As President Obama Strikes Back on Trade, Elizabeth Warren Stumbles to Move Goalposts

This weekend, President Obama drew battle lines on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) against trade-fearmongering, much of which is unfortunately coming from our own party's Left flank and labor unions. The President has had it with the aghast disrespect that has been displayed for his record as trade-isolationists have accused him of selling out working people.

“When people say this trade deal is bad for working families, they don’t know what they’re talking about,” he said. “I take that personally. My entire presidency has been about helping working families.”

Damn right it has. Every single liberal group, legislator, and union needs to be reminded this president is the reason there still exists a middle class in America. This president has:

  • In the process of implementing and devising the largest economic stimulus in American history, invested the required resources to pull our country out of the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression by providing large investments in American manufacturing, construction and jobs (you're welcome, American auto industry), extending unemployment benefits when it was needed, and yes, managing the financial rescue with the precision of a neurosurgeon.
  • Provided the largest tax credits for health care in history through the Affordable Care Act. Thanks to Obamacare, 90% of Americans now have health insurance, and the vast majority of those who gained health insurance under the ACA are working individuals and families who have been struggling to make ends meet.
  • Fought for an increased and inflation-adjusted federal minimum wage and raised wages for workers that he could through executive action.
  • Created fairer and speedier unionization voting rules to reduce the undue fear and influence of large companies who wish to discourage unionization.
  • Removed the constant threat of deportation against undocumented students who are pursuing their dreams in the only country they know to be home, as well as from their hard-working families.
  • Grown American exports by nearly 50%, and relentlessly pursued - and won - at the WTO with trade cases brought against countries unfairly discriminating against American goods.
  • Been responsible for the longest period of private sector job growth ever in US history, bringing unemployment down to 5.5% from a Great Recession high of 10%.

To be honest, the above list hardly begins to scratch the surface of the everyday battle this president has fought against far-reaching corporate and right-wing interests and often times against the Left's own intransigent willingness to leave working people high and dry should they not be able to achieve enough ideological checkboxes (see opposition to health care reform, financial reform, etc. from the Left).

Not to mention, as the president has pointed out in more occasion than one, the TPP is our chance to renegotiate NAFTA and finally make it a hallmark of American trade policy to include labor and environmental protections as fully enforceable parts of our trade agreements rather than suggested side pacts. That, in and of itself, is a huge step for the advancement of the rights of working people, not just here at home, but into the fastest growing trade area in the world.

For anyone to suggest that this president - the most friendly both to working people and to organized labor since FDR - would pursue a trade agreement that not only throws it all away but launches some sort of cathartic era of global corporate rule is not only inaccurate, it is outlandish and patently offensive.

But in a "Bucket" attitude the President outlined at the White House Correspondents' Dinner this weekend, the president has had enough of ideologue mumbo jumbo. He is pushing back with the truth, and pushing back fiercely. On Thursday the President compared ideologue fearmongering to Palinesque "death panel" attacks the Right launched on the President's signature health reform initiative, and on Friday he aimed straight for Elizabeth Warren's accusation that the Administration does not want the American people to see the deal.

“What I am averse to is a bunch of ad hominem attacks and misinformation that stirs up the base but ultimately doesn’t serve them well. And I’m going to be pushing back very hard if I keep hearing that stuff,” Obama told a small group of reporters on the call.

Of all the criticisms, “The one that gets on my nerves the most is the notion that this is a secret deal,” he said. ”Every single one of the critics saying this is a secret deal, or send out e-mails to their fundraising base that they’re working to stop a secret deal, could walk over and see the text of the agreement.”

It's true. Members of Congress have been able to see the agreement for months, and in the Trade Promotion Authority deal that was struck last week by bipartisan members of Congress promises to make the final agreement available publicly for 60 days before the president can even sign it, and Congress has another 120 days following it to debate it in full daylight and vote on it. Further, information about what the US seeks and the outlines of the TPP are available on the US Trade Representatives' website.

Caught in bold-faced fundraising lies, Elizabeth Warren has quickly moved the goalpost. After arguing for months that she is trying to stop a "secret" deal that turns out not to be a secret to her at all, Warren is now demanding that every write and rewrite of every section - and from what I'm gathering every email and text message - must be done in the public theater so she can better use the mob mentality of the ideologues.

“Members of Congress should be able to discuss the agreement with our constituents and to participate in a robust public debate, instead of being muzzled by classification rules,” the senators [Warren and Brown] wrote in the letter, according to the Huffington Post.

And oh yeah, can we see all the versions of your position papers and emails before they are sent out to the public, please, Sen. Warren? How about every single draft your staff or any other staff ever wrote of any legislation before it was ever introduced to Congress? No? How come? Don't you believe in public accountability for every rough draft of everything you ever wrote or signed onto?

But it's not just the problem of conducting sensitive international negotiations in public rather than share with the public the final version to give them, and their elected representatives, a say. Evidently, Warren and Brown don't even really believe in making the full agreement public. Both have announced that they would vote against the very bill - the Trade Promotion Authority legislation - that will make the full agreement public for two whole months before it is even signed, and then another 90-120 days while Congress debates and votes.

Seriously. Teh stupid. It burns. Sen. Warren, if you want the deal to be made public, then FFS, vote for it!

Come to think of it, though, their propensity to vote against the exact thing they are telling their gullible followers they want is no more ironic than the same people at once lamenting NAFTA's ill effects on US labor and fighting tooth-and-nail what is likely our only chance for the foreseeable future to renegotiate NAFTA and right those wrongs in the form of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

But I understand. This type of thing happens when you underestimate President Obama and he strikes back at you with lightening speed and intelligence.

In all seriousness, we should have a debate on trade policy and on the TPP. That's what the Trade Promotion Authority is designed to do. What we shouldn't be doing is scoring political points by scaremongering, or ginning up ideologues by trying to play hero. What Democrats especially shouldn't even be thinking about doing is challenging this president's commitment to working people. As the president said, he takes it personally.

So do we.

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