Author Archives: PB Goodfriend
For Christian evangelicals like Mike Huckabee, support for Israel is, and has always been, of a single purpose: to bring all the Jews to the tiny Mediterranean country so that they can make them convert or die, and prepare the world for the Second Coming.
Pundits are calling the former Arkansas governor’s remark about the Iran nuclear deal, saying Obama is taking Israelis and “basically march[ing] them to the door of the oven,” the “Trumpification” of the 2016 Republican presidential campaign. Outrageous does buy you news cycles, and the media is all too happy to cover a practiced politician like Huckabee instead of a blowhard buffoon like Trump. They’re likely relieved. The asshat with the comb-over is exhausting.
The main difference between Huckabee and Trump is that what the Donald’s minions mistake for authenticity is actually salesmanship, flim-flam, telling them what they want to hear. The Huckster, on the other hand is actually being sincere. Earnestly sincere.
I’m pretty sure this isn’t Huckabee trying to be like Trump, as much as it is him trying to rally his evangelical base, to save Israel, so the Jews can go out according to their prophecy, and not the Ayatollah’s. We can’t have “a mushroom cloud over Israel,” he warned Hillary Clinton after her condemnation of his words. Certainly not one generated by Iran.
Despite the objection of many notable Jewish organizations and individuals, like the Anti-Defamation League – who he dismisses as “leftist” and “pro-Democrat” – and Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, Huckabee thinks he knows he’s on the right track with the Jewish community. After all, he was at an event, Monday night, where, he told Matt Lauer on the Today Show, Tuesday, “I was probably one of four gentiles in the entire event — it was a Jewish event. People were overwhelmingly supportive.”
I’d hate to burst his bubble, but if he was invited to an event like that, chances are he wasn’t going to find a valid cross-section of American Jewry. It’s like going to a strip club and thinking the women there are representative of their entire gender. We are monotheistic, not monolithic. That may be where he’s confused.
In defending his offensive remarks to Lauer, the governor used his association with the Holy Land and his personal experience at Auschwitz in a “some of my best friends are Jews and Holocaust survivors” kind of way. “I’ve been to Auschwitz three times,” he said, “I have been to Israel dozens of times.” He said he gets the Survivor slogan “Never Again,” because he stood “in front of those very ovens.”
I’m not saying he couldn’t have had some kind of spiritual epiphany in that horrid place where I too have stood. But even as a child of Holocaust Survivors, I understand that you cannot ever know what it was like to stand in front of those ovens, unless you stood in front of them when they trickled with flame and smelled of burned hair and roasted human flesh.
What’s grotesque here is not the extremes to which the Huckster has gone to get noticed. It’s the ease and assurety with which he thinks it’s okay to use a tragedy of epic scale in his quest for personal glory. This is not Europe in the 1930s. He’s ringing the alarm, using dog whistles like “appeasement,” because he thinks it works for him, and because he believes it. It may get him the evangelical vote, if he makes it to the Iowa Caucuses in January. But his methods are desperate and sad, beyond ridiculous, and we definitely don’t need him running our country – the United States, I mean, not Israel.
Oh freedom over me
And before I’ll be a slave, I’ll be buried in my grave
And go home to my lord and be free
Lulled and complacent among a couple of thousand righteous liberals and progressives, what should be seen is often easily hidden. The obvious remains obscured behind conversations about Congressional districts, campaign finance and the buzz surrounding the Left’s favorite 2016 candidate.
“What side are you on, my people? What side are you on?”
…and about fifty conference attendees move up the aisles to the front of the room…
“What side are you on, my people? What side are you on?”
…and the veil lifts, revealing something every good liberal should already know:
Black people don’t have a voice.
Even in a progressive gathering,
Black people don’t have a voice.
There’s a mixture of applause and grumbling aimed at the disruptors. Some are joining in the chanting. What are they saying? Why are they interrupting the presidential candidate town hall that was billed as the highlight event of this year’s Netroots Nation gathering in Phoenix? Aren’t they disrespecting the candidates?
But respect must be mutual, and one candidate, at least, appears to be tone deaf. “All lives matter,” he says, and thinks he’s being understanding in his emphasis. Even after the crowd reacts angrily, he says it again, even more emphatically. Oh my god.
If I die in police custody…
The chanting doesn’t end. The shouting never ebbs. It shouldn’t.
If I die in police custody…
It takes me about three minutes of hearing them to shut the gremlins in my mind and listen to what they’re saying. Black lives matter. Black voices matter. Two young Black women died in police custody, last week.
