On the Downside of Being an Emperor in a Democratic Republic

 

ObamaChinHere’s some bad news for a Friday: you’re going to spend most of the weekend hearing about Nancy Pelosi. The House Minority Leader, her body temperature slowly elevated to allow full mobility and partial sentience, took to the floor of the lower chamber earlier today to come out against trade adjustment assistance (TAA) in the run-up to the vote to give President Obama fast-track authorization to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

Now, TAA, which provides government resources for workers dislocated by international trade, is normally popular with Democrats. But Pelosi didn’t take this position on the merits. Knowing that the passage of TAA would be essential for getting Democrats behind the Trans-Pacific deal, she was trying to smother the effort in the crib. As she said on the House floor,“If TAA slows down the fast-track, I’m prepared to vote against TAA.” And she got her way: it went down handily in the House, losing the vote 126-302.

There are a couple of easy journalistic frames coming here: progressives are abandoning the president in much the same way that conservatives took their leave of George W. Bush towards the end of his administration; The Obama Administration is officially sliding into lame duck territory; With Obama in the home stretch and Harry Reid preparing to retire, Pelosi is now the de facto leader of the Democratic Party. Choose your own adventure.

Those may all be true to an extent, but let’s not overlook another factor: The Democrats are getting just as hacked off as we are with President College Freshman. From a report at the Huffington Post this morning:

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama ventured to Capitol Hill on Friday to make a last-minute plea to House Democrats to support legislation designed to allow him to expedite major trade deals through Congress. It fell on deaf ears.

Obama met privately with Democrats for about 20 minutes in a caucus meeting at the Capitol, just ahead of a vote on a package of bills that will shape U.S. negotiations with countries on major trade deals. One of the trade deals in the queue, the 11-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, would encompass over half of the world’s economy.

But the president’s 11th-hour pitch may have backfired. Some of the Democrats leaving the meeting said Obama promptly insulted their integrity, took no questions and left.

“Basically, the president tried to both guilt people and then impugn their integrity,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.). “There were a number of us who were insulted by the approach.”

Now, look, there are a lot higher hurdles out there than giving offense to a room full of Democrats. For all we know, Obama lost them when he used a gendered pronoun. But Republicans, having been on the receiving end of the “L’etat, c’est moi” treatment since the earliest days of this presidency, must be chuckling to themselves about how quickly things change when it’s the other side of the aisle feeling the sting of the lash.

So, the president’s in a bit of a free fall right now. Does this mean the whole thing is dead? Maybe. Or maybe it just means that it’s time for President Veruca Salt to step aside and let the adults get down to business.

Maybe it means…it’s time for a closer:

0cb992fda13b996c8a9bf72c12833ea0

God help us all.

There are 34 comments.

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  1. Jackal Inactive
    Jackal
    @Jackal

    I think this is the right time to use the expression, “Give the Devil [her] due.”

    Yay for Nancy Pelosi.

    • #1
  2. user_653084 Inactive
    user_653084
    @SalvatorePadula

    While I’m delighted at anything that takes Obama down a peg, I think we should remember that this defeat was on an issue where Obama was actually on our side policy-wise.

    • #2
  3. Troy Senik, Ed. Contributor
    Troy Senik, Ed.
    @TroySenik

    Salvatore Padula:While I’m delighted at anything that takes Obama down a peg, I think we should remember that this defeat was on an issue where Obama was actually on our side policy-wise.

    Yeah, I’m with Sal on this. I find the conservative rending of garments on TPP overwrought. If it turns out, once it’s made public, that the substance of the deal has more drawbacks than benefits, then I’ll understand the opposition. For right now, however, I’m unclear on why any Republican who wasn’t already a protectionist before TPP would be irreconcilably dug in against this thing. Sure, give it a full vetting once it’s released, but at least wait on the details.

    • #3
  4. user_6236 Member
    user_6236
    @JimChase

    Troy Senik, Ed.:

    Salvatore Padula:While I’m delighted at anything that takes Obama down a peg, I think we should remember that this defeat was on an issue where Obama was actually on our side policy-wise.

    Yeah, I’m with Sal on this. I find the conservative rending of garments on TPP overwrought. If it turns out, once it’s made public, that the substance of the deal has more drawbacks than benefits, then I’ll understand the opposition. For right now, however, I’m unclear on why any Republican who wasn’t already a protectionist before TPP would be irreconcilably dug in against this thing. Sure, give it a full vetting once it’s released, but at least wait on the details.

    And therein lies the point.  Having been engulfed in real work of late, I have not had much time to ponder the merits of the thing.  That being said, my level of cynicism is sufficiently high to question anything that Congress is doing that falls into the category of having to “pass it to see it”.

