THE PLANK MARCH 11, 2008
In this week's Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria makes a counter-CW case that Obama is worse than McCain for the U.S. image abroad because he panders on trade:
Already the mood is shifting abroad. Listening to the Democrats on trade "is enough to send jitters down the spine of most in India" ...
For Obama, the backlash could be greatest because he's raised the highest hopes. A senior Latin American diplomat, who asked to remain unnamed because of the sensitivity of the topic, says, "Look, we're all watching Obama with bated breath and hoping [his election] will be a transforming moment for the world. But now that we're listening to him on trade-the issue that affects us so deeply-we realize that maybe he doesn't wish us well. In fact, we might find ourselves nostalgic for Bush, who is brave and courageous on trade and immigration."
It's unlikely that a Democratic president would tear up NAFTA the way Bush chainsawed Kyoto, the ABM Treaty, the ICC, and so on--in other words, to an extent, they're just pandering. But pandering has its costs. Just look at the result of Mitt Romney's pandering on immigration: it frustrated prospects for reform, harmed America's image abroad, and drove Hispanics out of the GOP.
On that, and so many other issues, liberals are heartily willing to acknowledge that what is said in U.S. politics reverberates, humanity is interdependent, and international opinion matters. If we believe that, then we should be willing to accept that what we say on trade will also have consequences for years to come.