Friday, October 9, 2015

Worse than a crime

It's an unforced error.

Not how I pictured it at all. Image by Taylor Whitney.
The worst thing about Hillary Clinton's démarche against the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement isn't that it represents some kind of treacherous backstabbing against her old boss, because it doesn't. I agree with BooMan's judgment that it's nothing personal. In fact it's just the kind of thing Obama'd do himself (and indeed did do, in the 2008 campaign, on the subject of vague proposals to renegotiate NAFTA, among the few promises that he's shown no interest whatever in keeping), and he's hardly likely to take it seriously; nor is it likely to weigh at all one way or the other in the congressional debate on the agreement.

The worst thing is that it makes her sound really stupid:

Speaking at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, as part of a two-day swing through the leadoff caucus state, Clinton said that she’s worried “about currency manipulation not being part of the agreement” and that “pharmaceutical companies may have gotten more benefits and patients fewer.”
“As of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it,” Clinton said, later adding, “I don’t believe it’s going to meet the high bar I have set.”
Really? "What I have learned about it"? In four years as secretary of state when she was the administration's point person for praising the agreement in the most fulsome terms, she didn't know anything about it, and she's only had a chance to find out in recent weeks, as she's got nothing to do but run for president and hence has a moment to catch up on the newspapers?

And the two issues she chooses to note her particular concern about are the provisions for protecting biologic drugs, which have become in the final version far less offensive than they were when she was running the State Department and calling the agreement the greatest deal since the Russians sold Alaska; and currency manipulation, a subject that has opened up in recent weeks and will in fact be dealt with in a side agreement (though possibly not very well), and, as Jared Bernstein notes, an issue that she could have personally influenced as secretary, though it's pretty clear she didn't try, at least not in the direction she now claims to advocate.

She's lying so hard, in other words, that even the humble, generous, judicious, ever civil David Brooks ("Hillary Clinton's Opportunist Solution!") is partying on it like it's 1999 and he's initiating Rich Lowry into Fight Club:
She is campaigning on a series of positions that she transparently does not believe in. She’ll say what she needs to say now to become Bernie Sanders in a pantsuit (wait, Bernie Sanders already wears a pantsuit!). Then, nomination in hand and White House won, she will, it appears, transparently flip back and embrace whatever other positions she doesn’t believe in that will help her succeed in her new role.
That's just one of three exclamation points in today's column, including that mysterious one in the headline, and one at the very end:
In an era of polarization and dysfunction, maybe authenticity, conviction, consistency and principle are the hobgoblins of little minds!
Proving he's a better writer than Ralph Waldo Emerson, who could only come up with one foolish hobgoblin? And who favored a tolerance of inconsistency where Brooks haughtily rejects it? ("Nobody got a littler mind than me, bitchez!")

There's no reason for us to discuss the Brooks any further here, as Driftglass has gone very thoroughly into the issue of how our pandit is qualified to judge other people for opportunistic! flipflopping.

I'm pretty pissed off at Clinton myself at this point, if only for giving Brooks and his colleagues this barrel of fish to shoot at, and a distraction from the hysterical goings-on in the Animal House of Representatives. Now he'll have the long Columbus Day weekend to figure out a bothsiderist response to the Republicans' serial murder of Speakers and wannabe Speakers ("and Democrats occasionally publicly disagree with the president, so anarchy's being unleashed on both sides...").

Not that she's necessarily wrong to come out against the treaty, whether she believes herself or not (I assume she doesn't, in fact), but she should have made some kind of effort to put it in a plausible way, like, "You know as secretary of state I was deeply involved in the drafting of this agreement up until two years ago, and very hopeful about what it could accomplish, but I've been out of that loop and haven't seen the final text and I'm frankly concerned about some of the things knowledgeable people are saying about it..." Why make like she was on Mars during Obama's first term and heard about the TPP for the first time when she was having a drink with Noam Chomsky last week?

Also, while I'm up, why does anybody call anything the "gold standard" of something, as Clinton appears to have called the TPP about 400 times between 2009 and 2013? A gold standard isn't something that's the best in its category, it's something that's the most inflexible in its category and the most favorable to the very rich, which is why the world finally abandoned it in the 1930s, as the Democratic Party had been insisting for 40 years by that point (it's the issue that made the Democrats progressive, under the leadership of William Jennings Bryan). 

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