    In other words, I’m not dug in against the idea, because I admittedly don’t know enough.  But if the contents of these bills are “secret”, then there isn’t anyone here who can convince me on the merits, regardless.

    I’m inclined to be opposed simply because they feel the need to hide the details from the public.  Period.

    • #4
  5. billy Inactive
    billy
    @billy

    I am not a protectionist by any means, actually quite the opposite. But is it really so crazy to want to wait 18 months when we can can have a trade bill negotiated by a President who, well, believes in free trade?

    • #5
  6. Troy Senik, Ed. Contributor
    Troy Senik, Ed.
    @TroySenik

    Jim Chase:

    Troy Senik, Ed.:

    Salvatore Padula:While I’m delighted at anything that takes Obama down a peg, I think we should remember that this defeat was on an issue where Obama was actually on our side policy-wise.

    Yeah, I’m with Sal on this. I find the conservative rending of garments on TPP overwrought. If it turns out, once it’s made public, that the substance of the deal has more drawbacks than benefits, then I’ll understand the opposition. For right now, however, I’m unclear on why any Republican who wasn’t already a protectionist before TPP would be irreconcilably dug in against this thing. Sure, give it a full vetting once it’s released, but at least wait on the details.

    And therein lies the point. Having been engulfed in real work of late, I have not had much time to ponder the merits of the thing. That being said, my level of cynicism is sufficiently high to question anything that Congress is doing that falls into the category of having to “pass it to see it”.

    In other words, I’m not dug in against the idea, because I admittedly don’t know enough. But if the contents of these bills are “secret”, then there isn’t anyone here who can convince me on the merits, regardless.

    I’m inclined to be opposed simply because they feel the need to hide the details from the public. Period.

    I get that, but this is standard practice during the negotiation phase for trade deals, and not without reason. It’ll be made publicly available once Congress takes it up for consideration.

    The key, at that point, is making sure that it’s public for a sufficient period of time before it’s voted on. Also, I’m sure it’ll end up a question of prudence. There will almost certainly be some corporatist features of the final deal. The ultimate question isn’t whether those are bad (they are); it’s whether the other benefits of the deal are sufficiently large to still make the entire package a net positive.

    • #6
  7. Mark Thatcher
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    That is one awesome gif!!  Where can I donate to that guy’s PAC?

    • #7
  8. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    Usually, incorporating more players into an agreement makes negotiations more difficult, not less. I don’t understand why the TPP is preferable to directly dealing with individual trading partners.

    Then there’s the problem of adding to an ever-growing list of international bureacracies. Last I checked, bureaucracy was bad for business (among other reasons for loathing).

    In any case, Billy is right. Two years of delay is a small price to pay for a negotiator who at least likes his own country, let alone shares our economic principles.

    • #8
  9. user_6236 Member
    user_6236
    @JimChase

    Troy Senik, Ed.:

    Jim Chase:

    I get that, but this is standard practice during the negotiation phase for trade deals, and not without reason. It’ll be made publicly available once Congress takes it up for consideration.

    The key, at that point, is making sure that it’s public for a sufficient period of time before it’s voted on.

    Standard practice, perhaps.  Maybe it was just politics, but there certainly seemed to be a lot of questions and complaints about that practice coming from lawmakers.

    Murky processes are designed to conceal, not reveal.  They haven’t earned the trust they are asking for, on this at least.

    • #9
  10. Troy Senik, Ed. Contributor
    Troy Senik, Ed.
    @TroySenik

    Jim Chase:

    Troy Senik, Ed.:

    Jim Chase:

    I get that, but this is standard practice during the negotiation phase for trade deals, and not without reason. It’ll be made publicly available once Congress takes it up for consideration.

    The key, at that point, is making sure that it’s public for a sufficient period of time before it’s voted on.

    Standard practice, perhaps. Maybe it was just politics, but there certainly seemed to be a lot of questions and complaints about that practice coming from lawmakers.

    Murky processes are designed to conceal, not reveal. They haven’t earned the trust they are asking for, on this at least.

    It’s mostly politics, but I don’t disagree at all with your underlying principle. No reason to give them the benefit of the doubt here anymore than there is to prejudge it before we know the details. At this point, we just wait and see.

    • #10
  11. billy Inactive
    billy
    @billy

    I’ll repeat the comment I made on Claire’s post:

    billy

    Look I am all for free trade, and this is normally how these agreements are done, but we’re  talking about Obama. Do you think he was rummaging about in a White House closet and came across Reagan’s old dog-eared copy of Free to Choose and sat down for a good read?

