Try Harder, Please

by Brien Jackson

I don’t know what it is about Barack Obama that makes David Sirota stupid, but at this point it’s like the sun rising. His latest is awful, even by his standards.

To wit, Sirota is hopping mad that Obama is putting the Colombian Free Trade agreement back on the table.

With the New York Times noting that Congress is questioning Attorney General nominee Eric Holder’s defense of Chiquita’s murderous behavior in Colombia, I can’t say I would be totally surprised by news that Obama may start pushing the Colombia Free Trade Agreement – a pact that rewards the Colombian government that allowed Chiquita’s and other corporations to crush workers. I would, however, be surprised that his push would come so soon considering the campaign pledges, and the potential for a serious political backlash that could endanger Obama’s broader agenda.

I don’t really get what the Attorney General has to do with trade policy, but there it is I suppose. And I suppose it’s a fair enough criticism, after all Obama was against it on the basis of labor standards, and Colombia’s history of not protecting labor leaders is troubling. Maybe some background?

President-elect Barack Obama wants to win approval of stalled free trade deals with Colombia, Panama and South Korea, but more work is needed on two of the pacts, Democratic lawmakers said on Wednesday.

Hmm. Well that doesn’t sound so bad. I mean, the Colombia deal could be one of those two (odds are better than not in fact), and labor standards could be one of the issues that needs to be worked out. It sure would be nice if Reuters dug a little bit deeper into the question. Oh, wait:

It was never the case that Colombia was “a bad trade agreement,” Rangel told reporters. Rather, the issue was “whether the administration was prepared to insist on the protection of labor leaders in Colombia.”

With Democrats now controlling the White House and Congress, it should be possible to work out a solution with Colombia that resolves concerns, Rangel said.

In other words, Obama is reconsidering the Colombian trade deal, but onlyif the labor questions are addressed. Hardly controversial.

For the record, Sirota cites the first two paragraphs o the Reuters article, and not the section I highlighted, which comes only two paragraphs later. So either Sirota doesn’t take the time to read entire articles before he forms a conclusion from them, or he read the whole thing and only picked out the part he could use to bolster his Obama criticism, deliberately leaving out the context, which happens to address his criticism entirely. Neither speaks very highly of him, but does reinforce, yet again, why progressives need to ignore David Sirota, and make it clear to people like Bill Moyers that Sirota does not speak for the progressive movement.

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