People are dying and the one audience that should be fighting for that cause, existentially, is giving it short shrift – a panel here, a speaker there. If they cannot be heard here, then where? If not now, then when?
Americans of color are losing their sons and daughters to police and vigilante violence, and people forget their names. They splash across news sites and TV networks and are gone. “Say my name,” they shout. Beyond Trayvon Martin. Beyond Eric Garner. Beyond Michael Brown. Beyond the lives of those Black men, and too many others, are the names of the Black women who you never hear, because they don’t fit the American narrative of threat that society forces on men of color.
Say my name.
Say my name.
Say my name.
At Netroots Nation, the annual convention of progressive bloggers and activists where the demonstration took place, many were angry at the disruption, and felt the event was “hijacked,” as one attendee told me. It’s easy to give in to the anger, to be hooked by it like fish, but we’re progressives. We’re supposed to listen, and then make judgement. Thank goodness, it seems as if the event’s organizers did just that.
In a statement released shortly after the Candidate Town Hall, they wrote:
“Netroots Nation stands in solidarity with all people seeking human rights.
“With today’s Town Hall, our aim was to give presidential candidates a chance to respond to the issues facing the many diverse communities represented here.
“Although we wish the candidates had more time to respond to the issues, what happened today is reflective of an urgent moment that America is facing today.
“In 2016, we’re heading to St. Louis. We plan to work with activists there just as we did in Phoenix with local leaders, including the #BlackLivesMatter movement, to amplify issues like racial profiling and police brutality in a major way.
“It is necessary and vital to continue this conversation. We look forward to doing so in the coming year.”
In solidarity, because even within our liberal echo chamber, there are places we don’t go to, together. This time, we must. Lives depend on it.
No more weeping,
No more weeping,
No more weeping over me.
And before I’ll be a slave, I’ll be buried in my grave
And go home to my lord and be free
When I posted on Facebook last Thursday, that I was thinking about going to Columbia, South Carolina, Friday, to watch them finally furl the Confederate flag, I got a little pushback from some of my conservative friends. They cynically insisted that the historic event I was going to witness was no big deal and its impact way over-hyped.
They said, on my post and others, that the media frenzy over moving “a square piece of cloth” was at worst a distraction for the world’s problems and at best a panacea that would lull people into thinking that we’ve finally turned a cultural corner in the Old South.
“It’s a manufactured event, ” one critic wrote. “I don’t expect the air to smell like lilacs, don’t expect 300 million people to hold hands and sing kume by ya.”
“Just smoke and diversion” from the “real issues,” wrote another.
I thought they were misreading people’s expectations, that there can be no question there is still much work left to do. Was it mostly symbolic? Sure, but it was an important step. As it turns out, for the people of South Carolina, it was hugely important, much closer to an awakening than I thought, and so much more of the optimism the event’s critics sardonically predicted.
After witnessing that anachronistic flag, despised by many and revered by few, being lowered, folded up and driven away from the capitol grounds, Friday, I have to admit that the people we spoke to indeed saw only sunny days ahead for the Palmetto State, and their joy was rarely expressed in measured declarations.
Bernard Jackson, a local artist, set up an easel across from the flag post depicting a Buffalo Soldier looming large, with the flag behind him, “because it’s behind us now,” he explained.
“This isn’t a black victory, or a white victory,” he went on, excitedly, “This is an American victory. This is a world victory. Everybody across the world is rejoicing right now. It’s a ripple effect. You changed the tides of the world.”
His optimism was jarring, because I expected there to be much more tension. There wasn’t.
True, among some, like Myron Murrow, who said his family had been in South Carolina since at least the Eighteenth Century, there was some indignancy and resignation. After all, he showed up, grandchildren in tow, wearing the Confederate emblem on the back of his t-shirt, surrounded by the words “Stopping Terrorism Since 1861.” This, of course, follows the euphemistic Southern description of the Civil War as the “War of Northern Aggression.”
“When they try to erase it from our history,” he told me, “that’s when I proudly wear my flag.”
But as long as that flag flew on public, state-owned property, at “the people’s house,” as someone put it, then it seemed like nothing more than an ironic attempt to hide South Carolina’s history of racism in its own shadow.
Watch the video of the Confederate Flag coming down.
“We can’t say that slavery didn’t happen, that segregation didn’t happen, that people weren’t lynched and murdered and harassed and oppressed. It happened.” Brittani Williams, a young woman who had driven up from Charleston, explained.
