Obama on NAFTA

One thing I like about Obama is that he does appear, far most than most politicians, to consider both sides of issues. Of course he is a politician and gets dragged into the usual games politicians play. Unfortunately a non-politician would not make it to the level he has and we are forced to look for politicians, like Obama, who at least understand the problems in our current political system and attempt to address the issues honestly.

In the heat of campaigns, especially partisan primaries, politicians are often drawn to more extreme positions. It is refreshing to see a politician such as Obama who simply admits this. Many liberals who are philosophically sympathetic to free trade, but also see the problems with NAFTA, are conflicted on the issue. This is not an issue where the answer is black or white. Obama shows his thought on the issue in an interview with Fortune:

In an interview with Fortune to be featured in the magazine’s upcoming issue, the presumptive Democratic nominee backed off his harshest attacks on the free trade agreement and indicated he didn’t want to unilaterally reopen negotiations on NAFTA.

“Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified,” he conceded, after I reminded him that he had called NAFTA “devastating” and “a big mistake,” despite nonpartisan studies concluding that the trade zone has had a mild, positive effect on the U.S. economy.

Does that mean his rhetoric was overheated and amplified? “Politicians are always guilty of that, and I don’t exempt myself,” he answered.

Obama says he believes in “opening up a dialogue” with trading partners Canada and Mexico “and figuring to how we can make this work for all people.”

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said that Obama-as the candidate noted in Fortune’s interview-has not changed his core position on NAFTA, and that he has always said he would talk to the leaders of Canada and Mexico in an effort to include enforceable labor and environmental standards in the pact.

This is not a flip-flop or a 360 degree change in views as some Republicans are twisting this. It is an honest reaction to a complex issue which does not lend itself well to debate in a partisan political campaign. Besides, if we are to remain obsessed with flip-flops, Steve Benen has compiled quite a lengthy list from McCain.

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