April 5th, 2008 by Rightsideup

What is it with the Democratic candidates and trade agreements? Although both of them are reportedly against elements (or all) of NAFTA, and criticize most others, they have both now had senior advisers talking up such agreements to foreign governments. In Obama’s case, of course, it was the advisor who told the Canadian government that Obama didn’t really mean what he was saying about NAFTA and that they shouldn’t take it too seriously. It still isn’t 100% clear whether he was acting on his own or on behalf of the campaign – but it is clear there was a disconnect between his own beliefs and those of the candidate.

And then this week we had a similar situation with Clinton. Mark Penn, a lobbyist who advises Clinton, reportedly met with the Colombian government to promote a trade agreement that Clinton opposes. In his case, he was at least clearly promoting the agreement in his capacity as a lobbyist and not as a Clinton staffer, but there is once again a massive disconnect between the candidate and the adviser.

On the one hand, this suggests some laxity on the part of the candidates in choosing their advisers on these topics. On the other, it suggests that even prominent people within their campaigns disagree with them about their positions on these trade agreements. Is it really that hard to find an adviser who holds similar positions on these issues? And if so, isn’t that a sign that the candidates’ views are dangerously at variance with what the best minds think about trade agreements? Should the candidates perhaps be revisiting their views on these issues and moderating their criticisms? If not, then they should at least replace these advisers with ones who will parrot their union-driven, economy-destroying opposition wholeheartedly instead of undermining and contradicting their positions.