Tag Archives: TPP

Do we stay engaged or do we withdraw?

The United States has pulled out of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council.

Donald J. Trump doesn’t like the council’s bias against Israel, nor does he like the human rights records of many of the nations that are members of the council.

The president’s response? He decided to withdraw. He’ll let the Human Rights Council do whatever it does without direct U.S. involvement.

That’s no way to lead, Mr. President. Hey, it’s a form of “leading from behind,” which is what Trump so often accused his predecessor, Barack Obama, of doing.

My own preference would be for the United States to stay engaged in the Human Rights Council, exerting pressure on the U.N. body to cease its bias against Israel and to remind many of its members that they have little moral standing to talk about human rights abuses.

I refer to nations such as Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Venezuela, and Cuba as members of the HRC. I get that those nations all have hideous human rights records.

Why does the president want to withdraw from yet another world body? He’s backed out of the Paris climate accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, threatened to scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement.

He recently refused to sign the joint communique of the G-7 economic powers that met in Quebec. What’s more, Trump has threatened to launch a worldwide trade war with our most reliable trading partners and allies.

This is how you “make America great”? This is how you “put America first”?

Nope. It’s a prescription for isolating the world’s most indispensable nation from the world community. The Human Rights Council needs improvement, to be sure.

The more constructive posture would be to have our voices heard — at the table.

Bannon shown the White House door

I am being tangled up by competing impulses with the news that Stephen K. Bannon has been kicked out of the White House.

The senior political strategist for Donald John Trump is out. They’re calling it a “mutual agreement” between Bannon and White House chief of staff John Kelly. That’s clearly code for Kelly kicking Bannon squarely in the a**.

Bannon, the former editor of Breitbart News and a far-right provocateur, had no business serving among the president’s closest circle of advisers. He’s a scary dude. He detests what he calls “globalism.” Breitbart has become infamous for publishing commentary that is decidedly racist and anti-Semitic. For a time, Bannon had a seat at the National Security Council table.

To that end, the president did himself no favors — except with his hard-core base of supporters — by having Bannon sitting nearby and offering advice.

Accordingly, I’m glad he’s gone.

Bye, bye Steve.

I’m not proud of the other impulse, which is a desire to continue to watch the president continue to struggle. The new chief of staff has made a tangible impact on the White House operation. I once stated my desire to see Trump “succeed” because abject failure as president doesn’t bode well for a nation that needs stability within the White House machinery.

Trump’s definition of “success,” though, doesn’t comport with what I would like to see for the nation. I oppose the president’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord, his rolling back of U.S. environmental regulations and the decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership; those issues have Bannon’s fingerprints on them.

Where this all goes is now anyone’s guess.

Bannon is now free to speak his mind. Inquiring minds are going to press the former chief strategist to reveal what he knows about what’s really going on inside the West Wing.

The drama continues. So does the chaos.

POTUS remains an angry man

Donald John Trump is an angry old man. The 71-year-old president of the United States marked his 200th day in office with a series of tweets.

He blasted Democrats, the “fake” media, turncoat Republicans, Congress in general. The only folks who escaped his Twitter tirade it seems are his kin and Vladimir Putin.

What gives with this guy? The honeymoon period presidents traditionally get never materialized with this buffoon. Perhaps it was the tone of his inaugural speech, the one that talked about vowing to end the “American carnage” and painted a dark portrait of the world’s greatest, most powerful nation. There was no high-minded prose coming from the president. There was plenty of anger.

It’s gone downhill … from there!

He hasn’t filled a huge number of key staff posts. Judgeships remain vacant. Federal prosecutors need to be named. He’s changed his White House chief of staff, booted out his press secretary, fired the FBI director and the acting attorney general, tossed his national security adviser, kicked out his communications director. Am I missing anyone? Whatever.

My point is that the president is an unhappy man who this morning decided to torch a Democratic senator over an issue for which the senator has apologized. Take a bow, Richard Blumenthal.

Nothing of consequence has been accomplished — legislatively. Yes, he issued those executive orders removing the United States from the Transpacific Partnership and from the Paris climate accords. He tweeted something about banning transgendered Americans from serving in the military, only to get push back from the Pentagon brass at the highest levels of all the military branches.

Trump keeps getting caught in lies and duplicitous comments, thanks to the “leakers” inside the White House who are exposing his countless shortcomings as the head of state and government.

Those “easy” tasks, such as repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act? Not done! The leader of the party that controls the Congress and the White House couldn’t get that one pushed across the finish line. So … he blames Congress for his own failures.

