On Fox & Friends, Karl Rove claimed that there is "a difference between" Sen. Barack Obama's current position on NAFTA and "what Senator Obama said in 2004, when he ran for the Senate and said we need more trade agreements like NAFTA." Rove cited no specific 2004 comments by Obama or news stories about Obama. In fact, Obama's statement during an interview on the same program echoed his position on trade as reported in a September 27, 2004, Chicago Tribune article, and several other media outlets reported similar statements from Obama in 2004.
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During an interview on the March 5 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Sen. Barack Obama stated that he "believe[s] in trade, but ... we've got to strengthen the core labor and environmental standards in agreements like NAFTA." In an "instant analysis" segment after the interview, Fox News contributor Karl Rove claimed that there is "a difference between" Obama's current position on NAFTA and "what Senator Obama said in 2004, when he ran for the Senate and said we need more trade agreements like NAFTA." But Rove cited no specific 2004 comments by Obama or news stories about Obama; in fact, Obama's statement on Fox & Friends echoed his position on trade as reported in a September 27, 2004, Chicago Tribune article (retrieved from the Nexis news database).
The Tribune article stated: "Obama agrees that new trade agreements need to be brokered; though he said those new agreements should promote basic worker rights and environmental protections." The article later reported, " 'As part of any current or future trade agreement negotiations, our nation must address the dislocations caused by expanded global trade,' Obama said, 'by maintaining workers' basic benefits and helping them retrain and by providing communities hit with plant closings with tools and strategies to remain viable.' "
Several other reports in 2004 quoted Obama saying new trade agreements should promote worker rights and environmental protections, including:
- A July 17, 2004, Economist article that reported Obama "wants to 'review' NAFTA to check it includes safeguards for American workers, as well as the environment."
- An August 2, 2004, Washington Times article that said, "Mr. Obama is a critic of NAFTA and has said that the United States should 'retool trade agreements to include protections for American workers and the global environment.' "
- An October 20, 2004, Associated Press article, which stated that Obama "[b]elieves tariffs could cause other countries to impose restrictions on U.S. goods, hurting manufacturers; wants NAFTA renegotiated to include worker and environmental protections; believes the World Trade Organization helps bring about fair deals that protect workers worldwide."
- An October 31, 2004, Chicago Sun-Times article that said of Obama's trade policy: "Opposes tariffs, saying foreign countries might retaliate in kind against U.S. exports; would renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement to protect workers and the environment."
During his appearance on Fox & Friends, Rove also stated: "[I]f you're gonna renegotiate NAFTA, what do you, what do you think the Canadians and Mexicans are gonna be asking for? I mean, it's -- the likelihood of us renegotiating this is just -- he flipped in order to get votes in Ohio." But the September 2004 Tribune article reported: "Obama said, if elected [to the U.S. Senate], he would press for NAFTA's renegotiation because the current deal contains inadequate labor and environmental standards."
Rove also said on Fox & Friends, "[A]t the heart of his [Obama's] campaign are two arguments: that he'll work across party lines with Republicans and Democrats to achieve big things. Well, he has not done that in his three years in the Senate." In fact, Obama and Republican Sen. Tom Coburn (OK) co-sponsored the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, (also known as Coburn-Obama) to create an Internet database that allows the public to track federal spending. While signing the bill into law on September 26, 2006, President Bush recognized Obama's involvement, saying, "I want to thank the bill sponsors, Tom Coburn from Oklahoma, Tom Carper from Delaware, and Barack Obama from Illinois." Moreover, a press release from Coburn on the Senate's passage of the bill referred to the legislation as the "Coburn-Obama Bill."
Furthermore, Obama worked with Republican Sen. Richard Lugar (IN) in order to secure unguarded weapons stockpiles in foreign countries. In 2005, the two traveled to Russia, the Ukraine, and Azerbaijan together, co-wrote a December 2005 Washington Post op-ed on the issue, and also appeared together in a discussion at the Council on Foreign Relations. As a result of their work, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the "Lugar-Obama nonproliferation initiative" in June 2007. According to a June 28, 2007, press release from Lugar, the initiative provided "$36 million for programs to destroy heavy conventional weapons, $10 million for efforts to intercept weapons and materials of mass destruction, and $2 million for rapid response to proliferation detection and interdiction emergencies."
From the September 27, 2004, Chicago Tribune article:
The difference of opinion is just one of several between Obama and Keyes on U.S. trade policy and is in some ways surprising, with the conservative Republican advocating a position that runs counter to his party and more in line with stands advocated by some on the left.
The positions of the candidates were derived from answers to a Tribune questionnaire as well as public statements the two have made and comments in interviews.
