Democrats: Stop the world, we want to get off

Barack Obama, Joe Biden

President Obama is heading to Capitol Hill this morning to try, once again, to persuade congressional Democrats to back one of the few major initiatives remaining in his presidency that has a chance of coming to fruition. Last month, it was Democrats in the Senate. Now it’s their counterparts in the House.

The initiative is Trade Promotion Authority, a well-established mechanism by which Congress pledges an up-or-down vote without amendments on a trade deal the president negotiates. While approval of TPA does not guarantee passage of a trade deal, denial of TPA would essentially sound the death knell for trade talks. Our trade partners won’t stay at the table knowing any deal they announce — at the cost of their own political capital back home — will effectively be re-opened and re-negotiated by 535 members of Congress. There simply won’t be a deal, whether we’re talking about talks for a trans-Pacific pact or one with the European Union, either of which would be good for Georgia in particular.

But that’s not the only pillar of the post-World War II order that Democrats appear ready to jettison. Like the first global trade deal, the establishment of NATO took place under President Truman in the late 1940s. Much more so than the United Nations, it is NATO (and, arguably, the creation of the EU) that has prevented another global conflict on the scale seen in the first half of the 20th century. Central to that success has been the alliance’s provision that an attack on one member is considered an attack on all, and will trigger a response by all.

But a recent survey by the Pew Research Center casts great doubt on whether that provision continues to hold any weight.

The attitude in Europe is ominous: No country there surveyed by Pew showed a majority of public support for using military force to defend a NATO ally against an attack by Russia — a very real threat in the minds of our friends in Poland and the Baltic states. Only in the U.K. (49 percent for to 37 percent against), Poland (48/34) and barely in Spain (48/47) were there pluralities in support. The notion was shot down in France (47/53), Italy (40/51) and especially in Germany (38/58). And yet, about two-thirds or more of people in all of those countries but Poland anticipated U.S. engagement in such a scenario.

If the attitudes of Democrats are any indication, the Poles are right to be pessimistic. Only 47 percent of Democrats surveyed said the U.S. should back its NATO allies in case of a Russian attack. To underscore the apparent downgrade the value of a NATO membership, 59 percent of Democrats said they’d support bringing Ukraine into the alliance anyway — but only 39 percent went so far as to say NATO should send arms to the country for its self-defense.

Vladimir Putin must be grinning from ear to ear. It seems to validate the assumptions he’s ostensibly acted under while carving up Ukraine (which, while not a NATO member, had a looser security guarantee from the U.S. and Britain dating back to its independence from Russia) and rattling his saber at Poland and the Baltics.

While no one in America should desire a conflict with Russia, making plain our reluctance to make good on our promises makes Russian aggression more, not less, likely. The Western alliance and even the theory of mutual assured destruction maintained the peace during the Cold War only because U.S. leaders of both parties were credibly committed to backing up our nation’s word. That credibility has been frittered away under the Obama-Clinton foreign policy regime with a “reset” that is really more of a retreat. The American left seems to have fully digested theories of American guilt and moral equivalence with other global actors; the Russians believe in Russian exceptionalism, Obama might say with a shrug. If the Poles, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians and others believe otherwise, that’s their problem.

So it is no great surprise that the American left would also have us retreat from a leadership role in global commerce. The Warren wing’s desire to export American rules for labor and the environment will look downright quixotic if a trans-Pacific deal involving the U.S. is scuttled and replaced by trade partnerships dominated by China that bend even further away from our way of doing things. You can disengage from the world, but you can’t make the world return the favor.

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50 comments
332-206
332-206

Any possibility at all that our costs in Iraq and Afganistan have diminished our appetite for more?

ODDOWL
ODDOWL

The Democrats are going to hold up TPP until the Republicans allow the Dems to add amendments to the bill that will sweeten the pot and satisfy labor and Democrats voters...  More than 90% of the profits made by American multinationals is earned overseas...  The population of America is a paltry 315 million...  There are 6 billion potential customers  overseas...  Congress need to pass legislation to force the multinationals to bring the profits back home to America so it can be taxed..

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

Congress is controlled by Republicans. This can't be the Democrats fault.  If the Republicans really wanted the legislation, it would have passed.  Republicans are simply shirking their responsibility again, and blaming democrats for their failure.



Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JFMcNamara It's rather more complicated than that.

The large majority of House Republicans voted to pass trade promotion authority (TPA) with a relative handful of Democrats. But TPA isn't moving forward because House Democrats didn't vote for the trade adjustment assistance (TAA) piece that Republicans didn't want anyway -- but which Senate Democrats insisted on. Now, because TPA passed the Senate with TAA, it can't move to Obama unless the House resolves its split decision, so to speak.