    “Hey!” he says to himself, “So top down command economiesaren’tthe  way to go? Free trade is beneficial for all nations involved? Imagine a thing like that, I’ve gotta show this to Valerie and Michelle!”

    Not likely.

    There are consequences to losing public trust.

    Obama has 18 months remaining. The top priority for the GOP should be limiting the damage he can do in that time.

    Encouraging him to negotiate a far reaching multi-national treaty doesn’t exactly do that, does it?

    • #11
  12. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Salvatore Padula:While I’m delighted at anything that takes Obama down a peg, I think we should remember that this defeat was on an issue where Obama was actually on our side policy-wise.

    Why was it a secret piece of legislation?  How do we know what side the bill was on?

    • #12
  13. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Troy Senik, Ed.:

    Salvatore Padula:While I’m delighted at anything that takes Obama down a peg, I think we should remember that this defeat was on an issue where Obama was actually on our side policy-wise.

    Yeah, I’m with Sal on this. I find the conservative rending of garments on TPP overwrought. If it turns out, once it’s made public, that the substance of the deal has more drawbacks than benefits, then I’ll understand the opposition. For right now, however, I’m unclear on why any Republican who wasn’t already a protectionist before TPP would be irreconcilably dug in against this thing. Sure, give it a full vetting once it’s released, but at least wait on the details.

    Troy the very fact that we have to wait for it to be “made public” should be enough for Conservatives to say no to this.  Where were the committee hearings?  The mark up of the bill?  The debate on the House floor?  It was a secret trade deal, why?  What on God’s green earth could have been in there to make it classified?  You don’t know what was in it other than “free trade.”  I am sorry Troy but my days of needing to pass things before we know what is in them are through.

    • #13
  14. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Jim Chase:

    Troy Senik, Ed.:

    Salvatore Padula:While I’m delighted at anything that takes Obama down a peg, I think we should remember that this defeat was on an issue where Obama was actually on our side policy-wise.

    Yeah, I’m with Sal on this. I find the conservative rending of garments on TPP overwrought. If it turns out, once it’s made public, that the substance of the deal has more drawbacks than benefits, then I’ll understand the opposition. For right now, however, I’m unclear on why any Republican who wasn’t already a protectionist before TPP would be irreconcilably dug in against this thing. Sure, give it a full vetting once it’s released, but at least wait on the details.

    And therein lies the point. Having been engulfed in real work of late, I have not had much time to ponder the merits of the thing. That being said, my level of cynicism is sufficiently high to question anything that Congress is doing that falls into the category of having to “pass it to see it”.

    In other words, I’m not dug in against the idea, because I admittedly don’t know enough. But if the contents of these bills are “secret”, then there isn’t anyone here who can convince me on the merits, regardless.

    I’m inclined to be opposed simply because they feel the need to hide the details from the public. Period.

    Amen to that!!!

    • #14
  15. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Troy Senik, Ed.:I get that, but this is standard practice during the negotiation phase for trade deals, and not without reason. It’ll be made publicly available once Congress takes it up for consideration.

    The key, at that point, is making sure that it’s public for a sufficient period of time before it’s voted on. Also, I’m sure it’ll end up a question of prudence. There will almost certainly be some corporatist features of the final deal. The ultimate question isn’t whether those are bad (they are); it’s whether the other benefits of the deal are sufficiently large to still make the entire package a net positive.

    Troy this wasn’t a trade deal, it was a deal to give “fast track” privilege to the president on trade deals, at least that is what we were being told by the press because I wasn’t able to go to loc.gov and look at it myself.  The other trade deals were going to be put to a vote after this had it passed.  Now, if “fast track” was all there was to it then why did they have the restrictions on it that they did where Congressmen could only go down to a secured vault in the House and could not take notes out of there?  Ditto a select few of staffers?  This thing stunk to high heaven simply because of how it was presented.

    • #15
  16. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Mr. Jim Chase is killing it with his responses!!  Why do I love Ricochet?  Because there are some really smart people on here.

    • #16
  17. Troy Senik, Ed. Contributor
    Troy Senik, Ed.
    @TroySenik

    Robert McReynolds:

    Troy Senik, Ed.:I get that, but this is standard practice during the negotiation phase for trade deals, and not without reason. It’ll be made publicly available once Congress takes it up for consideration.

    The key, at that point, is making sure that it’s public for a sufficient period of time before it’s voted on. Also, I’m sure it’ll end up a question of prudence. There will almost certainly be some corporatist features of the final deal. The ultimate question isn’t whether those are bad (they are); it’s whether the other benefits of the deal are sufficiently large to still make the entire package a net positive.