Despite their differences on tariffs, trade is an issue on which the two candidates find some common ground. Both support the importation of cheaper prescription drugs from Canada and Europe, feel the North American Free Trade Agreement has not lived up to its billing and agree that U.S. sugar import quotas and subsidies should be eliminated.
Still, Illinois voters are dealing with rivals who come from the opposite ends of the American political spectrum, and agreement only goes so far. The tariff issue is a vivid illustration.
"I am willing to go to the U.S. Senate and say the word that has been treated like a curse word -- 'tariff,'" Keyes said in his questionnaire.
Although not detailing which imported goods on which he would want to impose such fees, Keyes said placing tariffs on "cheap, often low-quality imported goods from low-wage countries," would stem the flow of foreign products that he thinks have put American companies out of business.
Keyes said he would like to see the tariffs put into place while the United States negotiates better trade agreements.
Obama agrees that new trade agreements need to be brokered; though he said those new agreements should promote basic worker rights and environmental protections. But he said he fears that when the U.S. government imposes tariffs, "it invites other countries to reciprocate."
In calling for tariffs, Keyes also said the United States should no longer seek out multinational free-trade agreements, like NAFTA, and instead individually negotiate trade agreements with other nations. He also raised questions about the U.S. government's continued involvement with the World Trade Organization.
Keyes originally opposed America's entry into the WTO because he believes negotiating trade accords on a global level doesn't work as well as cutting deals one-on-one. Still, he said in his questionnaire that he believes it would be a mistake for the U.S. to pull out of the WTO because it would create uncertainty that would hurt both U.S. economic interests and the global economy.
Obama, on the other hand, said the WTO offers a good forum for ensuring that the policies of America's trading partners are fair and that future agreements address issues such as child labor and worker rights.
"As part of any current or future trade agreement negotiations, our nation must address the dislocations caused by expanded global trade," Obama said, "by maintaining workers' basic benefits and helping them retrain and by providing communities hit with plant closings with tools and strategies to remain viable."
From the March 5 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
KILMEADE: Austan Goolsbee is one of your economic advisers. He goes up to Canada; he has a meeting. And the results of that meeting are taken down and it embarrassed -- it must have embarrassed you in the campaign. Why not take a guy like that and say, "Listen, you gotta go." Hillary Clinton fired some people that embarrassed her in states earlier. Why not say, "Mr. Goolsbee, I think you gotta move on"?
OBAMA: Well, first of all, he didn't go to Canada. He's a professor at the University of Chicago. The consulate in Chicago invited him over to have a chat. And, you know, he's an economist; he's not a politician. So, you know, I think, you know, he's not familiar with how these things get distorted. Understand what happened, though. He didn't say anything that I wouldn't have said publicly, which is that we believe in trade, but that we've got to strengthen the core labor and environmental standards in agreements like NAFTA.
And it ended up being misreported. Senator Clinton took advantage of it and, you know, labeled it falsely as if we had somehow flipped on NAFTA. You know, it was clever political tactics on her part, but it just wasn't true and, you know, I'm not going to punish somebody for making an innocent decision like that.
DOOCY: Joining us for instant analysis -- the guy on the couch, Karl Rove. Karl, what did you think?
ROVE: I thought it was very gracious at the beginning. I thought it was a very, you know -- the right way, the right tone to strike.
DOOCY: At the beginning?
ROVE: Yeah look, at the end -- I mean, look, come on, wait a minute. On NAFTA, he, you know, he -- I thought you raised a good point with him. It's not so much that his adviser said that, and that there was a difference between what the adviser said and what Obama said. It's a difference between what Senator Obama said in 2004, when he ran for the Senate and said we need more trade agreements like NAFTA.
And you know, the question is, if you're gonna renegotiate NAFTA, what do you, what do you think the Canadians and Mexicans are gonna be asking for? I mean, it's -- the likelihood of us renegotiating this is just -- he flipped in order to get votes in Ohio.
CARLSON: So do you think this is only beginning to scratch the surface then? Because a lot of people say that it takes time for a media cycle to develop on stories like this.
ROVE: Yeah, I -- and look, at the heart of his campaign are two arguments: that he'll work across party lines with Republicans and Democrats to achieve big things. Well, he has not done that in his three years in the Senate. And then as he passionately said in Wisconsin, in his victory statement, there are lots of big issues facing the country. He made out a list of them, and he said they require leadership and commitment in order to bring about change. Well, again, you've had three years. Name one of those big issues that you listed off there in which you have demonstrated leadership and engaged on those issues. And you look at the big contest -- whether it's immigration, or education reform, the budget -- and he had not been there.