Cokie Roberts Picked a Fight With Alan Grayson on the TransPacific Partnership. Guess Who Won?

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.

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  1. timotheus

    Ouch. The Guatemalan connection with Roberts’ brother is particularly ugly–those guys are real nazis. I guess Ms. R will be thinking twice about hurling stones from under her shiny glass dome.

    1. Thor's Hammer

      The thing to remember about criminal politicians is that criminality is bi-partisan.

      You will recall the “alternative” to Obama the Assassin that was offered to American voters is a senior member of a bizarre cult famous for its historical origin in white slavery of young women and the worship of money. Romney earned his fortune the American way by financing terrorists. (1) (The MSM didn’t think it was relevant that Bain Capital was initially funded by Salvadorian oligarchs who used their profits to fund death squads.)

      On the other hand, Obama may have gotten his start up the political ladder through his first job out of Columbia as an undercover fake community organizer for the CIA front company Business International Corporation (BIC), (2) Obama has since become the world’s most notorious assassin, operating with impunity outside of any international law in over forty countries, using clandestine hit squads and a fleet of several thousand remotely controlled drones.


      (2) cia/?doing_wp_cron=1396290938.8326299190521240234375

      Is Obama a highly successful Trojan Horse project of his first employer? That would explain his liberal posturing accompanied by right-wing totalitarian policy actions. If there are any real investigative journalists left out there perhaps they should look under this rock instead of writing about the latest Hollywood wardrobe malfunction.

  2. diptherio

    While it’s probably unfair and mean-spirited of me, I can’t resist piling on by making fun of her ridiculous name. Not “Cokie,” that’s normal by comparison to her real name: Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Roberts.

    No, I am not making that up.

    1. David

      Add just a few more names to that list and she would have enough
      to be represented in the UN

    2. Sufferin'Succotash

      I prefer Cokie. It conjures up pleasing fantasies of Visigoths sacking Washington.

      1. Procopius

        Really? To me it conjures up vapid prep school girls on their way to Vassar, like Buffy, or Cubby.

    3. Xelcho

      Absolutely hilarious, thanks for sharing!

      It is great to see all of this push back against these trash deals. It would be nice to see this resurrect questions for madame Clinton about the misdeeds of her husband.

  3. R Kelman

    Calling the TPP a free trade agreement is the height of irony. What could be less free than patent protect?

    1. jrs

      Yea but with Cokie and Krugman on the same page, it feels like a coordinated effort underway to get people to think this is a free trade agreement (when really it’s not even a trade agreement)

  4. Pelham

    Of course, the ultimate measure of the success of free-trade policies over the past few decades would be found in the general well-being, security and contentment of American workers and the middle class. After 40 years or so of free trade, we should all be deliriously happy by now.

    But we’re not.

    1. different clue

      Actually, the free trade agreements have been a total success in achieving what they were actually secretly designed to achieve. Mass jobicide in America was the primary point and goal of these agreements. On purpose.

      1. James Levy

        You may be right, but I don’t think they thought that far. In fact, I don’t think they care a brass farthing about jobs in America. All they saw were opportunities to make profits, which most of the time is the only thing they ever see. When under Fordism they could make those profits here off of us, they were satisfied to do so. Now, if they can make those profits somewhere else, they’re glad about that. Nothing else enters into their shriveled little mentalities except the occasional belch of contempt for those below them.

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          I’ve just returned from Singapore, where the country’s founding fathers have a very different idea of their solemn “civic duty” to the nation that made them wealthy. What a travesty the Koches and Immelts and Edelmans are by comparison.

    1. James Levy

      Years ago, some smart poster at Salon said that when fascism comes to America, Cokie Roberts will happily volunteer to be Minister of Propaganda and Enlightenment. Privilege and hauteur are the only words that come to mind when viewing Ms. Roberts–thought, never.

    2. Banger

      Roberts is not a shill but a member of the elite–she is deeply tied in socially–they are her people and her value is that she is, along with almost any prominent mainstream journalist, deeply loyal to her tribe.

  5. TarheelDem

    Cokie works of Disney, right? And Steve works for whom?

    And who are some of the biggest beneficiaries of these “trade” deals?

    What is the old quote about the relationship between a person’s views and the source of their salary?

    1. steelhead23

      “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” – Upton Sinclair.

      I also believe that wealth damages both our ability to emphasize with the suffering of others and our intellectual ability to see this effect. Hence, if free trade is good for the elite, by golly, its good for the proles as well. Apparently Alan Grayson is either poorer than most in the U.S. Congress, or was, or he has a very uncommon grasp on reality within the bowels of the asylum.

      I like Grayson – and I like Liz Warren. Both are building constituencies without much assistance from the power brokers (money-men) at the DNC. Are the Dems about to see their own great awakening, when safe incumbents are primaried by true democrats, focused on the needs of the American people, not the global elite? Let us pray – and get active.

      1. different clue

        We could vote for such in primaries, and if DLCists win those primaries, we could vote against them. Scorch the earth.

      2. participant-observer-observed

        “4. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.)
        Net Worth: Between $24,137,081 and $85,510,000

        How he earned it: Grayson started IDT Corp, a telephone services company, which he later sold. He is also a partner in Grayson & Kubli, a law firm with more than 300 clients, where he made a name for himself by filing whistleblower lawsuits against Iraq war contractors. ”

  6. John Mc

    Not to get too far into the depths of distraction here, but didn’t her father die in a plane crash in Alaska? I think he was Louisiana politician, but people here may know more than I.

    1. Jess

      Yes. Congressman Hale Boggs from Louisiana. Plane vanished and was never found. In typical establishment/plutocracy fashion, mom Lindy took over dead papa’s seat.

