The battle over the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal heated up some more over the weekend, with President Obama continuing his response to Democratic critics of the deal, and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) continuing to lead the charge against him. Along the way, though, the contours of this feud, as a proxy fight between the post-midterm Obama juggernaut and the Warren wing, became much more clear.
In an interview withYahoo! News‘ Matt Bai, President Obama addressed many of those criticisms in compelling fashion, while also taking aim at the sainthood that Warren enjoys among a certain group of Democrats:
Matt Bai: It’s personal, too, isn’t it?
President Obama: Elizabeth is a politician just like everybody else.
Ostensibly, this was an attempt by President Obama to cool the notion of a blood feud, but in reality, it was a broadside against Warren’s image as a righteous crusader, rather than a politician who’s burnishing her image with an anti-Obama buffing cloth. On the substance, he later included some factual rebuttal to the notion that TPP would allow companies and foreign governments to undermine U.S. laws:
“About 17 cases in 30 years have been brought against the United States, and we’ve lost zero. None. So, this is not speculation on my part.”
To be clear, I don’t think President Obama is being entirely fair to Warren (although Press Secretary Josh Earnest assured reporters Monday that the “politician” remark was not a slam) in that, while she is definitely capitalizing on this issue to build her political brand, I believe she does so with a sincere aim in mind, rather than simply for her own political self-interest.
On the other hand, her arguments continue to consist of self-evidently dubious speculation and bad faith concern-trolling. In a response to the Yahoo! interview, Warren continued the ruse that her objection to TPA has to do with a desire to fix the trade deal. From The Washington Post (emphasis mine):
PLUM LINE: But don’t you get 60 days to review it after the deal is finalized, with the authority to revoke fast track?
WARREN: The president has committed only to letting the public see this deal after Congress votes to authorize fast track. At that point it will be impossible for us to amend the agreement or to block any part of it without tanking the whole TPP. The TPP is basically done. If the president is so confident it’s a good deal, he should declassify the text and let people see it before asking Congress to tie its hands on fixing it.
Now, to the doe-eyed true believers in the Warren wing, this might sound all kinds of reasonable, but to anyone who has ever tried to get 12 of anyone to agree on anything, it is self-evident crap. Unilaterally amending a 12-nation trade deal is like letting each of your wedding guests amend the menu at the reception. You can either have the fish or the chicken, or don’t come, but you can’t make a change, then get everyone else to agree to it, then come back with all of their proposed changes, that is not how complex multilateral agreements work. To suggest otherwise is dishonest.
Even more clarifying than that, though, is Warren’s response to questions about that dispute resolution provision that President Obama was talking about. Greg Sargent asked Warren, three different ways, if it was even possible for the deal to include such a provision that was worded properly to satisfy her concerns. The short answer: no. The longer answer involves a future Republican president being able to use trade deals to attack Dodd-Frank.
There are very reasonable objections to make against this trade deal, not the least of which is that no matter what you put into a trade deal, the universe, like the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park, finds a way to chew up American workers. President Obama’s case is that the T-Rex pen is already open. While that’s not the perfect sales pitch, at least he’s not bullshitting me. The same cannot be said of Warren.