    Troy this wasn’t a trade deal, it was a deal to give “fast track” privilege to the president on trade deals, at least that is what we were being told by the press because I wasn’t able to go to loc.gov and look at it myself. The other trade deals were going to be put to a vote after this had it passed. Now, if “fast track” was all there was to it then why did they have the restrictions on it that they did where Congressmen could only go down to a secured vault in the House and could not take notes out of there? Ditto a select few of staffers? This thing stunk to high heaven simply because of how it was presented.

    Robert, I’d be just as frustrated as you are if this were indeed how this thing is playing out, but you’re conflating two different things.

    As you correctly note, the bill that’s before the House is right now is only for the fast track authority. It is definitively not secret. You can read it here.

    What hasn’t been released is the actual text of the TPP, and that’s because it’s not finalized. Again, this is standard practice for trade negotiations, on the theory that there’s no sense in having huge debates over things that may not even end up in the deal in the first place. I can understand why some people don’t like that — I myself don’t think it’s an optimal system, though I’m not sure there’s a better alternative — but it’s disingenuous to act as if it’s an especially novel exercise in secrecy.

    Of course, once the agreement actually goes to Congress for a vote, the details will be made public, at which point the standards I laid out in #6 obtain.

    • #17
  18. user_278007 Inactive
    user_278007
    @RichardFulmer

    As Andrew McCarthy points out in the NRO’s Corner today, keeping drafts of sensitive trade deals secret is standard procedure.  I think the difference this time is President Obama.  No one trusts him, and because he can’t be trusted, the secrecy is unacceptable.  Given past history, it’s simply assumed that he’s going to use the TPP (and anything else he can get his hands on) to further his leftist domestic agenda.

    • #18
  19. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    Troy Senik, Ed.:

    “Basically, the president tried to both guilt people and then impugn their integrity,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.). “There were a number of us who were insulted by the approach.”

    Obama sounds like someone who considers persuasion beneath him.

    It’s amazing to me that he was helping to train lawyers at one point in his career.  I am surprised more of his students at University of Chicago have not asked for refunds.

    • #19
  20. user_82762 Inactive
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Troy,

    This whole thing has been as clear as Mud. There is only a yes or no vote but there are multiple incompatible points of view going on here.

    1.) Obama looking for more transnationalism where his krypto-marxist mentality can yield him the most power while doing the most damage.

    2.) This is beyond Nancy’s IQ level so she is happy to just sell out to Union Protectionist interests. Anti-business as usual.

    3.) Paul Ryan & Ted Cruz see a real opportunity for a classic major trade deal that is in American long term interests both economically and strategically.

    4.) Boehner & McConnell same old s@#$ new day. Pass the giant bloated bill, get paid and go home. No clue and don’t care.

    5.) Jeff Sessions understands Ryan & Cruz hopes but also recognizes the threat from Obama’s reality. Blow the bridge on the River Kwai for now and wait for 2017.

    We are still all over the place but somehow we are starting to get it right.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #20
  21. Mark Thatcher
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

    Troy Senik, Ed.:What hasn’t been released is the actual text of the TPP, and that’s because it’s not finalized. Again, this is standard practice for trade negotiations, on the theory that there’s no sense in having huge debates over things that may not even end up in the deal in the first place. I can understand why some people don’t like that — I myself don’t think it’s an optimal system, though I’m not sure there’s a better alternative — but it’s disingenuous to act as if it’s an especially novel exercise in secrecy.

    So what is the secret thingy that Congressman can read but can’t take notes on and their staff, for the most part, do not have access to?

    • #21
  22. user_199279 Coolidge
    user_199279
    @ChrisCampion

    Barry can’t spare more than 20 minutes for his own caucus?  And it’s Congress that has been stonewalling him all these years?

    For all the chowderheads who thought (and still think) that this guy is some kind of genius, let me offer you an FYI:

    You’re wrong.

    Barry got a little taste of being disdained by his own party when the Obamacare stink was still somewhat fresh on him during the mid-terms.  Some Democrats declined his public support.  I wonder if any of them, now, that are in office, are the ones who are supremely disinterested in responding to him.

    Especially with such a limp….wristed effort to persuade them.  20 minutes.  Must be a huge priority of his.  Act now.  Operators are standing by.

    • #22
  23. user_2967 Inactive
    user_2967
    @MatthewGilley

    Dad always warned me, “Don’t let your mouth write checks your butt can’t cash.”  No one ever laid this same warning on the president (or he never listened).