To recap: Senate Democrats insisted on a provision that was then shot down by House Democrats after Obama implored them to pass it. The underlying bill has been consistently supported by Republicans in both chambers. This is a Democratic problem.

JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@Kyle_Wingfield @JFMcNamara if the Republicans wanted the trade agreement, they would have voted for the insurance.  The provision was a token democrat win as it only offered about 5%insurance compared to the overall bill. The Republicans wanted to have an Obama loss more than free trade.They easily could have given in and basically gave up nothing to get the legislation they wanted. The democrats just wanted to placate their base, and now everybody lost because Republicans wouldn't allow it.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JFMcNamara So it's the Republicans' fault because they should have voted for the thing a) they didn't want but b) the Democrats wanted but didn't want to vote for because they wanted to "placate their base"?

Wow.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JFMcNamara "Hey, you! Give me your wallet and then let's go have you arrested for robbing me!"

"We really want to win this football game but don't want to get dirty, so how's about we lay down for you on every play, and then you forfeit at the end?"


JFMcNamara
JFMcNamara

@Kyle_Wingfield @JFMcNamara , I often give you too much credit that you actually understand what is going on given it is your job to do so.


The SENATE Democrats needed something to placate their base in order to cross the party line.  The Republican gave them a few token items that one writer, Kyle Wingfield, described as such, 


"Senate Democrats’ holdout lasted only about 24 hours, as a deal to let the TPA vote move forward was announced this afternoon. In practical terms, they seem to have gained little with their antics: They’ll get a vote on three separate trade-related matters, as they were supposed to before, but they won’t be attached to the TPA bill itself, which is also how things stood Tuesday."


After that, the trade proposal amendment, which you, yourself described as a very small gain, was supposed to guarantee a trade victory.  So what happened?


President Obama stopped caring at this point, because the Republicans were supposed to have the votes to pass the bill.  They are the majority.  They own the House of Representatives, remember.  They gave up very little in the Senate and it was a slam dunk.  They didn't need the Democrats help.


Then the right wing anger police got involved and submarined support for the bill on that side of the aisle.  The Republicans still thought they had it, but their support completely fell apart once the bullets started flying.  It basically left Obama out to dry.


The problem is a Republican problem.  Republicans are dysfunctional and can't get the votes that they promise they will deliver.  They are abject failures at controlling their base and actually getting things they want passed.


You can make jokes or whatever, but its clear that you had no idea what really happened.  You simply parroted what some right wing media person said in order to claim a win.  If you examine it closely, the Republican were the complete problem here.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JFMcNamara "President Obama stopped caring at this point, because the Republicans were supposed to have the votes to pass the bill."

Whatever makes you feel better.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@JFMcNamara It's funny: When Democrats were in charge and couldn't pass a bill with only their own votes, it was "Obstructionist, racist Republicans, why do you hate America??!11??" Now that the tables have turned, it's "Republicans, why can't you horse-whip your own people into line and pass the president's agenda -- you know you can't count on our votes just because we said we'd vote for it since you gave us what we asked for??!11!!?"

I'm detecting a theme here ...

MarkVV
MarkVV

The congressional Democrats are fighting the wrong battle about the Trade Promotion Authority. They should realize that the days of all those trade restrictions are over, and whatever negative consequences there might be, they should be dealt with here.

As for NATO, the public opinion according to the polls is hardly the deciding factor, and there is no reason to doubt that an aggression by Russia against a NATO member would be dealt with according to the charter. Ukraine is a much more difficult and complex case and simplistic opinions serve little purpose. It was absolutely appropriate for President Obama to try to “reset” the relationships with Russia, and it is not his fault that Putin was not ready for it. And it is wrong and insulting to claim that any significant part of the political spectrum promotes “American guilt and moral equivalence with other global actors.” None of the major countries can claim to be guiltless in their past history, and admission of past mistakes serves to strengthen, not weaken a nation, while a pretense of perfection make the mistakes more notable. There is no “moral equivalence,” but there is reality.

NorthAtlanta
NorthAtlanta

Just gotta say, I love the I-mean-business, tough-guy look Ole Joe loves to sport.  Always good for a laugh.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

Kyle, I can't answer you, below, because my computer cuts off that possibility at the bottom of the screen.  I understand your response to my remarks and I know that most people would respond to my comments as you have.  However, I still wish to speak my perceptions because I know "nothing ventured," means that "nothing will be gained," in transitioning from war to peace tactics, and that "we first must dream" before that "dream can be made manifest into reality."


Thanks for posting my thoughts.  Have a great weekend!

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

OK, the disappeared comments seem to have returned. I'll keep an eye on things going forward, but hopefully the gremlins are gone.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

Never underestimate the leader who is fighting for his country's survival.

Putin is that leader.

I've been watching Putin for years. He started out small and intends to go big.