Getting Mexico to build a wall along our nations’ shared border? Forget about it. Tossing out the North American Free Trade Agreement? Pfftt!

Here’s the best part of all of this: We’re at Day 200 of the Trump administration. That means we’ve only got 1,261 more days of this ahead.


President redefines ‘populism’

I would venture a guess that if one were to ask Donald J. Trump to define “populism” off the cuff that he would say something like: It’s the philosophy on which I campaigned successfully for the presidency of the United States.

Translation: He likely doesn’t understand a philosophy aimed at taking power away from big corporations and the rich folks who run them.

This billionaire real estate mogul and TV celebrity campaigned as a populist, declaring his intention to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement, pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and “work for you, the people.” He would surround himself with the “best people” to run the government and would “drain the swam” of the corporate corruption he said has infected American politics since the beginning of the Industrial Age.

He is governing, though, as anything but a populist.

The president did sign the executive order that took the United States out of TPP. NAFTA? Well, in the span of just a few days he said he would consider pulling out; then he said he wouldn’t after talking to the leaders of Mexico and Canada; then he said he would like to “renegotiate” the treaty. The “best people” surrounding him include a healthy cadre of executives from Goldman Sachs, the big-time investment outfit he criticized freely during the campaign. The “swamp”? It’s still full of muck.

I want to focus for a moment on NAFTA. Free trade is an example of orthodox Republican philosophy with which I agree. I dislike artificial barriers, such as import taxes and tariffs, that inhibit trade, particularly among bordering nations. NAFTA’s intent is to open markets throughout three major nations: the United States, Canada and Mexico. Is it perfect? No. Is it as flawed and “disastrous” as the president has contended? No to that, too.

It has fostered a freer flow of goods across the borders of all three nations and has been a significant net plus for their economies.

I am heartened to sense the president is beginning to understand that campaign rhetoric often must differ with the way one actually governs.

NAFTA is not the bogeyman that Trump called it while winning the presidency.

As for whether he can govern as the populist he portrayed himself as being, I only can point to the weekend lifestyle he still enjoys as he jets off to Mar-a-Lago, his glitzy, glamorous and posh resort in southern Florida.

His attachment to all the decadence associated with it suggests to me that the president is a populist in name only. Hey, maybe we can create a new acronym: PINO.

Get ready for economic ‘war,’ Texas cattle ranchers

The 45th president of the United States has launched a multi-front war: against the media and against our nation’s major trading partners.

I’ve discussed the media war already. The growing trade war is another critter altogether.

The Dallas Morning News has published an interesting essay that suggests the first victim of the trade war will be — get ready for this one! — the cattle producers from Texas, of all places.

Why is that so strange, so ironic? It could be that Donald J. Trump had no more loyal ballot-box supporters in the 2016 presidential election than those who produce beef in the Lone Star State.

So, what does the new president do? He goes straight after Mexico, a leading importer of Texas beef. He tells Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto that Mexico will pay for that “beautiful wall” Trump plans to build along our southern border; Pena Nieto says “no, we won’t!”

The irony is rich, indeed. Trump pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have opened up another huge market for Texas red meat. That deal is a goner, too.

Much of the rest of Trump Country — throughout the agricultural Midwest — is going to feel the pain of the president’s trade war.

As Richard Parker’s essay in the DMN notes: “Texas ranchers, though, will not be alone for long. Beef producers from Nebraska to the Dakotas face the same problems. So do grain farmers in Kansas and the snow-covered corn fields of Iowa, just like tomato farmers in California and Florida and autoworkers in Michigan, longshoremen, truckers and railway workers in Miami and Houston and Long Beach. These will be the first casualties of a trade war.”

It’s amazing to some of us that the president would launch into this kind of blundering bluster without thinking of the consequences that his most loyal grassroots political allies will suffer as a result.

As Parker notes: “The irony, of course, is that states like Texas, the plains states and Michigan all helped put Trump in office. But the cows in pasture don’t care about politics. And cowboys rightly don’t care about irony, even if they are to be its first casualties.”

Trade policy: the great unspoken at VP debate


Is it me or did one of Donald J. Trump’s signature issues in this presidential campaign go unnoticed?

I refer to the issue of trade policy.

The Republican presidential nominee has declared ad nauseam that the North American Free Trade Agreement is one of the “worst trade deals in history.” He has opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He has vowed to renegotiate NAFTA immediately upon taking office next January.

Neither of the two men who are running for vice president, Mike Pence and Tim Kaine, talked about trade policy.