  7. mark

    Nafta signed in 1992.

    ” While more than one-third of employed people belonged to unions in 1945, union membership fell to 24.1 percent of the U.S. work force in 1979 and to 13.9 percent in 1998.”

    The Free trade agreement with Korea has worked out very badly for Americans as well. Jobs lost, and trade deficit increasing.

    Thanks for continuing to expose these dirty dealings so clearly and effectively.

    1. human

      It’s even worse than you imagine. The numbers have fallen over the years, , but I seem to remember that when first established, the Korean Free Economic Zone, , employed tens of thousands of North Koreans as well, benefitting North Korea with hard western currency to the tune of about $1B per year. Your tax dollars at work ™.

  8. montanamaven

    Whenever I hear or see Ms Cokie I think of a 17th Century Restoration Comedy.
    (With a Yawn) Mistress Cokie Sneersabunch : “Me thinks Squire Grayson puffs himself mightily but is too too thin.
    (Laughing heartily and taking a pinch of snuff) Sir George Willsalot: “Oh, you are too droll, Mistress Cokie.”
    (Sneezing into his handkerchief) Pastor Paul Frugalman: “Tsk, Tsk, he is more thick than porridge.”
    (Snapping her fan shut), Mistress Cokie Sneersabunch: “He needs a good thrashing from his betters. Sir George, you must take him behind the woodshed.”
    They all laugh and stuff biscuits in their mouths.
    (To be continued)

  9. Anastasia Beaverhausen

    Well, I am from a foreign cuntrey, but Miss Kooky is right. Kin is what counts. The pubic interest is just for shits and giggles. Sure, lip service, but not more.

    1. Jess

      While I understand your humorous intentions you might want to find yet another alternate way of spelling country.

  10. susan the other

    It might take me till tomorrow to make a coherent comment on this post, but I’ll say this now: Yves’ comment that she might be “too feral to have proper responses” is something I respond to so viscerally that I cannot put it into words and I’ll always cherish her phrase – it’s like being totally imprinted on some covert underlying truth that will not let you go… and basically, the TPP is a trans-Pacific evasion of it.

    1. Malcolm MacLeod, MD

      susan the other: I too was bewitched by Yves’ prose. It
      reminded me of another quote (I forget from whom),”I
      used to think that she was just a social climber, but now
      I see her as a real mountaineer.”

  11. Jess

    Much as I like what Grayson has to say, remember that his job is parrot traditional Dem rhetoric and thereby continue to deceive the masses into believing that the Dem party cares about the poor and middle class. All this Congressional uproar over the TPP is primarily about potential loss of sovereignty (which includes a loss of Congressional power and influence) and power-hoarding by the executive branch in keeping Congresscum out of the negotiations than it is about trade deficits or job losses or any of that stuff.

    And don’t forget that Grayson sold out on HCR, just as he will faithfully sell out the next time Dem leadership tells him it’s his turn in the barrel. There are NO good Dems. Not one.

    1. human

      You disparage Grayson unfairly. He has been a one man Congress in speaking out, organizing and lobbying for populist legislation. A few more Graysons and DC might actually be forced to begin to get things turned around.

      There are those pragmatists who understand that currently in order to get things done politically, you have to be of one of two parties. This can result in near term victories. The long term view will require a complete overhaul to accomplish a greater variety of representation and legislation.

      1. Procopius

        IIRC, in his first term, or maybe in his first campaign leading to his first term, Grayson made the point that he didn’t give a s**t about getting reelected, that he was going to do what he believed was best for his constituents. I think they annoyed him by not helping him get reelected, so now he really doesn’t care what the “movers and shakers” want. I haven’t seen him to be your normal bobble-head.

    2. Yves Smith Post author

      Grayson was cut off at the knees by the DCCC in the 2010 election. Fundraising for the Democrats is very centralized and they gave him not a dime.

      So he might happen to be in the party but he is there over their collective dead bodies. He’s not welcome in their club.

      1. Teejay

        Was there any explanation why they didn’t fund him? Not being a corporate brown noser?

    3. participant-observer-observed

      Rep Grayson nurtures no illusions about the depravity of the dem party or at least he makes no such gestures to the same in communications with his supporters.

  12. Bernard

    Cokie Roberts is the daughter of Hale Boggs, who disappeared in a plane crash in Alaska and her mother, was, Lindy Claiborne Boggs. they were from New Orleans, a descendant of the Claibornes, being the first governor of Louisiana, so i heard. i don’t know much about her father’s side, though. Lindy Boggs was a saint here in New Orleans. She was elected to fill her husband’s seat in Congress after the plane crash. i did hear about the power and connections that led to it being a powerful lobbying firm, i.e. the wealth Hale Boggs made due to lobbying, i would guess, was how Cokie got into the elite of DC. i heard Lindy Boggs or Cokie say that Cokie’s brother couldn’t say her name as a kid and mispronounced it as Cokie. Lindy Boggs had a home on Chartres St. in the French Quarter.

    anyway. Lindy Boggs was royalty here in New Orleans. they renamed a hospital after her. we still have our main street named after William CC Claiborne, the 1st governor of the state. Politics is our passion, here. and the poverty proves it.

  13. MRW

    The infohack was still sniffing on Sunday (with Sam Donaldson) in 1998 that the internet would never amount to much and that anyone who relied on the net for their info was the ultimate conspiracy theorist. (The term was in its infancy then and she’d got the message from Mark Fabiani to do it to death.) She spouts the opinion of the last person she’s been impressed with. I find her insufferable.

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