential debate.
First, here’s Douglas:
You can’t open up negotiations unilaterally. What he has said, he certainly wants to speak when he’s president of the United States, to Canada and Mexico to see about strengthening NAFTA. There are concerns about NAFTA. But he has made it very clear, you cannot as the United States go in and unilaterally open up trade agreement like that. It’s very important to Senator Obama to see that all of our trade agreements are, both, he supports free trade. He supports fair trade. And he supports trade that has strong enforcement mechanisms. Trade that has labor protections, environmental protections. Those are the kinds of things that he’s going to be pushing for when he is president.
And here’s Obama from February 26th, campaigning in Ohio and trying to out-populist Hillary Clinton:
Tim Russert: A simple question. Will you as president say to Canada and Mexico, this [NAFTA] has not worked for us, we are out?
Obama: I will make sure that we renegotiate in the same way that Senator Clinton talked about, and I think actually Senator Clinton’s answer on this one is right. I think we should use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage to ensure that we actually get labor and environmental standards that are enforced.
Douglas would have been better advised to stick to the new Obama position, which is that he engaged in typical overheated rhetoric like any other politician. Perhaps Douglas has problems in keeping pace with the reversals issued by Obama — haven’t we all? — but as a senior adviser, one would expect her to have the playbook du jour.
Quite obviously, Obama made it clear to voters in Pennsylvania and Ohio that he planned on taking exactly the kind of unilateral action that Douglas eschews now, or at least threatening to do so as extortion for major changes to NAFTA. Quite obviously, the Obama campaign still hasn’t figured out YouTube or a public record. One has to wonder whether they’re really this foolish, or whether they’re just convinced American voters are.