Saturday, March 14, 2015

I Admire Pubs For Demanding Transparency In Obama's Negotiations With Iran. I Scorn Them For Accepting Secrecy In Obama's Trade Negotiations.

     So what is it with the leaders of my party, anyway?  One minute they're all over President
Nice Concept.
Why Are We Shaking Hands Without Knowing The Deal?
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Obama for conducting secret negotiations with Iran--so much so that they just whipped out a letter to the Iranian regime reminding them that congressional Pubs have a major say-so when it comes to a final deal on nuclear proliferation. It made a lot of people mad, but as one who has seen Congressional capitulation to presidents turn into some really nasty ventures--Vietnam and the Iraq War come 
to mind--I'm heartened by a loud and visible Congressional reminder that the President shouldn't be seen as the final arbiter of American policies abroad.  
     But in the meantime, along comes a reminder that a potentially globe-changing trade agreement, The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), is being hammered out by the Obama administration . . . in secret. Yes, secret.  And the political party of my choice, the GOP, seems to be perfectly okay with it!  What's more, Republicans want to institutionalize the President's secrecy by promoting so-called "fast track" authority. At first blush, TPP stands to be a pretty good deal for South Dakota's principal industry, agriculture, mainly by easing the way for exports of grain and meat.  The National Cattlemen's Beef Association has endorsed it, as has The National Corn Growers Association
     But as I've noted before, the only problem is that the negotiations have been conducted so secretly that nobody seems to know much about the details of the deal, where the devil resides.  I got the sense from our Senator Thune's January 5 op-ed in the Rapid City Journal that he puts concerns about American exporters being on "an equal playing field" with their counterparts and competitors in the global marketplace at the top of his priorities for 2015. Who can take exception to that old canard?  My Q for the Senator regarding this is: How carefully is he following a deal that is being shaped up in such intense secrecy? There is much to be concerned about in deals of this magnitude, and congressional Democrats have been resisting giving President Obama "fast track" trade authority that would give Obama the right to sign off on it with only cursory review by Congress, which would have to give a "yes" or "no" vote without any chance to amend the deal.
      My Q to Senator Thune, who conspicuously signed the notorious "Letter to Iran" that has raised such a ruckus is this:  Now that you and your office have explained to Kevin Woster in
Why Indeed?
This Is Big. We're All Affected. So What's Up With It?
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his excellent blog for KELOland  why it's okay to make a loud public noise about Congress being involved in Obama's secret negotiations with Iran about nuclear weapons, why are you and your office so acquiescent about Obama negotiating an immensely important trade deal in secrecy? In short, why do you abhor President Obama's secrecy on one issue and simultaneously support President Obama's secrecy on another?
     Dems can't walk away from this without taking similar heat. As all hot and bothered as they've been about that "Letter to Iran," you have to assume that they're okay with Obama exercising executive secrecy in the Iranian negotiations. Yet, as okay as they are about the Iranian gambit, Dems have been most vociferous about criticizing presidential secrecy in the TPP negotiations. Though Obama has apparently backed off the "fast track" argument, John Thune continues to press for presidential authority to close the deal.  This is more than a "strange bedfellows" juxtaposition.  It's more a demonstration of the outright hypocrisy that's being applied by both parties to each situation.  Apparently you're only okay with secrecy except when you're not okay with secrecy.  Got it?  Um-huh.  Got it.  As one wag smarmily put it the other day (not so facetiously), public approval of Congress has now reached a barely discernible level.  Gee, I wonder why.  


  1. If memory serves, the rational for 'fast track' is that treaty negotiations are difficult enough without facing the prospect of a third parties screaming election-driven complaints through the keyhole. If senators do not like what's negotiated, they are free to request alterations during the 'advise and consent' period. Such alterations are common — sometimes they help secure approval and, on occasion, they sink an agreement. And then there are those times when treaties are so mischaracterized by in the public arena that senators are driven to spend more time trying to hold on to their job, than doing same. Yes, I am talking about the disgraceful treatment the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities received at the hands of the self-same cowards who will vote on the proposed trade agreement. All the transparency in the world did not suffice to save that agreement.

    1. "Fast tracked" agreements are presented to Congress for an up or down vote, no amendments or filibusters permitted.

  2. And yet, any administration, faced with a certain negative vote, will agree to modifications, because the perfect is always the enemy of the possible. More importantly, in light of what happened with the Disabilities agreement is it a surprise that the Administration would prefer to hedge its bets with this particular Senate.