Murrow decried the consequences of the state legislature’s actions, lamenting, “It makes a lot of people feel like, if they have ancestors who fought, it makes it feel like they lost the war all over again.”
Yet among almost everyone else we spoke to, the conversation was enthusiastic, characterizing the event as a time for love, forgiveness and moving on.
“This is going to bring everybody closer and bring America hope, tighter knit,” Reginald Epps, a facilitator for a S.T.E.M. program in Greenville, S.C., said. “That’s why I think it’s important, what’s happened here.”
Williams couldn’t hold back the tears. “I cried the whole way here. I’ll probably cry the whole way home,” she said, using her hand as a fan to help regain her composure. “Being from Charleston, this is a victory for us, because we lost nine beautiful people,” she continued, adding, “It’s a step forward. It’s a victory for our nation, because now we can start to heal.”
So maybe it wasn’t an entire nation coming together in a group hug, but it wasn’t a small thing, a diversion, either. It was a long time coming. I think I approached it as an outsider, albeit not an unbiased one, and I just did not anticipate how profound it was to have a burden lifted from the shoulders of those who had been squirming uncomfortably beneath it for 150 years.
Jackson, the artist, painted a brightly colored picture of the state he loves and the place he calls home. “South Carolina is about to turn the corner, enormously,” he said, “and I can’t wait.”
Call it the unraveling of the Republicans’ over forty-year-old “Southern Strategy.” Driven by a party that finally sees the dangers of perception that come with aligning itself with racists and secessionists, the GOP is letting go of the Confederate flag as a means of reaching a segment of the voting population. Like an obese diabetic swearing off corn syrup, they are looking for other ways to get their sugar that are more easily digested by the public.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying all Americans who live in the South are racists. Neither are all Southern Republicans, but when you feast at the trough of intolerance, one is bound to adapt at least some of the affectations of one’s dining partners. The need for votes and money and more money and even more money means that even if your find the racial and social attitudes of the pigs abhorrent, you can’t be seen without a snout mask, lest you reveal an upturned nose behind it.
The Democrats had to exorcise that demon back in the 1970s, and it cost them the 1980s, but this is a different time in racial politics. The flag furor is a distraction, and it helps Republicans look less intransigent on social issues, at a time when the culture wars are really heating up.
The causes of the culture clash remain the faith-based rationales for intolerance, discrimination and militarism. The problem is not with the faiths. It is with the way they are implemented by some adherents, meaning their inability to keep their dogma in perspective, as part of a pluralistic society. Those in public service who swing to God to justify their manifestos are all too happy to provide the kindling for righteous indignation and bogeyman politics. It is a maneuver worthy of a ten-year-old boy, for whom every challenge is stridently answered, “Uh-uhhh,” or, “Your mama.”
Aware of humanity’s inconsistencies in abiding by the principles of freedom and tolerance that are necessary to preserve our republic, Thomas Jefferson, in his first inaugural address, issued several cautionary advisements. More than a few point to the stubborn divisions which even now grip our country and freeze our government with an intolerant zeal usually relegated religious fanaticism.
After expressing his expectation that all would rally around the young Constitution, “and unite in common efforts for the common good,” he added:
“All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle: that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable.”
After the tragedy in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, where a young bigot walked into a historic black church and gunned down nine people during Bible study, some on the Right were quick to cast it as an attack on faith in general, and the Christian faith in particular. Such speech feeds the monster of intolerance they count on to get elected, and rallies their political base to show up at the polls. But is their “will to be rightful” at all reasonable? More importantly, is using the faith community, fallacious argument that it is, consistent with our nation’s founding principles?
It was Jefferson who said, citing mankind’s long history of wars and killing for the cause of religious superiority, “that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance [just] as despotic, [just] as wicked, and capable of [just] as bitter and bloody persecutions.”
Instead, he said, we are a nation “enlightened by a benign religion, professed, indeed, and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man; acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter.”
Those who are quick to wield the sword of some maleficent deity, clinging to a single truth against coexistence, cleave all Americans from our heritage as a free country. Fanatics and zealots of all stripes are corruptions of “a benign religion,” and their extremism is an anathema to a belief in the “happiness of man.”
Their dogma distorts.
Perhaps it is the fanatic’s belief in exclusivity that drives his myopic zeal, a deeply seeded understanding that his race and religion make him part of a group that is destined to inherit the keys to the kingdom and rule over others. For a soul so possessed, there can be no “common good,” only the distorted fulfillment of their distorted perceptions of God.