Why the EU didn't see it coming is beyond comprehension. 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@FIGMO2 He is an old school KGB guy 


The first clue was when he couldn't run for a third term so what did he do ?


Made himself Prime Minister. Then switched back to President when he could .


He is a de facto dictator at this point. I wouldn't expect him to give up power for the next 20+ years. 


if ever

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@HeadleyLamar

And Medvedev was his placeholder, nothing more. Obama and Hillary were fooled by that move.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

There are two things blocking progress on trade and the economy.

- Continued Democrat obstruction

- Obama's lack of transparency in refusing to allow Real Americans to see the proposed TPP

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@LilBarryBailout The proposed TPP will be made public after the negotiations are finished. The TPA says it has to be publicly available for a certain amount of time before a vote -- 60 days IIRC, and it could be longer.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

There seems to be something weird going on with the commenting feature -- comments that have already been posted (including mine) are getting removed for some unknown reason. Let me see if I can find out what is wrong.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

"No country there surveyed by Pew showed a majority of public support for using military force to defend a NATO ally against an attack by Russia "


It's not about what the surveys say.  It's about the supporting your allies in times of war. Sure, there is little public sympathy for war, but if we have an agreement that says we will support an ally in war then we should support that ally in war.  If we do not, then what is the point of having them as an ally? 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@LogicalDude I would not be so optimistic that leaders of some countries would buck public opinion for little ol' Estonia. I hope I'm wrong.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @LogicalDude You would be wrong.


Everyone remembers well the lessons of Chamberlain etc. We are defending Ukraine from Russian aggression now. 


I would propose the disaster in Iraq has made the world a little less gung ho about war anywhere. But if Putin were to invade Estonia i'm betting you would see a dramatic shift in public opinion. 

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

@LogicalDude

Coward Obama has already demonstrated that "Never Again!" to him means "Never again, unless it's Christians".  He would never uphold the commitments we've made to NATO nations, either.

LogicalDude
LogicalDude

"if a trans-Pacific deal involving the U.S. is scuttled and replaced by trade partnerships dominated by China that bend even further away from our way of doing things"


From rumors, we'd be bending to the will of those countries anway and putting their companies in the powerful position of being able to directly get US citizens rights removed.  These are all rumors of course because the actual trade deal is so secret, congress can only find out about it by using the same process they used by finding out information on Benghazi (separate computer area, no cell phones or note-taking). 

But hey, believe the government that all your rights are intact and in no danger at all. 

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

Not totally on topic, but interesting, the Dem/GOP split reported in the polling Kyle's linked, about NATO itself:


In the U.S., a majority of Democrats (56%) voice a favorable opinion of [NATO], but only about four-in-ten Republicans (43%) share that view.


Somewhat strange then that there's an opposite percentage of support by political affiliation, for having NATO waging war in support of our perceived interests.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

You don't seem proud of your country, the way you keep putting it down.

Jefferson1776
Jefferson1776

@Kyle_Wingfield @Jefferson1776  When you say we don't have credibility, just to blame politician you don't like.  The USA is as strong as ever and you would agree if it was your camp in charge.

Caius
Caius

There are enough Republicans in the House to pass the fast track bill.  So I guess we are saying we have bi-partisan opposition to the bill.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Caius Yes, there is bipartisan opposition. But a large majority of the GOP caucus is backing the measure, as was the case in the Senate. And, as was the case in the Senate, only a handful of Democrats are needed ... and it's a major Obama initiative ... and it's still dicey.

LeninTime
LeninTime

Interesting that you're trying to paint neglect of the post-WWII architecture in narrow partisan terms when there's plenty of blame to go around there. It was the Republicans' stonewalling of the IMF for ex. that was a significant factor in the rise of the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, a huge embarrassment to the US and represents a major pillar of the post-war global architecture that has now fallen.

http://www.newsmax.com/John-Gizzi/GOP-IMF-Christine-Lagarde-Chuck-Fleischmann/2015/04/10/id/637690/

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-06-10/chinas-global-ambitions-take-shape-aiib-structure-revealed-germany-pledges-full-supp


Oh, and, concerning Russia, like Jay Bookman you're parroting of the US government and media line about Vladimir Putin and 'Russian aggression' being responsible for the Ukraine crisis when the crisis was in fact triggered with the US-backed toppling of the Russia-leaning but duly elected government there a year ago and its replacement with an ultra-right wing nationalist regime, an event with US state department backing and spearheaded by outright fascistic elements.


Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@LeninTime I would say I'm agreeing with the American perspective on this rather than the Russian state media's perspective, but that's just me.

LeninTime
LeninTime

@Kyle_Wingfield 

And, like Jay Bookman, you're characterizing any departure from the US narrative as echoing "Russian propaganda": But maybe you guys should broaden your perspective a bit.

