Obama keeps NAFTA pressure on Clinton
by Mike Dorning
LORAIN, Ohio—Barack Obama continued to press rival Hillary Clinton today on past statements of support for NAFTA and the Clinton Administration’s leading role in securing the trade agreement’s ratification as the two Democrats struggled over Ohio, an industrial state that lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs to foreign competitors.
Though Clinton argued on Saturday that the agreement was negotiated by the George W. Bush Administration, Obama laid responsibility squarely with the Clintons for the trade agreement squarely with the Clintons for the trade agreement, which is deeply unpopular here.
“Let’s be clear: It was her husband who got NAFTA passed. In her own book, Senator Clinton called NAFTA one of ‘Bill’s successes’ and ‘legislative victories,’” Obama said, referring to her memoir, Living History.
Speaking to a town hall meeting of manufacturing workers at a gypsum wallboard plant near Cleveland, Obama also cited a 2004 statement in which Clinton said, “I think, on balance, NAFTA has been good for New York and America.”
But he presented himself as a dedicated foe of NAFTA.
“I don’t think NAFTA has been good for America – and I never have,” he said.
Still, in answer to a worker’s question, he offered a position
similar to his rival, saying he did not favor repealing the trade
agreement but would seek to “amend” it to include greater protection
for labor and environmental standards. Clinton has proposed a plan to
“fix” NAFTA to address similar concerns.
“I don’t think it is realistic for us to completely repeal NAFTA,” Obama said. “I believe this because over the 10 years or more it’s been in place, now you’ve got so many relationships, so many U.S. businesses with suppliers, etc. that are going back and forth that to actually reverse it would probably result in more jobs losses in the United States than job gains.”
But Obama said criticism of her on the trade agreement was still legitimate because the “premise in her candidacy throughout this campaign has been thirty-five years of experience including eight years in the White House.”
“Every good thing that happened she says she was a part of,” Obama added. “So the notion that you can selectively pick what you take credit for and then run away from what isn’t politically convenient--that doesn’t make sense.”
Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said the former first lady had criticized NAFTA well before her presidential run, pointing to a March 2000 speech in which she described the trade agreement as "flawed."
Asked by a reporter about Ralph Nader’s announcement this morning that he would run for president as a third-party candidate, Obama was dismissive.
“There you go. He does it every four years,” Obama said.
The Illinois senator also brushed aside criticism from Nader that he is too friendly to corporate interests.
“His view is unless it is Ralph Nader , then you are not tough
enough on any of these issues,” Obama said. “He thought that there was
no difference between Al Gore and George Bush, and eight years later I
think people realize that Ralph did not know what he was talking