Children are also often told they are special, that they make their parents proud. This is a perception most grow to understand as coming from the unfettered love a parent has for for their child. Very few carry it into adulthood. That is, unless they find the world so daunting and unwelcoming that they hasten back to the warmth and comfort of memory and seek a way to prove to the world what their parents convinced them was true.
The rambling letter the confessed killer in Charleston, posted online, is rife with the delusion of superiority and entitlement he thinks are due Americans of European ancestry. According to D.R. (I’m not going to empower him by using his name), Whites in America “are in fact superior,” and because they are superior beings, they are also victims of “lies, exaggerations and myths.” And, he adds lamentingly, “I have tried endlessly to think of reasons we deserve this.”
Poor Whites. And it’s all the fault of “Jewish agitation of the black race.” Jews, he says, operate secretly under a cloak of Whiteness. “If we could somehow turn every jew [sic] blue for 24 hours,” he suggests, “I think there would be a mass awakening, because people would be able to see plainly what is going on.”
It’s so simply juvenile, this racist rant by a man incapable of taking responsibility for his own shortcomings. Jews are an “enigma.” Blacks “are stupid and violent.” Hispanics may have European blood, but “are still our enemies.” He and the people he sources never stopped blaming others for a country growing and changing. We accept. We consent. We grow. We put away childish things like the Confederate flag and hopefully, someday, the pointy white hoods of the racists. We put away the fear of losing wealth for the joys of clean air, a sound education and healthcare for all.
This is not our country changing in some foreign way. It is, instead, precisely the way our Founding Fathers envisioned our republic evolving.
“E pluribus unum – out of many, one,” is the motto of our nation, a true declaration for pluralism and tolerance, so that we can thrive, Jefferson said, “possessing a chosen country, with room enough for our descendants to the thousandth and thousandth generation.”
Welcome to the “golden door.”
PS. Truly principled freedom rings out from the Virginian’s speech, and it is at the very least regretful that he polluted the consistency of his principles by owning slaves. That is a fact that cannot be easily washed away by high minded thoughts and words. Nevertheless, I urge you to embrace the message, if not the messenger.
When Harper Lee published To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960, the concept of the White, Southern country lawyer defending a Negro accused of touching a White woman was inspirational. It showed how commitment to a moral cause could overcome social norms and bring justice to a community hungry for it.
It also showed something else about our nation’s social structure, that was, perhaps, more complex. If African Americans were to throw off the White oppression of generations, they would need the help of the ruling class, namely, Caucasian Catholics, Protestants and Jews, who were willing to stand up for every American’s fundamental human and civil rights to their neighbors, police, legislators and judges.
Some of those groups, namely the Catholics and the Jews, had also suffered the stigma of difference-ness, though, admittedly, not to the same extent. It was intolerance in different context. But those communities all understood there was a conscious decision by the bully class to forgo any effort at understanding, unwilling to share their economic and social superiority. Or their schools, bathrooms, water fountains and lunch counters.
The way to get past this willful ignorance, according to the hero of Lee’s story, Atticus Finch, was, as he told his daughter, “a simple trick:”
“[I]f you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things form his point of view-”
“-Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
– To Kill a Mockingbird, Chapter 3, by Harper Lee
Rachel Dolezal, the Spokane, Washington, civil rights advocate who pretended to be the progeny of a mixed-race marriage, has gotten into a lot of trouble for taking Atticus’ advice literally. No one doubts her level of commitment. In fact, the N.A.A.C.P. issued a statement shortly after the story broke, remarking on how they “stand behind Ms. Dolezal’s advocacy record.”
In the statement, the group emphasizes that the organization “has held a long and proud tradition of receiving support from people of all faiths, races, colors and creeds.” They go on to say, “One’s racial identity is not a qualifying criteria or disqualifying standard for NAACP leadership,” and they urge all to “respect her privacy in this matter.”
That does not mean we are unable to draw our own conclusions from her choice to be inauthentic about her background, despite her ability to fight for a cause. She obviously strongly identifies with African American culture and history. One can choose their religious identity. One can choose their gender identity. Her misrepresentations not withstanding, Dolezal has chosen a cultural identity.
The lies mean she is no hero. Neither, according to some, was Atticus Finch. Some believe that because the case was thrust upon him, he had no choice. Twenty-three years ago, the New York Times ran a story about the controversial law professor, Monroe Freedman, who penned an article saying that any lawyer who considers regarding Lee’s protagonist “as someone to emulate…would be making a terrible mistake.”