Btw last time I checked, Henry Kissinger wasn't a Russian agent. 

"But if the West is honest with itself, it has to admit that there were mistakes on its side. The annexation of Crimea was not a move toward global conquest. It was not Hitler moving into Czechoslovakia.

SPIEGEL: What was it then?

Kissinger: One has to ask one's self this question: Putin spent tens of billions of dollars on the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The theme of the Olympics was that Russia is a progressive state tied to the West through its culture and, therefore, it presumably wants to be part of it. So it doesn't make any sense that a week after the close of the Olympics, Putin would take Crimea and start a war over Ukraine. So one has to ask one's self why did it happen?" lhttp://www.spiegel.de/international/world/interview-with-henry-kissinger-on-state-of-global-politics-a-1002073.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/henry-kissinger-to-settle-the-ukraine-crisis-start-at-the-end/2014/03/05/46dad868-a496-11e3-8466-d34c451760b9_story.htm

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@LeninTime Nothing in that interview backs your earlier assertions. Nor did anything happen in Ukraine to merit an invasion and annexation by Moscow. And Russia's thinly veiled threats toward countries that have been in NATO for more than a decade -- and, in Poland's case, before Putin came to power -- certainly can't be justified by any Western actions.

Like it or not, Russia is the only country here that has sent tanks rolling into another country against its will. That's the long and short of the aggression here.

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@Kyle_Wingfield @LeninTime Lenin will always see America as imperialist and the aggressor in every situation. 


And Russia or anyone else simply reacting to our aggression.


This plays out daily over at Bookmans. 

IReportYouWhine#1
IReportYouWhine#1

 The Warren wing’s desire to export American rules for labor and the environment will look downright quixotic if a trans-Pacific deal involving the U.S. is scuttled and replaced by trade partnerships dominated by China that bend even further away from our way of doing things.


Sounds like they want the return of Smoot-Harley.





Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@IReportYouWhine#1 Smoot-Hawley -- but yeah, kind of. I'm not sure they'd go so far as to create new tariffs like S-H did, but you never know.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

Well since you bring it up? NATO probably should've been disbanded after the USSR went down the tubes.

Some other military alliance could've been created in its place. But having this thing called "NATO" basically taunting the beaten-down remnants of the old empire for years like that?

Little good was going to come of it.

So, not the wonderfulest example to use to sell TPP, Kyle, I don't think.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Visual_Cortex I don't think NATO "sell(s) TPP." I think they are two examples of the same attitude of withdrawal.

As for another alliance ... how exactly would that be different from NATO? And if it had the same mutual defense provision, why would Democrats today be more likely to say they'd keep that promise when they won't keep this one? Sounds like an excuse to me.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Kyle_Wingfield @Visual_Cortex

NATO's current configuration is water under the bridge at this point, I realize, but I do think with the benefit of hindsight that we would've been better off a) calling it something else--because superficial as it sounds, that does matter, and b) rather than trying to get as much buy-in from the newly liberated economies, instead done all we could to encourage them to form their own contiguous defense and economic partnerships with their neighbors.

Anyway, I'll admit to not finding the attitude in Europe you've reported to be terribly "ominous." Maybe that's just me.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Visual_Cortex "Maybe that's just me."

You might feel differently if you lived in Poland or Estonia. When you've promised to defend people, trying to understand a threatening situation from their perspective is in order.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Kyle_Wingfield @Visual_Cortex

Well yes, of course I'd feel differently if I were living there. But as I said, I wish we had a better stick to use--in this case, a workable alliance between those countries, and some others--rather than just the 800 pound gorilla that is NATO, for an option in case Putin or some future leader goes a-Lebensraumin'.

MaryElizabethSings
MaryElizabethSings

I'll have to have a split vote with you on this one, Kyle.


Because I trust President Obama's long-ranged vision for our world, I support his trade plans and would vote for if I were in the House, unlike Elizabeth Warren.


On the other hand, I would perceive as do the Europeans regarding going to the defense of other NATO members if attacked by Russia or any other common enemy based on military command.  The world must have a seismic shift of consciousness in this regard, in the 21st Century in my opinion.  Here are some thoughts from my own blog will tell why:



"What I can envision is a required service of all of our young people to this nation, either through the military or through the Peace Corps.  I would suspect that most of our young would prefer the Peace Corp to the possibility of killing/maiming others or being, themselves, killed/maimed. . . . Service to the world’s most needy would not only help to lift our planet as a whole but these service jobs would be paid for through our government, in conjunction with nonprofits, or from a satellite financial vehicle created within the United Nations, to serve the needs of all of the world’s humanity in becoming self-sufficient and self-governing, with democratic principles underlying this humane, worldwide effort. . . Better to think of ways to implement peace rather than war throughout the globe.

.