Barack Obama's petulant criticism last Friday of Democrats who do not support his proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership reminds me of the old tongue-in-cheek advice to young lawyers: "If the facts are on your side, pound the facts. If the law is on your side, pound the law. If neither is on your side, pound the other lawyer."
The facts are definitely not on the President's side. For two decades the trade deals negotiated by the last three presidents have lowered U.S. wages, lost jobs and generated a chronic trade deficit that requires our country to borrow more money every year in order to pay for imports. The president's main argument that exports have risen, without mentioning that imports have risen much faster, is now transparently deceitful to anyone who can add and subtract.
Neither is the law in his corner. As did his predecessors, Bill Clinton and George Bush, he assures Americans that this deal will be different because, you see, it will protect workers. But the secret draft, which had to be revealed to Americans by Wikileaks, shows that once again a trade agreement will be used to enhance the power of multinational corporate investors over people who have to work for a living. As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka pointed out recently, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, which is charged with negotiating and enforcing the deal, does not even believe that murder and other brutal acts committed against labor union activists violate the "worker-protection" clauses to trade agreements.
So, like a lawyer trained to defend the indefensible, Obama is desperately pounding the opposition. They are "just wrong," he says, without showing us why. He accuses them of "making stuff up" -- that is, that they are liars. He whines that they are "whupping on me." He charges, nonsensically, that they "want to pull up the drawbridge and isolate themselves."
But it is Barack Obama who is isolating himself -- from the facts, from the law and from people who have loyally supported him against the vicious personal attacks from the reactionary Right. Showing a streak of in-your-face contempt for them, he gave Friday's speech at the corporate headquarters of Nike -- a notorious outsourcer of American jobs.
Democrats ask why he is doing this. Why has he chosen to invest so much of his dwindling political capital to push a project that even its promoters acknowledge can deliver at best only marginal benefits?
We cannot read the President's mind. But this unholy alliance with Republicans and their outsourcing corporate clients smells like a desperate effort to add something, anything, to his rather thin two-term legacy.
One thing is certain: If his shameful pounding of dissenters to the TPP is successful, the result will be to further pulverize the living standards of American workers.