The Times goes on to describe Freedman’s stand:
“Mr. Freedman asked, what had Finch done up to that point to combat the forces that brought [Tom] Robinson down?
“Far from attacking racism at its root, Mr. Freedman charges, Finch was complicit in it. For all his gentlemanliness, he does not complain that blacks attending court are relegated to the balcony. He eats in segregated restaurants; he walks in parks where signs say ‘No Dogs or Colored Allowed.'”
But it was the response to Freedman’s words by Tim Hall, a law professor at the University of Mississippi at the time, that one can envision a young Rachel Dolezal reading and taking to heart.
“What Monroe really wants,” he told the Times, perhaps presciently, “is for Atticus to be working on the front lines for the N.A.A.C.P. in the 1930’s, and if he’s not, he’s disqualified from being any kind of hero.”
What’s a hero? Someone who walks the talk? Then Dolezal qualifies. Her lie makes her imperfect. It’s certainly a lesson about integrity. But it doesn’t mean she cannot lead.
I’ve been close with people who have made cultural choices similar to the one that Dolezal made. Very close. Significant relationship close. The difference of course, is they did not deny their background, but they immersed themselves into the culture they chose very authentically, so there is no question about who they now are. They’re not pretending. They simply are their adopted culture. A bold choice, to be sure, but I’ll leave it to you, dear reader, to declare whether or not it is a heroic one.
UPDATE: The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives’ changes to sections of the PATRIOT Act, Tuesday evening, known as the USA FREEDOM Act, after GOP Senate leaders failed to get any of the changes they wanted to the House bill. The final vote was 67-32. It now heads to President Obama’s desk for his signature.
As of midnight Monday morning, three provisions of inappropriately acronymed PATRIOT Act expired, leaving the National Security Agency with limited power of spying, dragnet style, on everyday Americans. Limited, but not eliminated.
The disposition of the NSA’s powers could be delayed for only a few days, if in that time the Senate passes, as is, the PATRIOT Act revisions contained in the USA FREEDOM Act, sent to them by a bipartisan House of Representatives. Or, it could take up to several months, if the Senate sends back amendments and revisions to what Rep. Adam Schiff (D-California) called a “carefully crafted compromise.”
What is clear is that there is no sudden gap in our intelligence gathering that leaves Americans particularly more vulnerable than we have been since the abuses of our liberties were originally enacted fourteen years ago. Indeed, there has been zero evidence that this unconstitutional activity has unearthed a single plot against the homeland. And, of course, they have workarounds in the intelligence community, for what may be just a dash of inconvenience served with a platter full of rhetoric.
“We call on the Senate to ensure this irresponsible lapse in authorities is as short-lived as possible,” Josh Ernest, the president’s press secretary, wrote in a statement, after Sunday’s vote in the Senate to move the House bill forward. “On a matter as critical as our national security, individual Senators must put aside their partisan motivations and act swiftly. The American people deserve nothing less.”
But, as the Washington Post reported, Monday:
“Three provisions that expired — allowing the bulk collection of phone records, the ability to investigate ‘lone wolf’ American terrorists and the ability to investigate suspects who switch phones — have grandfather clauses that let any investigation started before June 1 continue indefinitely.”(emphasis mine)
Any new investigations will have to wait, and so will the bulk phone data collection, because the Obama administration has chosen not to continue that extremely unpopular program until they see what the Senate will do to the House bill.
In the House’s FREEDOM Act, telecommunications companies would not have to turn over any data records of their customers without a warrant from a FISA court targeting a specific account. The Act gives the intelligence community six months to adapt to the new rules. The hawks in the Senate, though, have other ideas, including extending the transition period to a full year, and requiring the phone and data companies to let the NSA know if they keep records for less than a 18 months.
The other issue for Mitch McConnell’s Senate is transparency. According to Bloomberg, the FREEDOM Act, passed by the House, calls for “the government to declassify significant decisions and legal interpretations” advanced by the FISA court. But the Republican majority leader tried to get through a revision, Sunday, that would have eliminated that provision.
That won’t fly on the other side of Capitol Hill. “The House is not likely to accept the changes proposed by Senator McConnell,” several high ranking Representatives, from both sides of the aisle, said in a statement, Monday afternoon. “Section 215 [which authorizes bulk data collection] has already expired. These amendments will likely make that sunset permanent,” they warned, implying that changes will mean the end of the PATRIOT Act, forever.
For Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), whose obstruction of the Senate even trying to get an extension passed, in whatever form, helped bring Congress to this point, these are heady times. He’s not going to be able to stop the Senate from passing some kind of a surveillance bill, Tuesday. But any changes his colleagues are likely to put in the legislation will become poison pills in the House.
And there’s this. A poll released Monday shows that twice as many people prefer Paul’s let-it-expire approach to McConnell’s extend-everything tack. although neither Kentuckian spoke for the poll’s plurality of extend-but-modify.
From this point on, it doesn’t matter, politically, which approach turns out to be the winner. In the battle of Bluegrass State leadership, at least, it seems the one who has the title finds himself closing the door to an empty barn, as the sound of galloping hooves recedes over the hill behind him, and the curly-topped rodeo clown, throat sore from hootin’ and hollerin’, smiles back at him knowingly, eyes glinting in the diminishing sliver of light, before the barn goes dark and the bar slides across the door.
“By definition, massive trade deals like the TPP override domestic laws written, debated, and passed by Congress. If fast-track passes, Congress will have given up its power to strip out any backroom arrangements and special favors…
“We will have also given up our right to strip out whatever other special favors industry can bury in new trade agreements – not just in the TPP, but in potential trade deals for the next six years.”
– Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Connecticut) Op-Ed in the Boston Globe, May 11, 2015
Not only is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) the leading voice in Congress, right now, for sensible progressive causes, she can listen, too. And, of course, regulator that she is, she can count. She knew that ever since the trouncing the Democrats took in the 2014 midterm election, the passage of the TPP was a fait accompli.
It was obvious that the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement was one of only a small number of bills favored by the Obama administration that the Republican led U. S. Senate would get behind. Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) signaled as much right after the new Congress was gaveled into session.
“It’s an enormous grant of power, obviously, from a Republican Congress to a Democratic president,” he said in January, “but that’s how much we believe in trade as an important part of America’s economy.” And, he added in that classic passive aggressive McConnell way, “I’m happy the president has now become a born-again free trader. It’s high time.”
There were always going to be enough Democrats willing to back their president and maybe even some who legitimately believe in trade deals despite opposition by Sen. Warren and the AFL-CIO.
After all it was Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) who helped come up with bipartisan language for the bill, and he is hardly considered a conservative Democrat. That he and all but one Democrat voted against the fast-track legislation, Tuesday, didn’t indicate the TPP was dead. It was just held up until some other issues could be addressed.
Nor did it indicate, as the mainstream media seemed to charge, that there was, as Politico put it, a “meltdown” in the Democratic Senate Caucus. Neither does it indicate immutable friction between the minority party and the president, as in another Politico headline: “Barack Obama’s war on the left.”
Other news outlets also used harsh language: “DEMS TURN ON OBAMA OVER ASIA TRADE,” screamed Wednesday’s USA Today; “Obama Foiled On Trade Pact By Democrats,” the New York Times chided.
“They just got throttled,” Sen. John Thune (R-South Dakota) gloated to the press, “‘President rebuked. Democrats defy president. President thwarted.’ Those were the headlines this morning.”
But here’s the thing. They were always going to get this one worked out. It was always going to pass. The deal reached Wednesday gives the Dems some votes on currency manipulation, sub-Sahran African trade, and Trade Adjustment Assistance, “to help,” according to Politico, “workers who lose their jobs as a result of expanded trade.”
Yet those votes mean nothing. Even if they pass the Senate, the House of Representatives will almost certainly balk at the bills, and only vote to give fast track trade authority to the president. That means the Executive Branch can negotiate secret deals that then get a vote.
“This is a bad deal,” AFL-CIO president, Richard Trumka told PBS‘ Gwen Ifill, Tuesday, after the failed vote, but before Wednesday’s compromise. “This will hurt our economy. This will hurt our communities. It will hurt our country, and it shouldn’t be done in a fast track manner, where you only get to vote it up or down after it was negotiated in secret.”
As for the deal reached Wednesday, Trumka was unmoved. Passing the main fast track trade bill, he told reporters, should depend on the passage the measures that are now to be voted on separately. “What they demanded yesterday, they should continue to demand today,” he said.
Although it is true that progressive Democrats will be disappointed at the deal, nothing, of course, can be taken for granted when it comes to the machinations of Congress. Some fait accomplis surprisingly become fait peut-être accomplis. The actual vote is not supposed to happen until early next week. Plenty of time to change some minds. But will it be enough?