Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Trade Battle Should Reveal Mainstream America

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Trade Battle Should Reveal Mainstream America

Article excerpt

FORT WORTH _ We may be about to find out what remains of the American "mainstream" we used to hear so much about.

Let me explain. Look at how the lines are being drawn on the North American Free Trade Agreement. Formulated by a Republican Administration, pushed by a Democratic Administration and holding real promise of benefit sprinkled throughout the economy over the next 20 years, NAFTA is nothing if not mainstream.

Or look at who is against NAFTA. I mean really outspokenly against it: Pat Buchanan. Ross Perot. Jesse Jackson. Leaders of the AFL-CIO. Ralph Nader. "The Washington Times." The Liberty Lobby.

In other words, the disaffected. The right and left fringes of American political society, plus a labor movement willing to use fear as a reason for inaction.

What they have in common is a knack for the catchy phrase: "sucking sound" (Perot); "an attack on U.S. sovereignty" (Buchanan); "a leveraged buyout of American liberty" (also Buchanan); the inevitable rhyming "NAFTA is a shafta" from Jackson.

You get a mental image of these folks waiting for the audience to hold up signs awarding them an 8 or a 10 for snazzy sloganism.

These are strange bedfellows. If the radical left and the radical right are both against something, it is bound to have merit. It's sort of like the Middle Eastern peace proposals. Hard-line Israelis and the most radical Shiite Palestinians are afraid it might actually achieve peace. Some of these NAFTA opponents, I am convinced, are afraid it might work rather than being convinced it won't work.

Meanwhile, to those who lived through, or have read about, the years approaching American participation in World War II, some of this stuff should sound familiar. In some ways it's 1940 all over again. We are back to "America First" (which was an anti-draft, anti-defense-buildup movement that had Anglophobic, Nazi-sympathizer, anti-Semitic and defeatist overtones). We are back to isolationism. We are back to all the stuff that four years of international war and 40-odd years of leadership in a shrinking world should have exorcised from the American psyche. …

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