- The Washington Times - Friday, February 14, 2003

There's no doubt that the misgivings over Iraq expressed by the French and German governments are irking lawmakers on Capitol Hill. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said as much on Tuesday. The two countries "are losing credibility by the day, and they are losing … status in the world," he warned. "They are walking a fine line that is very dangerous."
Certainly France has made some stupefying statements these past few weeks. But some Republicans are doing their best not to be upstaged. Consider, for example, the suggestion of House Speaker Dennis Hastert at the Republicans' annual retreat last weekend. To retaliate against the French, Mr. Hastert told his colleagues that Congress should impose new health standards on their prized exports, wine and water.
There's no doubt that the retaliation would hit our Gallic friends hard. In 2001, France was the largest exporter of water to the United States, selling 65 million gallons to quench the thirst of parched Americans. As for French wine well, we hardly need sing the praises of a fine Sancerre or Chassagne-Montrachet.
But then that's precisely the flaw in Mr. Hastert's cunning plan: Americans want these French products. And while the restrictions might eat into France's profits, they would most certainly hurt American consumers, to whom the additional costs would pass.
Beyond protecting the interests of the U.S. consumer, Congress has an abiding interest in maintaining and promoting rigorous international trade. Politicizing an always difficult to manage trade relationship may be emotionally satisfying when the blood is up, but ultimately it is destructive of both American and world prosperity. Economic warfare isn't something that needs to be added to the current chaos of military and diplomatic conditions.
Now we hear that Jim Saxton of New Jersey plans to introduce a resolution in the House next week, urging American companies and government officials not to attend the Paris Air Show. Somehow we imagine that a U.S. boycott of the pre-eminent industry exposition, a place where billion-dollar deals are cut left and right, wouldn't be the best thing for America's struggling aerospace industry. As Joel Johnson of the Aerospace Industries Association pointed out, "The only planes on the runways would be the Eurofighter, the Mirage and Airbus. That's not sticking your finger in French eyes; that's sticking fingers in our own eyes."
But Congress has a well-deserved reputation for sticky fingers. We'd much prefer if Republican lawmakers would turn their energies to trimming the larded diet of the federal government and leave diplomacy to the president.

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