    He’s become the troll that talks trash from the sidelines but can’t convert a layup when he gets in the game.

    • #23
  24. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    Chris Campion:For all the chowderheads who thought (and still think) that this guy is some kind of genius, let me offer you an FYI:

    You’re wrong.

    Agreed.  Obama gets a huge amount of uncredited help.  His legislative agenda for his first 2 years was basically carried by Pelosi and Reid.  I expect history will give Pelosi much of the credit for Obama’s accomplishments.

    And a lot of the rest of his success if limited to places under the influence of a very partisan, friendly press.  In situations where the press holds no sway over the opposition (e.g. Russia, Israel, Syria, ISIS), he makes no headway.

    • #24
  25. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @

    Richard Fulmer:As Andrew McCarthy points out in the NRO’s Corner today, keeping drafts of sensitive trade deals secret is standard procedure. I think the difference this time is President Obama. No one trusts him, and because he can’t be trusted, the secrecy is unacceptable. Given past history, it’s simply assumed that he’s going to use the TPP (and anything else he can get his hands on) to further his leftist domestic agenda.

    It didn’t work for Bill Clinton, either, in 1999 when he wanted ‘fast-track’ trade authority. It was just about the only thing he could not get from Congress, and it took a crazy left-hard right coalition to defeat his request.

    • #25
  26. user_309277 Member
    user_309277
    @AdamKoslin

    I’m curious why “this is the way it’s always been done” is considered a good defense when it comes to the opacity of trade negotiations.

    The only rationale I can think of for such secrecy is the idea that governments ought to be able to negotiate without having pressure exerted on them by special interests who have a stake in keeping protectionist or regulatory barriers up.  This is a good idea – anything that helps break the power of pampered corn and sugarcane farmers, and corrupt industrial unions is fine by me.

    However, according to most reporting I can find on this, something like 600 companies have representatives at the negotiations, which means that the only people with a stake in the negotiations who are now being excluded are the (comparatively) little guys – the voting public.  At this point I can see many more opportunities for mischief that could come from letting corporate and national representatives have an unobstructed run at mucking about with deceptive language and sneaky carve-outs than I think could come from opening the process up and letting the public argue about the provisions as they come down the pike.

    I’m usually fine with allowing government some small measure of secrecy in its operations – no-one performs well when they constantly have someone staring over their shoulder and critiquing them – but for huge deals like this, we really need some sunshine.

    • #26
  27. Kozak Member
    Kozak
    @Kozak

    Troy Senik, Ed.:

    Of course, once the agreement actually goes to Congress for a vote, the details will be made public, at which point the standards I laid out in #6 obtain.

    At which point it charges through Congress  in a max of 60 days, no amendments and passage in the Senate by a simple majority.

    Now why does that not give me a warm fuzzy in a massive trade agreement that no one will likely read and will be stuffed with all kinds of crony provisions and passages making final regulations the pervue of bureauocrats and unelected commisions.  Kind of like the giant stinker that was rammed through known as the “Affordable Healthcare Act”.

    No thanks.

    • #27
  28. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Troy Senik, Ed.:Robert, I’d be just as frustrated as you are if this was indeed how this thing was playing out, but you’re conflating two different things.

    As you correctly note, the bill that’s before the House is right now is only for the fast track authority. It is definitively not secret. You can read it here.

    What hasn’t been released is the actual text of the TPP, and that’s because it’s not finalized. Again, this is standard practice for trade negotiations, on the theory that there’s no sense in having huge debates over things that may not even end up in the deal in the first place. I can understand why some people don’t like that — I myself don’t think it’s an optimal system, though I’m not sure there’s a better alternative — but it’s disingenuous to act as if it’s an especially novel exercise in secrecy.

    Troy you are missing the point.  Any piece of legislation that seeks to bind the American People into any type of agreement or to any type of law is supposed to be available for all to read and see, not stowed in a dark basement where only a select few can see it.  The Founders did not design this government to work this way.

    • #28
  29. Ricochet Inactive
    Ricochet
    @RobertMcReynolds

    Where were the committee hearings on these trade deals?  This all seems like it was just cobbled together in the course of a weekend based on extensive notes taken while on different foreign junkets and then slapped down for the entire Congress to vote on.  I though the GOP controlled Congress was going to put us back into normal procedure when it came to legislation.

    • #29
  30. I. raptus Member
    I. raptus
    @Iraptus

    Do I really get to Choose [My] Own Aventure(tm)?  Excellent — then it’s forget Pelosi and I let’s go with The Third Planet from Altair or Your Code Name Is Jonah or, hey, why not, Inside UFO 54-40.

    • #30
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