March 16, 2009
POLITICS/WAR: Obama Backtracks on Bungled Mexico Policy
President Bush's critics often accused him of alienating key U.S. allies. Frequently that case was overstated, as the Bush Administration forged stronger bilateral ties with many strategically important allies, and as the Administration's foreign critics were often engaged in faux outrage for domestic political purposes over purely symbolic issues. That said, at least when the Bush Administration set out to do something our allies didn't like, it (1) did so to advance concrete U.S. interests and (2) stuck to its guns.
With the Obama Administration, neither is true. Fresh off a bizarre series of unnecessary gaffes in dealing with friend (the U.K.) and foe (Russia) alike, and after already rattling sabers and then caving on trade war threats with Canada and the EU, Obama and Congressional Democrats have brought us to the brink of a full-blown trade war with Mexico - and they are stuck trying to climb down from the ledge. Brian Faughnan has some of the background here; today's news is the desperate scramble to avoid the consequences of the Democrats' own policies as Mexico escalates with new tariffs for the Administration's violation of our treaty obligations under NAFTA:
The White House says it wants to work with lawmakers to restore a program that allows cross-border trucking with Mexico.
Mexico Monday put in place tariffs on 90 U.S. products after Washington canceled a program that allowed some trucks from Mexico to operate in the U.S. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says the administration wants to work with Congress to come up with a plan that would restore that program.
The Mexican Economy Department says the U.S. decision violates a provision of the North American Free Trade Agreement that was supposed to have opened cross-border trucking years ago. Department officials told a news conference Monday that the measure will affect about $2.4 billion in trade, covering agricultural and industrial products from 40 U.S. states.
Following a financial crisis with a trade war is, of course, the textbook laid out by the Hoover Administration; even the Obama team seems to understand this, but they are squandering American credibility by making threats they know full well they can't afford to back up.
And Columbia is lost in the mix, as their Vice President said they were prepared to eliminate narco cooperation having fulfilled their obligations only to be met indifference from DC. Kissing your enemies and pissing on your friends, it is change.
Happy St Patrick's Day.
It is almost as if the National Lampoon had written a history of the Administration. I expected the worst, but each day I realized that my pessimism was by comparison, optimism. Less than 60 days, and we're already this far into bungling that is beyond satire. Oh wait, I know, it's all Bush's fault.
Via the WS:
The Obama administration's foreign policy accomplishments:
Mexico now has sanctions against the US for NAFTA violations, the Colombia FTA is on ice, the EU is outraged at trade protectionist, buy-America provisions signed into law by Obama, Africa is despondent about the Obama budget's cuts in Bush HIV/AIDs programs, Darfur is worsening by the day with no US reaction (except an ICC indictment which, like the International Criminal Tribunal in Yugoslavia, in effect tells a genocidal leader that once he is done killing everybody there is going to be a lawsuit), Central and Eastern Europe feels sold down the river on efforts to defend against a growing nuclear and missile threat in Iran, the Chinese have reminded the US that they hold $1 trillion in US debt and don't much like our ships in the South China Sea or back talk on human rights, and the North Koreans are preparing a "space launch" -- over Japan.
Oh, and they pissed off the Brazilians today, good times, good times...
I expected, with David Axelrod calling the shots, that the Obama administration would at least present a conciliatory face to our foreign associates. But not even this. The question is becoming: Does anyone among them think before speaking or acting?
Odd, I didn't see you calling out how horrible Bush was for starting a trade war: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/28/AR2009012804071.html
Well, maybe not that odd. More like expected. Some trade wars good, some bad. Strangely lined up along partisan goals! Then again, I scan for some mentions of "law passed by Congress recently which, in general, is really good that the Executive branch should follow" - and find nothing? Alas, only blame of the Administration.
One of the (many) underfunded parts of NAFTA includes a DOT spot check of records in Mexico/Canada. This isn't done, because of underfunding. I don't suppose you're going to organize a campaign for this, as well funding for the program to allow Mexican drivers in the country? Really, it's only one post on Redstate.
Dave, Bush's free trade record on the whole was exemplary; few presidents can match it. That said, I recall being critical of him for backsliding during the steel tariffs episode, on which a lot of commentators on the right were critical of Bush.
I agree that the Democratic Congress shares the blame with Obama for provoking the Mexicans.
"Bush's free trade record on the whole was exemplary"
Mostly it was, but that wasn't my point. My point was selective outrage due to political winds instead of a belief that wrong is wrong. Ethanol/sugar tariffs, for example, never went anywhere. Sock tariffs applied in 2008. Catfish tariffs. Canadian wheat. Softwood.
These were put into place for political gain and backroom deals - and had nothing to do with promoting free trade. It gets a lot easier to support free trade when the votes you get in order to do it are paid back with tariffs.
"I agree that the Democratic Congress shares the blame with Obama for provoking the Mexicans."
I have no problem saying that, though I'd throw in some Republicans as well.
What I'm hoping is that you'll use your bully pulpit of sorts (Redstate) to call for either greater funding in the budget for safety and testing of trucks(or to do so through private inspections, who can carry insurance if something goes wrong), or allowing Mexican drivers into the country with limited testing of either the drivers or vehicles. I don't have a bully pulpit, but I did put pen to paper to get in touch with my Senators and Rep to put funding in.
If you can find a third option, go run with it. I'm hoping that third option isn't just looking at it and saying "wow, this is so bad, everyone look! this is so bad!"