In fairness to the candidates, moderator Elaine Quijano of CBS News didn’t ask either of them about trade policy.

The question I would have wanted her to pose would have been to Pence. It would go something like this:

“Gov. Pence, you are a traditional Republican. You served in Congress as a traditional Republican lawmaker and your party has been a free-trade party. Why have you changed your mind on NAFTA and why do you oppose TPP?”

She could have asked Pence that question, but she didn’t.

Pence has a long career as a traditional Republican conservative as a lawmaker and as a governor. Trump has no public service career and he has sounded as populist on trade as, say, Sen. Bernie Sanders.

This debate between Kaine and Pence could have helped clear up some of the confusion on trade that Trump has created with his ferocious opposition to trade policy that many within his party have supported.

Only now, Kaine opposes TPP


This is an element of this vice-presidential selection process I find distasteful.

Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia has been a strong supporter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal favored by President Obama and others within the Democratic Party.

Now, though, Kaine is about to perform a 180-degree switcheroo and will oppose the TPP as a sop to Democratic Party progressives who might be unhappy with Hillary Clinton’s selection of Kaine as her running mate.

So, which is it, Sen. Kaine? Are you for the deal or against it … on principle?

What changed in the TPP treaty that caused him to turn himself inside out?

Oh, nothing! Politics got in the way.


Politicians do this kind of so-called “pivot” all the time. My favorite example has been George H.W. Bush flipping from pro-choice on abortion to pro-life the instant he agreed to run in 1980 with Ronald Reagan.

Kaine is about to become another politician who seems willing to demonstrate that principle — on many issues — matters less than political expediency.

This is how you ‘unify’ the GOP? Hardly

don trump

I just heard Donald J. Trump say two things during his rambling stream-of-consciousness rant in Bangor, Maine that tell me he’s declaring war on his political party.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee said (a) that he’s going to tear up the Trans-Pacific Partnership and will renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and (b) that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a gang of goons run by special interests.


Standard GOP orthodoxy endorses free trade. Trump does not.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been a traditional, deep-pocketed ally of Republican presidential candidates. Trump has no use for the Chamber.

So, what does this mean?

To me it means that Trump is kicking dirt in the face of the very political infrastructure he will need if he is going to have a prayer of defeating Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton.

What about this am I missing?

If the GOP’s presidential nominee is going to adhere to party philosophy, isn’t it time for him to at least give some lip service that endorses the views of the architects of that philosophy?

Well, hey, he said he could “go it alone” if he needed to.

It looks to me  as though the nominee is going to have a lonely march toward political oblivion.


Bernie has won the war of ideas … if not the nomination


So much of our national attention has been focused during this political season on the Republican Party presidential primary campaign.

After all, it features a glam king, TV personality, real estate mogul and showman who appears headed for the Republican presidential nomination.

Donald J. Trump has broken all the rules of normal decorum, good manners, class and grace.

Oh yeah! There’s a primary in the other party that’s taking place, too.

Democrats are fighting with themselves over whether to endorse Hillary Rodham Clinton or U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The dynamic there also has been somewhat unconventional, albeit not to the degree the GOP race has become.

Sanders is getting his clock cleaned in primary states. He’s been close in many states and he did win Michigan and New Hampshire’s primaries. However, Clinton is now — once again — the shoo-in for the Democratic nomination. To get there, though, she’s had to do something quite extraordinary: She’s had to change her positions on issues to where she now agrees with Sanders.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership? Clinton once favored this trade agreement; now she opposes it.

The Keystone XL pipeline? She once favored it; today she opposes it.

The Iraq War? She voted for it in 2002; she says now that she has changed her mind.

Sanders opposed all those issues from the beginning.

Clinton now has taken up the cause for wage inequality. She’s vowing to take on the big banks. She is sounding more populist than mainstream than when the campaign started.

By golly, she’s sounding like Bernie!

Has Sanders won the war of ideas in the Democratic primary? It’s sounding as though he can declare victory. He well might do that — but he won’t go home quietly.

All this change of mind/heart, of course, brings to mind the issue of Clinton’s authenticity. It has become the source of “Saturday Night Live” skits that skewer the former secretary of state, first lady and U.S. senator over the manner in which she crafts certain images to please whatever audience to which she is speaking.

Sen. Sanders has no serious hope of becoming the Democratic nominee. He does have some hope, though, that the message he’s sought to convey has become part of his opponent’s campaign.

All along, Sanders has sought to tell his party’s base that the campaign “isn’t about me.” If he believes it, then his campaign has been about his ideas.

Stand tall, Sen. Sanders! You’ve won!