Is Hillary Clinton a political weather vane or a political compass?
Consider her latest detour from the NAFTA and WTO policies of her husband. Last week she announced her opposition to the proposed trade agreement between the U.S. and South Korea. The place for her remarks was a town hall meeting in Michigan organized by the AFL-CIO.
She described the agreement between Bush and the South Koreans, requiring Congressional approval, as “inherently unfair.” “It will hurt the U.S. auto industry, increase our trade deficit, cost us good middle-class jobs and make America less competitive.”
No kidding! Where has she been for the past fifteen years? For those words could have described the consequences of both NAFTA and the WTO. The U.S. auto industry has been emigrating to Mexico and China. The trade deficit has gone off the charts, nearing nine hundred billion dollars in 2007 and is four times greater than what it was ten years ago. Industrial job loss is being joined by the outsourcing of white collar jobs in even larger numbers.
About 90 percent of the products sold in the L.L. Bean catalogue are imports or produced by foreign manufacturers.
Corporate managed trade-mis-named free trade-is draining our country’s competitiveness, as U.S. corporations take their factories and jobs abroad to authoritarian or dictatorial nations, especially China. Imagine modern capital equipment, and 50¢ an hour for workers who are making things for the U.S. market, without fair labor standards, pollution controls and other standards companies here have to comply with.
Senator Clinton felt reassured with her opposition. Ford Motor Company and the Chrysler group of DaimlerChrysler came out against the Korea deal before Hillary did.
A politician like Hillary Clinton has her finger to the wind. The workers and domestic companies are providing her with the wind. Still, she has not supported the renegotiation of NAFTA and WTO which the U.S. can force by utilizing the Treaties’ 6 month notice of withdrawal from each of these autocratic systems of transnational governance and secret courts known as NAFTA and WTO. Not enough organized citizen wind power compared to the corporate power behind those trade pacts.
If Senator John F. Kennedy’s best-selling book Profiles in Courage was updated, nothing Hillary Clinton has done in the Congress would come close to being a footnote.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, she has not challenged the many GAO documented boondoggle military contracts. One gigantic weapon system the F-22 aircraft has been privately denounced by people in the Office of the Secretary of Defense who believe this aircraft is clearly unnecessary and saturated with cost over-runs.
Whether the causes are wasteful, corrupt military contracts or generally the corporate crime wave from Enron to Wall Street, Senator Clinton has not been there in the Congress to advance comprehensive corporate crime legislation and larger enforcement resources.
Nor has she taken on the hundreds of billions of dollars in corporate welfare-subsidies, giveaways, handouts and bailouts for big business-that consume the contributions of millions of small taxpayers.
Even in New York City, have you heard Senator Clinton object to taxpayer-funded corporate sports stadiums, while health clinics, schools, libraries and public works decay for lack of public investment? Tax dollars for entertainment are ok by her.
Some of her paucity of candor is not going unnoticed, however. In explaining why she voted for George Bush’s Iraq War resolution in 2002, she said she believed that it called for an attempted diplomatic solution. There were no words in that resolution to support that belief. She is a lawyer. She also knows that an amendment by Senator Carl Levin, a fellow Democrat, demanded just such a prior diplomatic effort. She voted against the Levin proposal.
Still, Hillary, with Bill right there, is the frontrunner for the Democratic Party’s nomination. The money from commercial interests, which the Clintons have favored and coddled for years, is pouring into her campaign coffers.
So she travels around the country with her twofer strategy pandering to powerful audiences and flattering gatherings of Democratic voters. She has watched Bill’s lack of political fortitude win elections in this two-party, elected dictatorship against the hapless Republicans. Why should she be any different?
If she wins the primary and the November elections the country will get another kind of twofer in the White House. Here they’ll go again.
RALPH NADER is the author of The Seventeen Traditions