What?

There was a debate? I didn’t realize the primaries were still going on.

Seriously–we’re down to talking about who supported NAFTA when, and minutia of the Iraq withdrawal. If that’s all you’ve got left, charisma wins. Every. Single. Time. Obama’s healthcare FUD (“Hillary’s plan will make you buy it even if you can’t afford it is universal”) isn’t doing a damn thing.

NAFTA was a mistake. But it’s easy to forget how good it sounded in the early 90s to most people. First and foremost, it was a reaction, in the post-Cold-War world to the looming economic power of the European Union, and the still lingering fears of Japanese dominance.

Let’s not forget that the only major politician to oppose it was Ross Perot, who, ironically, seemed like it was in his own company’s interest to oppose.

Furthermore, I’m not even sure that NAFTA matters that much. The GATT/WTO etc. agreements are having a much larger effect on our economy (China and India aren’t in NAFTA) and I’m not sure how easy it is to separate the effects of one from the other.

Unfortunately for both Clintons, the verdict on NAFTA was in a long time ago. The empirical results of these trade deals are that they make everybody poorer except multinational shareholders. Sure, on paper in the university, they sound great–something straight out of classical 19th century economics–everything is most efficient when each country produces what it’s most efficient at producing and trades the rest. That’s Ricardo, I think.

But that’s not even close to what these deals are like. My high school U.S. History teacher said, “a free trade deal is one page ‘no tarriffs’ the end. this is 900 pages.” Yup.

We have to hem and haw about environmental and labor protections, but god forbid there aren’t draconian intellectual property laws.

We need international trade. That’s not the problem. The problem is that the system isn’t just “anti-American” it’s anti Americans.

NAFTA is a fair criticism of Clinton, just like the AUMF vote. But what’s interesting to me is that there are so many things that we unquestionably wrong that Clinton did that weren’t only arguably wrong in hindsight. (Yes, yes, I know that a lot people predicted Iraq and NAFTA would be winners–I’m talking about things that aren’t perceived that way.)

Take for example, the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which gave us Clear Channel and expanded the Murdoch empire–take the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, done to allow CitiBank to form up into Citigroup, which lead directly to the Enron scandals (and other investment banks promoting “shit” stocks), which were just like the problems in the 20s before the Glass-Steagall Act that broke the House of Morgan. No claim of hindsight required there. There was a precedent.

What about the “Defense of Marriage Act.” Maybe that was something Clinton negotiated, but in 1992 he made agenda item #1 gays in the military. (Obama could score tons of points on this because in the intervening decade the public opinion has changed so much, but it would open him up to the McClurkin issue again.)

There is plenty in the Clinton presidency to use that doesn’t come up.

Oh, and here’s $5 that says Obama won’t repeal NAFTA.

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