Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Hillary's OTHER big lie
The flap over Hillary's "faulty memory" of having dashed from a military aircraft under sniper fire in Bosnia back when she was first lady -- something I would guess is kind of hard to get wrong, since such things happen so infrequently -- is embarrassing for Team Clinton, to be sure. But it's nothing compared to the other whopper that Hillary has been telling ... and even slapping Barack Obama around over: her untruth about her past opinions about NAFTA.

I was working for a consulting firm in New York City when NAFTA past, as a senior analyst covering the beverage industry. I remember NAFTA, and the bailout of Mexixo, as key Clinton administrative initiatives designed to boost U.S. exports to Mexico and Canada, stabilize oLinkur southern neighbor's economy so that Mexicans could afford to buy more American goods, and create an economic "surge" in the U.S. What I don't recall, are news stories about the first lady's opposition to NAFTA, or to the U.S. entry into the World Trade Organization. ... or to the conferral of Most Favored Nation status on China ... hell, I don't remember much about the then first lady other than her ever changing (and usually rather bad) hairstyles, her constant pissing off of conservative women with her "I ain't baking cookies" bravado (something I really liked about her) and her standing by the president when that whole Monica thing broke out. (Okay, I also remember the stuff about the Rose Law Firm, the Vince Foster suicide, the "vast right wing conspiracy" funded by the same Richard Mellon Scaife whose Pittsburgh newspaper Hillary ran to the other day to smear Barack Obama on Rev. Wright -- I guess they're no longer accusing her and her husband of murdering Vince Foster, this week -- plus travelgate, filegate and the way Big Bill 86'd Hillary's good friend Lani Guinier... but I digress...)

As it turns out, my memory of the 1990s (a very good period for me and for the country, by the way -- have to say that...) is much better than Hillary's.
What is the proper word for the claim by Hillary Clinton and the more factually disinclined supporters of her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination - made in speeches, briefings and interviews (including one by this reporter with the candidate) - that she has always been a critic of the North American Free Trade Agreement?

Now that we know from the 11,000 pages of Clinton White House documents released this week that former First Lady was an ardent advocate for NAFTA; now that we know she held at least five meetings to strategize about how to win congressional approval of the deal; now that we know she was in the thick of the manuevering to block the efforts of labor, farm, environmental and human rights groups to get a better agreement. Now that we know all of this, how should we assess the claim that Hillary's heart has always beaten to a fair-trade rhythm?

Now that we know from official records of her time as First Lady that Clinton was the featured speaker at a closed-door session where 120 women opinion leaders were hectored to pressure their congressional representatives to approve NAFTA; now that we know from ABC News reporting on the session that "her remarks were totally pro-NAFTA" and that "there was no equivocation for her support for NAFTA at the time;" now that we have these details confirmed, what should we make of Clinton's campaign claim that she was never comfortable with the militant free-trade agenda that has cost the United States hundreds of thousands of union jobs, that has idled entire industries, that has saddled this country with record trade deficits, undermined the security of working families in the US and abroad, and has forced Mexican farmers off their land into an economic refugee status that ultimately forces them to cross the Rio Grande River in search of work?

As she campaigns now, Clinton says, "I have been a critic of NAFTA from the very beginning."

But the White House records confirm that this is not true.

Her statement is, to be precise, a lie. ...
That was John Nichols, writing for The Nation. If Team Obama is smart, it will also be the substance of their strategy in Pennsylvania, a state that has suffered mightily over the last two decades as its economy, particularly in industrial Pittsburgh, has shrunk. From a Public Citizen report back in August 2002:

