Who said Obama isn’t a strong leader?

Anybody who said that Barack Obama is a weak leader must eat their words in the light of the way he is pushing the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement through Congress.

Likewise those who said he is incapable of working with the Republican leaders in Congress.

Barack ObamaI think people mistook his character because they mistook his priorities.  The President is a tough fighter for things that matter to him.

It is just that issues such as closing Guantanamo Bay or defending Social Security were not among his top priorities.  The TPP and the Trade Promotion Authority, aka Fast Track, are.

The TPP is supposedly a trade agreement, but based on what’s been leaked out about it so far, that’s not what it is.

It creates new international law that limits the power of sovereign governments to enact laws and regulations to protect public health, the environment and the well-being of their citizens/

And it sets up a mechanism by which corporations can have governments penalized if a tribunal rules that laws and regulations deny them their just profits.

Corporate executives say they will invest more confidently in countries if they have assurance that they won’t be subject to onerous laws and regulations and if they can have recourse to a special tribunal if national governments impose laws and regulations they think are unfair.  No doubt!

That doesn’t mean that no investment will take place if they don’t get all these special protections.

My idea of a free trade agreement is an agreement among nations to lower tariffs and import quotas so that people within those countries can freely exchange goods and services.  Most such barriers were eliminated years ago.  That’s why almost everything you pick up in an American department store is labeled “Made in Vietnam” or “Made in Korea” or “Made in Bangladesh”.

Eliminating restrictions on currency manipulation, or demanding privatization of public services, is very different.   This is a way of shifting governance from national governments to international corporations.

tpp600Why would President Obama support a measure that hurts the people who voted for him?  After he leaves office, he would probably like to get the six-figure fees that Bill and Hillary Clinton got for giving speeches to big banks and Wall Street investment firms.

But for what it’s worth, I think he actually believes in what he is doing.  I think he believes that there is no good alternative to giving international corporations free rein to move money, goods and jobs around the world at will.

Of course I have no way of knowing what is in anyone’s heart except my own, and that imperfectly.  And when you get right down to it, Obama’s motives don’t matter to anyone except himself and his loved ones.   What matters is what he does, and how if affects the public.


Why Does Obama Want This Trade Deal So Badly? by William Finnegan for The New Yorker.

Supporting NAFTA Was the Kiss of Death for Democrats – Why Dems Should Think Twice About Voting for TPP by Gaius Publius for Down With Tyranny!

Now We Know Why Huge Trade Deal Is Kept Secret From the Public by Dave Johnson for Huffington Post  (Hat tip to Avedon’s Sideshow)  [Added 6/13/2015]

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One Response to “Who said Obama isn’t a strong leader?”

  1. Bill Harvey Says:

    BAM!, Phil- You’ve hit this one on the head!

    MUCH more needs to be pondered and debated about this bizarre dimension of our political discourse, so thanks for opening the door.

    “Of course I have no way of knowing what is [in] anyone’s heart except my own, and that imperfectly. And when you get right down to it, Obama’s motives don’t matter to anyone except himself and his loved ones. What matters is what he does, and how if affects the public.”- This could not have been better said.

    For some people, usually Obamabots, too often It’s a matter of MOTIVE, not EFFECT. So much of the discussion of Obama’s politics centers on his motives or intentions- his character, personality, whatever, or his style of working with people (“Bipartisan,” that is, an approach that should send any sensible working person heading for cover). On the eve of the 2012 election a friend said, “I still believe he has a social conscience.” This trivializes discussion of politics, that vast web of power in which all of us operate, Obama included, and distracts us from discussing what should concern us: What’s good for the American people?

    For what what else should we wait for His Social Conscience to kick in?: the fact that he’ll look you in your face and tell you that there will be no public sector jobs program?: the fact that He and his administration have done squat to prosecute the Wall Street criminals or to try to reorganize- or even reform- the finance sector?; His fealty to Big Energy, to whom he entrusts our environment?; His wars without end and the usual flood of bullshit, dollar costs, and destruction of our social fabric they bring?; A minimum wage that still stands at $7.25?; His arms folded approach to the catastrophe in the public sector?; His relatively forthright attacks on civil liberties and truth in politics- the secrecy at the heart of the TPP “debate” being only one top item on this list; education “reform”?; and please don’t get me to talking about health care “reform.”

    That should be enough for now.

    Except this comment on a closely related topic: A friend, a prominent white Baltimore lefty, responding in person to my many messages along these lines, said “I can’t get into criticizing Obama like that. For black people he’s just too symbolic.” Let them eat symbols, eh?” I said. As if they never heard of black politicians who sell out black people!

    Thanks, Phil!



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