Edwards Takes Stand Against Trade Deals, Obama Supports – and Misrepresents – Them

The last couple of weeks have been troubling for Democrats looking to support Barack Obama, particularly progressives. First he invites a right-wing preacher and gospel singer who is also a homophobe to perform at his gospel concert in South Carolina. When he’s criticized for this, his campaign sends out a weasel letter defending it as “openness”.

A few things are clear. First, Pastor McClurkin believes and has stated things about sexual orientation that are deeply hurtful and offensive to many Americans, most especially to gay Americans. This cannot and should not be denied.


We also ask Senator Obama’s critics to consider the alternatives. Would we prefer a candidate who ignores the realities in the African American community and cuts off millions of Blacks who believe things offensive to many Americans? Or a panderer who tells African Americans what they want to hear, at the expense of our gay brothers and sisters? Or would we rather stand with Barack Obama, who speaks truth in love to both sides, pulling no punches but foreclosing no opportunities to engage?

The problem, of course, is that Obama never said anything to his audiences, the ones who heard Donnie McClurkin, to denounce McClurkin’s message, and he never “engaged” the singer/preacher himself. Whether that was “a staff mistake” because they didn’t check out who McClurkin was, as Steve Benen believes, or a ?Bush pander to anti-gay mania,? which is ?shameless and reprehensible,? as Earl Ofari Hutchinson called it, doesn’t much matter. If the former, this is very late in the game with the primaries only a few months away for Obama’s campaign to be making mistakes that basic. If the latter, it’s reprehensible.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle with Obama’s deliberate and long-standing insistence on reaching out to the religious right and ultraconservatives, which has been disturbing me and others for quite a while now. After 7 years of radical rigidity and an absolute refusal to make even the smallest compromises on anything, there is now no doubt that movement conservatives and anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-evolution fundamentalists simply will not budge, not even from their most hateful, eliminationist, or anti-secular extremist positions. Yet Obama seems not to have learned that essential lesson. He still thinks he can build bridges to them, refusing to admit – despite acres of evidence – that any such bridge will wind up being one-way. To them. That’s not just naive, it’s dangerous. For the country, if he wins.

But that’s just the beginning. This week, though he made a pretty good showing in the last debate, he made two more decisions that are, at best, highly questionable.

First, he refused to sign Jim Webb’s letter to Bush stating in no uncertain terms that the president didn’t have the authority to go to war against Iran no matter how he decides to unilaterally interpret Kyl-Lieberman (via Fact-esque).

“We wish to emphasize that no congressional authority exists for unilateral military action against Iran,” it says. That includes the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, the letter says.

Instead, he’s introducing a Senate resolution that says virtually the same thing Webb’s letter says. Big Tent Democrat at Talk Left calls this “crass” politics.

Instead of agreeing with this inarguable statement, Obama chooses to try and make political hay, and says only legislation can undo, implicitly, the Congressional grant of authority to Bush to invade Iran. The truth is the Obama campaign is lying. On the issue of going to war with Iran. This is worse than any doubletalk. This is playing with the security of our nation for crass political gain. This is the lowest moment of the campaign for any Democrat. Shame on Obama.

I don’t know as I’d go that far. There are many of us unhappy with Kyl-Lieberman’s somewhat, shall we say, loose language. It may not explicitly authorize war without the necessity of Congressional authorization but it doesn’t exactly nix it, either. It might be a not-totally-bad idea to pass Obama’s resolution so BushCo can’t attack Iran using one of the excuses implied by Kyl-Lieberman. A resolution is a lot stronger than a letter.

Still, at best its value is unknown and at worst it ties up the Senate with something that may be little more than an election-year stunt. Despite giving it the benefit of the doubt, the timing is…odd. Obama just attacked Clinton’s war vote and all but accused her (so did Edwards) of being pro-war, saying he couldn’t see much difference between her plan of keeping combat troops in Iraq indefinitely and Bush’s “Stay the Course” rhetoric. He has also implied that Clinton might support a war with Iran because she has consistently refused to rule it out. Both good points but they make the resolution look like nothing more than a way to separate himself from her politically, and that’s not cool. Or smart.

