Monday, 1 December 2003

Any free traders left?

Reading Stephen Green on the president’s 180 on the steel tariffs, I have to ask aloud if there’s actually anyone in Washington who’s a principled proponent of free trade—or even freer trade, like NAFTA or FTAA (I’m not a huge fan of regional free trade blocs myself, but they beat the hell out of the Son of Hawley-Smoot that many on both sides of the aisle seem to want enacted). I mean, there’s Ron Paul, who probably wouldn’t vote for anything except a unilateral cut to 0% on all import tariffs—meaning anything likely to happen during his lifetime is out—but is there anyone else?

More to the point, what idiot thought in the first place that this pandering exercise would actually work? Now Bush has (a) made a bigger ass of himself with the steelworkers than he would have if he’d simply said “not gonna do it” in the first place and (b) probably retarded the economic recovery by god-knows-how-many months. I realize the president’s detractors will attribute this all to Bush, and his fans will attribute it to Rove,* but surely someone on the political side at the White House must have known this was a disaster waiting to happen.

* This is Lawrence’s Cardinal Rule of Evaluation of the Bush Administration: any intelligent act of the administration will be attributed to Karl Rove (or, by some tenuous connection, Bill Clinton) by Democrats, but to Bush (or someone in the administration with expertise) by Republicans, while any idiocy committed will be attributed to Bush by Democrats but to Rove (or someone else in the administration) by Republicans.