ON NOVEMBER 9, 1993, Vice President Al Gore and Texas billionaire and former presidential candidate Ross Perot debated the controversial North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on CNN’s television program, Larry King Live. An outspoken critic of the agreement, Perot had claimed that NAFTA would lead to a “giant sucking sound” of American jobs being lost to Mexico. Gore sought to defend the agreement on behalf of the Clinton administration, which was pushing a reluctant Congress to approve it.
In the opening minutes of the debate, Perot casually suggested imposing a “social tariff” on imports from Mexico to offset that country’s lower wages. Gore pounced and brought out a framed picture of two men. “This is a picture of Mr. Smoot and Mr. Hawley,” the vice president stated. “They look like pretty good fellas.” He went