For me, though, the capper came when John Edwards explicitly and without reservation attacked the secret trade deals the Democratic leadership made with the White House, horrendous deals that are nothing more than permission for corporate theft and gutting worker protections and environmental safeguards on a hemispheric scale. Not only did Obama not join Edwards’ denunciation, not only did he make a strong statement supporting the Peru deal specifically, he went on to misrepresent it.

Here is just one example of the deception. It would be a conspiracy if the facts debunking his rhetoric wasn’t so out in the open and public for all to see.


“The Peruvian agreement contains the very labor agreements that labor and our allies have been asking for.” – Barack Obama, 10/10/07


Not a single American labor union has endorsed the Peru trade pact, which extends NAFTA into Peru. While the AFL-CIO has said that some language in the deal is better than old trade pacts, the AFL-CIO is nonetheless against the deal because it extends the overall NAFTA model. The Hill Newspaper just a few weeks ago once again confirmed that “The AFL-CIO is not supporting [the Peru] deal.” In fact, almost every single labor, human rights, religious, environmental, anti-poverty and consumer advocacy organization has come out against the Peru pact – and that includes those organizations both in the United States and in Peru. For more on that opposition and on how this Peru deal is a 99% mirror of NAFTA, see here, here, here and here. Additionally, please recall that the Chamber of Commerce has already confirmed it has been given confirmation by the Bush administration that the watered down labor language in this NAFTA expansion is unenforceable.

While the other issues may be dicier and less telling than they seem to be, this one is not. Obama has bought the DLC line on the trade deals hook, line, and sinker – a line that comes straight from DLC Founder Al From, who works for Tom Donahue, President of the US Chamber of Commerce and a rabid conservative corporatist. (Read the whole article on Donahue. It’s bloody scary.) It’s simply inconceivable that Obama doesn’t know where the message he’s parroting originated, or that the wording of the deal itself was cooked up between the White House and From’s buddies, the Gang of Six and the DLC/BD Alliance that rules the current Democratic leadership.

Worse, Obama’s misrepresentations of the Peru deal must be deliberate. He can’t possibly be so ignorant that he actually thinks the worker protections that were taken out are still there or that unions which have been vocal about their opposition are actually in favor. That strains credulity way past the breaking point and into conservative/BushCo LaLaLand.

I’ve been on-again/off-again about Obama ever since his breakout speech at the Democratic national Convention three years ago. It was an impassioned speech by a brilliant orator BUT…it didn’t contain a single sentence that would disturb a hair on Al From’s head. There was an undercurrent that both eRobin and I read as what I can only describe as an audition for serious consideration by the party powers. Rob said something to the effect that he had managed to hit all the DLC talking points without making it obvious that’s what he was doing. I thought then that she might be right.

Now I know she was.

4 Responses to “Edwards Takes Stand Against Trade Deals, Obama Supports – and Misrepresents – Them”

  1. eRobin says:

    I’ve never liked Obama. I had no idea how bad he was though until I read this post. Trade is a deal-breaker for me. If you aren’t good on that, you’re useless to me. Do you think that any of the Dem Cans are good on that issue though? Edwards says he is, but Edwards says a lot of thing. What do you know about Dodd? I’m supporting him b/c of the FISA thing – as long as he stands firm on that, I’ll be his gal. It’s his Get out of Jail Free card with me.

    That post of mine about Obama is here.

  2. eRobin says:

    I didn’t know about the trade stuff. Do you think that any of the Dem Cans are good on trade?

  3. mick says:

    Besides Edwards? Dodd, I think. Dennis, of course. Richardson, not that I know of. Hillary, Obama and Biden all suck. Who does that leave?

  4. eRobin says:

    I don’t trust Edwards. I read something from AFL-CIO (I think) that said that they didn’t like Dodd b/c of NAFTA but they recommended him. Except for Dennis, I think they’ll all be bought or have been bought.


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