You know what, trade-deal advocates? You lost me at “more authority for the president.”
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June 10, 2015
Morning Jolt
... with Jim Geraghty
The House May Vote on Super-Secret Trade Deal Friday

You know what, trade-deal advocates? You lost me at “more authority for the president.”

But apparently a significant number of House Republicans don’t agree.

House leaders, confident but not yet certain they have the support to pass sweeping trade legislation, are aiming to bring the package to a floor vote by the end of this week — even as they rush to resolve a last-minute hangup over how to pay for aid to displaced workers.

The vote to grant President Barack Obama fast-track authority to negotiate a massive Pacific Rim trade deal will be extremely tight by all accounts. Senior aides and lawmakers in GOP leadership are intent on scheduling the vote at the moment they believe they have the votes locked up — ideally by Friday, to spare supportive lawmakers the possibility of another weekend of attacks by trade foes back in their districts.

If this is a terrific idea, it will still be a terrific idea in 2017 with a new president. What’s the rush? What, Asia’s not going to want to buy anything from us in two years?

Why is this thing so secret? I thought trade was pretty simple; we send you stuff, you send us stuff. Why is this being treated like the Enigma codes?

It’s true that trade deals, which are usually about tariffs and the price of goods, are traditionally negotiated in secret. But the TPP exceeds agreements like Nafta in scope and scale and involves far-reaching foreign policy decisions.

Its measures will touch the lives of every citizen in the 12 countries expected to sign the pact. Chapters already leaked suggest that the deal restricts fair use of copyrighted material, expands medical patents and weakens public policies that govern net neutrality.

Members of Congress can read the text in a secure room but cannot discuss its contents publicly. Representatives from about 600 private corporations are said to have access to the document via a secure portal. Yet the public is excluded.

Did Obama Get an ISIS Strategy from the Pentagon and Just Not Like It?

This is unnerving:

President Obama took heat Monday for admitting he doesn’t yet have a “complete strategy” in hand for training Iraqis to fight the Islamic State -- months into the coordinated campaign to defeat the deadly terrorist network.

“When a finalized plan is presented to me by the Pentagon, then I will share it with the American people,” Obama said, adding, “We don’t yet have a complete strategy.”

A military official also took issue with Obama’s claim that he was waiting for options from the Pentagon. “What the f--- was that? We have given him lots of options, he just hasn’t acted on them,” the official told Fox News.

I’m going to ask, “How closely is he paying attention in his briefings?” and you’re going to think I’m being snarky. But there’s a consistent pattern of Obama saying he hasn’t been informed of X, Y, and Z, and lower-level officials saying he sure as heck was informed. Sure, dishonesty is always a possibility.

But remember this pattern . . .

You’ll recall current and former officials telling the New York Times that during the Syria debate, Obama “often appeared impatient or disengaged while listening to the debate, sometimes scrolling through messages on his BlackBerry or slouching and chewing gum” and the complaint from intelligence officials that the White House’s denial of knowledge about spying on foreign leaders suggested “White House officials have not been reading their briefing books.”

Troy Senik: “Now, the presidency, as those who have observed it up close will readily note, is a deeply fatiguing job. No one who holds the office should be assailed for occasionally buckling under the weight of its responsibilities. The description above, however, is not of a man wracked by exhaustion, but of one succumbing to adolescent ennui. One would not be surprised to find the next sentence describing an aide noticing that the president had on his earphones during an intelligence briefing.”

Let’s close with this observation from Tevi Troy:

In a book on the inner workings of Obama’s presidential reelection campaign, Politico’s Glenn Thrush reports that although Obama’s biographers “have been more enamored with his complexity,” Obama himself “seeks shallower waters, especially in times of crisis.” When the going gets tough in the White House, Thrush says, the president plays sports and watches ESPN. Indeed, while Obama’s administration was beset by scandals regarding improper IRS investigations and the death of U.S. officials in Benghazi, the New York Times’s Peter Baker reported that Obama “talked longingly of ‘going Bulworth,’ a reference to a little-remembered 1998 Warren Beatty movie about a senator who risked it all to say what he really thought.” Thrush, it seems, was right that movies and TV served as Obama’s version of “comfort food.”

Vanity Fair’s Michael Lewis reports that Obama continues to watch TV regularly, spending the hours from 10 o’clock at night to one in the morning with the television and his iPad.

Media Noticing That Hillary’s State Department Tenure Was Actually Pretty Bad

Still feeling confident about nominating Hillary, Democrats? Because CNN just unloaded on her over Libya:

Hillary Clinton has another Libya problem.

She’s already grappling with the political headaches from deleted emails and from the terror attack that left four Americans dead in Benghazi.

But she’ll face a broader challenge in what’s become of the North African country since, as secretary of state in 2011, she was the public face of the U.S. intervention to push out its longtime strongman, Moammar Gadhafi.

Libya’s lapse into the chaos of failed statehood has provided a breeding ground for terror and a haven for groups such as ISIS. Its plight is also creating an opening for Republican presidential candidates to question Clinton’s strategic acumen and to undermine her diplomatic credentials, which will be at the center of her pitch that only she has the global experience needed to be president in a turbulent time.

I can’t wait for the “I had everything worked out, and then Obama and Kerry loused it all up” excuse.

Democrats will cry, “Her record at State beyond Libya was better!” But it really wasn’t.

In fact, the State Department under Clinton vigorously opposed almost all of the Iran sanctions passed by Congress while she was in office. Top officials, including Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, openly advocated against many bills, including the sanctions on Iran’s central bank, which dealt the true crippling blow to the Tehran regime. The Senate passed that bill 100-0 and Obama reluctantly signed them into law. The State Department did implement them, but was criticized by lawmakers and advocacy groups for using waivers in the law to exempt several countries, including China and our allies Japan and South Korea.

While it’s true that global opinion of the U.S. soared when Barack Obama was first elected president, during Clinton’s State Department tenure of 2009 to 2013 there was no measurable upswing in foreigners’ views of America, according to the Pew Research Center’s polling on global attitudes. In most major countries, approval of the U.S. actually went down by the time Clinton left office, including by 11 percentage points in each of France, Germany and the U.K.

A poll conducted in 33 countries by the BBC World Service just after Clinton stepped down as secretary found that overall world opinion of the U.S. by 2013 was the lowest since the presidency of George W. Bush. If Clinton wants to run on having polished America’s image abroad, she’ll be hard pressed to come up with data to back it up.

. . . in her first visit to China, Clinton insisted that human rights advocacy “can’t interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate change crisis, and the security crisis.” Clinton’s State Department repeatedly waived laws that would have cut aid to countries guilty of gross human rights violations, such as Egypt. This record won’t be helped by Clinton’s family foundation having taken millions of dollars from foreign governments that systematically abuse their citizens and deny basic liberties to women.

Brutal. Just brutal.

ADDENDA: Thanks to everyone who came out to see me speak at the Conservative Forum of Silicon Valley, the most enjoyable speaking engagement I’ve had in a long time. Sometimes everything just comes together; I went up with two pages of handwritten notes and everything just flowed.

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