Friday, March 07, 2008

Free Trade

McCain backer Dan Schnur has an editorial in the Times in which he ridicules Clinton and Obama for pandering on free trade.
Barely a footnote in the Democratic debate throughout most of 2007, trade has emerged more recently as perhaps the key defining policy distinction in Tuesday’s Ohio primary. One of the most important Democratic gains in recent years has been among financially secure and highly educated voters, most of whom understand the benefits of a global economy. A prolonged argument on trade policy between Senators Clinton and Obama could put those voters in play again in the fall.
Well, probably not. Because well-educated, financially secure people understand the difference between campaign trail hyperbole and what will actually happen when either candidate, if elected President, assumes office. I don't much care for the pandering, but it probably resonates with targeted voters better than is McCain's admission, "globalization will not automatically benefit every American". (They already know that.)
The danger for a protracted struggle between Senators Clinton and Obama is not that the party will fail to unify. Rather, the real threat is that the two candidates will continue to move leftward to try to win over voters in the remaining primary states, not just on trade policy but on other issues as well.
It's always good for a Democrat to follow the advice of a Sicil... er, McCain backer.
Had John McCain lost the Texas primary to Mike Huckabee on Tuesday night, he would still eventually have become the Republican nominee for president. But after another month or two of competing with a fundamentalist minister for primary votes, Senator McCain probably would have had to put James Dobson on the ticket with him and give his convention speech in tongues to turn out conservatives in the fall.
Actually.... Dobson has already declared that he would rather sit out the election than support McCain and, with nothing to fear from Huckabee, McCain has chosen to embrace Hagee. I doubt McCain will speak in tongues at the convention, but if he thinks it will make the difference he needs....

I don't argue with Schnur's (professed) hope that Clinton and Obama avoid escalating their "anti-trade sentiments", but I have to wonder1 if his real fear is for them, or is it concern that their continued emphasis will highlight McCain's competing stance of, "Many workers will suffer and good jobs will continue to disappear, but free trade is good for everyone else."
1. This is a rhetorical flourish. I think we can reasonably infer Schnur's intent. Paul Krugman highlights the real risk to the Democrats, and perhaps especially Obama - that anti-NAFTA talk will be viewed as disingenuous.

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