I’m clearly too feral to have the proper responses, but I’ve long considered Cokie Roberts to be too lightweight to be worth paying attention to. But since lightweight goes over well in many parts of America, Cokie still has a large following. And it’s separately worth paying attention to a fight she picked over Obama’s stalled trade deal, the TransPacific Partnership. The fact that people with popular followings are still defending it says the Administration remains keen to revive it, so opponents need to guard against becoming too complacent.
The specifics: Cokie and her husband, Steve, went after Florida representative Alan Grayson in January in a syndicated column over his stance against the TransPacific Partnership. The piece was a collection of tired bromides and cherry-picked factoids about supposed virtues “free trade,” when many commentators, including your humble blogger, have explained that this proposed pact (and its evil twin, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) can’t properly be considered trade deals, since trade is already substantially liberalized. Instead, their real purpose is to further enrich US multinationals by strengthening already-too-generous intellectual property protections and ceding even more power to secret tribunals that allow foreign investors to sue governments for potential profits they claim to have lost due to regulations. Experts have already said, for instance, that the generally weak Dodd Frank regulations could be torn down through this process.
Congress has developed an unexpected bit of spine, primarily due to the unheard of secrecy that the Obama Administration has maintained around the draft terms of these pending trade agreements. Over 140 Democratic representatives and some 20 Republic have signed letters against giving Obama the blank check of “fast track” authority, which would enable him to present Congress with a done deal and allow them only to approve it or vote it down. The opposition is even more serious than that, since there are both Democrats and Republicans who by various whip counts are pegged as voting with the open opponents, but for various reasons won’t go public with their stance prior to a vote. Even John Boehner has said he can’t muster the votes to get fast track passed. And that’s before the fact that Senate majority leader Harry Reid has said he won’t table fast track legislation either.
But does Cokie give readers any of this important detail, particularly that opposition is a deep-seated, bipartisan affair? Nope. She tried to make it solely the province of loonie lefties, and to personalize it in the form of Alan Grayson:
A typical criticism came from Rep. Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat, who told the Huffington Post, “We’ve tried free trade, and not only has free trade not improved the U.S. economy, it’s gutted manufacturing and driven down our labor standards.”
Liberal ideologues like Grayson are flat-out wrong….
Memo to Cokie: you are supposed to be enough of an insider to know which targets to pick. Grayson happens to be smart, well versed in the policy issues (yes, a shocker for Congresscritters), pugnacious, and not cowed by personal attacks.
Grayson tore into Cokie on his Tumblr, which is far from a mass medium outlet. Yet the Beltway insiders appear to have designated him the victor in this dustup. The fact that The Hill reported on his retort and reprinted some of his most cutting remarks is an understated compliment. From the top of the article Alan Grayson: Cokie Roberts an ‘infohack’ in The Hill:
Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) dubbed political analyst Cokie Roberts an “infohack” on Saturday, after Roberts sharply criticized Grayson’s stance on free trade agreements.
In a blog post Saturday, Grayson uses Roberts’ criticism of him to try to round up campaign cash, calling her “a consummate Washington insider.”
“Are you disgusted by this crooked and underhanded attack by Cokie Roberts?” Grayson wrote. “Do you oppose ‘free trade’ giveaways?”
Digsby also had a serious schadenfreude attack:
It’s been a while since I featured Congressman Grayson here, but this was too good to pass by without a mention. It would appear that the pre-eminent Village dowager, Cokie Roberts, has taken exception to his opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact. In fact, she was incensed that the hippies would even deem to involve themselves in such important grown-up issues. Grayson responds and, as always, pulls no punches. He patiently explains why the TPP is yet another assault on the middle class and why Democrats must oppose it.
Now with that warm-up, I’ll quote his post at some length, but you really should do yourself a favor and read it in full. The article consist of two parts, each of which is important. In the first, Grayson shreds her lightweight argument. In the second, which is the part that likely got the Beltway types all a-twitter, is that he discusses at length how her brother is a heavyweight lobbyist whose clients would be very well served if the TPP passed.
For your delectation:
Recently, ABC infohack Cokie Roberts, doyenne of the D.C. Establishment, attacked me in her nationally syndicated column. Why? Because I dared to speak the truth about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a so-called “free trade agreement” that has lobbyists and Washington insiders alike clamoring to stuff their pockets with corrupt corporate cash. And because I dared to speak the truth about “Fast Track,” legislation whose sole purpose is to cram TPP and other corporate rip-offs down our throats.
By attacking me, Cokie Roberts unintentionally has provided a fascinating case study in how Washington, D.C. really works. Her attack on me was really an attack on the American middle class. Her attack on me was an attack on you.
Let’s look at the facts. Our corporatized “free trade” policy has been an abject failure. It began with NAFTA, which impoverished workers in both the United States and abroad, solely for the benefit of wealthy corporate special interests. So has every “free trade” deal since. For the past dozen years, every year, the United States has run the largest trade deficits of any country, anywhere in the world, at any time in history. Since NAFTA went into effect, our trade deficits total $10,000,000,000,000.00, or one-sixth of our national net worth. We are buying foreign goods and assets, putting foreigners to work. Instead of buying our goods and services, they are buying our assets, driving us deeper and deeper into debt. We lose – twice.
For five years now, our so-called “Trade Representative” has conspired in secret with multinational corporations to give away our sovereignty, refusing even our elected representatives access to negotiations. “Fast Track” legislation simply is a ploy to jam the resulting surrender to multinational corporations through Congress, without hearings, without mark-ups, without amendments and even without significant debate. The real problem today is our towering trade deficit, and both “Fast Track” and TPP would make that worse.
But that’s not how Cokie Roberts, the daughter of two Members of Congress and a consummate Washington insider, sees it. She quoted some of what I’ve said, and then she said: “Liberal ideologues like Grayson are flat-out wrong.”
Let’s take a look at the evidence that Cokie Roberts offers to try to prove that she’s right and I’m wrong. She touts the fact that the United States exports $2 trillion in goods and services each year. While she ignores the fact that the United States has been importing nearly $3 trillion in goods and services each year. (Note to Cokie: three is more than two.) She touts the “fact” that trade supposedly “supports” almost 10 million jobs in the United States. While she ignores the fact that imports cost us even more jobs; in fact, we’ve lost five million manufacturing jobs to “free trade” during the past two decades…
To top it all off, Cokie Roberts then quoted this vapid and inane remark by the U.S. Trade Representative: “Trade is critical to America’s prosperity.” It would be far more accurate to say that trade is critical to the prosperity of America’s lobbyists. Lobbyists like Cokie Roberts’s brother, for instance.
You can read the rest of this shellacking here. Grayson also asks for a modest contribution and I hope you’d consider giving him one.