How trade policy affects U.S. workers and industries has become a very heated political and policy issue.Ahistoric U.S. trade deficit, which Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan calls “unsustainable,” is causingthe value of the dollar to be dragged down. The trade deals of the 1990s, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), have resulted in massive U.S. manufacturing job losses. Eight years of NAFTA has cost 766,000 U.S. jobs with 35,262 job losses in Pennsylvania. For those who have found1new employment, it is often service sector jobs at lower wages and without benefits. The government’sanswer to trade job losses is too little too late: a meager program of retraining and extended unemploymentcompensation for which only a fraction of the workers hurt by trade can qualify. The program, called “Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA),” became a major issue in the extended battle over so-called FastTrack tradeauthority. Fast Track is the name for a procedure which delegates a wide swath of Congress’exclusive constitutional trade powers to the president. Proponents of expanding NAFTA and other tradedeals, which have caused large job loss and other problems, sought the extraordinary process because itwas the only means to overcome public opposition to the current model of special interest trade deals.

After an intense 18-month campaign, on July 26, 2002, President George W. Bush personally trolled thehalls of Congress for support in the House of Representatives for a delegation to him of Congress’ exclusiveArticle I, Section 8 Constitutional authority to set terms for international commerce. This extraordinarydelegation of Congress’ trade authority — Fast Track — was opposed in 1994. This procedure was available for twenty years starting in 1974, but was only ever actually used five times during that period.Congress refused to grant this authority to then-President Clinton eight years ago.

Razor-thin passage of the legislation at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 27, 2002 after an array of proceduralshenanigans secured Fast Track for President Bush, but both a consensus on the direction of trade policyand political momentum on Bush’s trade agenda are absent.

The Fast Track legislation President Bush signed on August 6, 2002 explicitly extends Fast Track treatmentto a 31-nationNAFTA expansion, called the Free Trade Area of the Americas and to an expansion of the World Trade Organization to cover more service sectors of the economy. Passage of Fast Track means new threats of more U.S. job loss, including in the high-tech and service sectors, and damage to U.S. farmers is added to the already significant concerns about how Fast Track undermines the Constitution’schecks and balances. Instead of adjusting the underlying trade rules to suit more Americans, the response by the White House and Republican congressional leaders to growing skepticism about NAFTA expansion and Fast Track wasto launch an attack at efforts by Democrats to reform the TAA program.

And jumping forward to specific effects on Pennsylvania:
Pennsylvania’s NAFTA Job Losses Significantly Higher than National AverageUnder just the NAFTA-TAA program, Pennsylvania has been certified to have lost 30, 226 jobs at 274 facilities as a result of NAFTA, according to an analysis of the Department of Labor records. The share of Pennsylvania jobs certified as NAFTA losses under NAFTA-TAA certifications is significantly greater than Pennsylvania’s share of the national workforce. Pennsylvania had 60% more NAFTA-TAA certifications than its share of the national workforce since NAFTA went into effect. If NAFTA’s job13losses were distributed evenly across the country, each state would lose roughly the same percentage of jobs. According to analysis of Department of Labor figures, Pennsylvania had 11,851 more certified NAFTA job losses to NAFTA than it would if distribution were equal throughout the national workforce.

NAFTA Job Losses Occurred Throughout Pennsylvania

NAFTA layoffs have happened throughout Pennsylvania, from Philadelphia to Erie and White Mills to Masontown. The largest NAFTA layoff concentration of NAFTA-TAA certified job losses was in the14Philadelphia area, which suffered 17% of the NAFTA job casualties listed under the NAFTA-TAA program. The Reading area suffered the second highest concentration of NAFTA-TAA certifications inthe state, with one out of every ten NAFTA-TAA certifications in Pennsylvania.
Those job-loss numbers have since balloned, according to anti-NAFTA groups, to upwards of 78,000 jobs in Pennsylvania from 2001 to 2006, and 1.8 million jobs nationwide.

The right wing noise machine, and the Clinton campaign, will surely try to use NAFTA against Barack in Pennsylvania, as they did in Ohio. Trouble is, now, NAFTA doesn't work so well for Hillary, and Team Obama should not be shy about using it, and her White House records, to hit Hillary hard on her then advocacy of NAFTA, her hard work getting it passed, and her major flip-flop on the subject now. ,

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posted by JReid @ 11:08 PM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
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