- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 17, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

When Democrats in the 43rd State Legislative District in suburban Seattle met April 5 to select delegates to the state convention, they refused to begin their deliberations by saying the Pledge of Allegiance:

“At the mere mention of doing the pledge there were groans and boos,” wrote Web logger Eli Sanders, who attended the caucus. “Then, when the district chair put the idea of doing the pledge up to a vote, it was overwhelmingly voted down. One might more accurately say the idea of pledging allegiance to the flag … was shouted down.”

The 43rd is part of the congressional district represented by Democratic Rep. James McDermott, who just before the start of the Iraq war made a trip to Iraq to criticize U.S. foreign policy, financed by Saddam Hussein’s intelligence service. (There is no evidence Mr. McDermott and his two congressional companions were aware of the source of the funding for their junket.)

Former President Jimmy Carter plans to meet in Syria with the leader of Hamas, “an organization that the U.S. government considers one of the leading terrorist threats in the world,” Fox News reported last Thursday.

This week House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sabotaged the free trade agreement between the United States and Colombia on behalf of labor leaders who believe, erroneously, that trade costs their unions jobs.

The trade agreement was negotiated in 2006, but renegotiated last year to accommodate Democratic demands for tougher labor and environmental standards. President Bush submitted it for ratification last Monday. Under existing rules, Congress is required to vote on the pact within 90 days. But Mrs. Pelosi said she’ll change the rules to keep the agreement from coming to a vote.

Mrs. Pelosi was acting in accord with the wishes of Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, both of whom oppose the Colombia deal and most other free trade pacts.

As a matter purely of economics, what Mrs. Pelosi has done is insane. Our trade with Colombia is both relatively small potatoes ($18 billion last year compared to nearly $4 trillion with the rest of the world), and is favorable to us. Thanks to a prior agreement (the Andean Trade Preference Act of 1991) most Colombian imports already enter the U.S. duty-free. The goods we ship to Colombia are subject to tariffs of up to 80 percent. The treaty would eliminate those tariffs altogether.

If Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama would come to Santiago, Chile, they would see how wrong they are, said Andres Oppenheimer, a Latin America correspondent for the Miami Herald:

“They would only need to walk out of their hotels and look at the traffic on the streets to see the Jeep Cherokees, Ford Explorers and other U.S.-made cars that have become increasingly visible in Chile since the Jan. 1, 2004, start of the U.S.-Chile free trade agreement,” he wrote Wednesday. U.S. exports to Chile have nearly tripled since the agreement went into effect, and our trade deficit with Chile has gone down, Mr. Oppenheimer said.

But the harm Mrs. Pelosi has done will go far beyond the jobs that will be lost at Caterpillar and other U.S. firms that would benefit from the Colombian free trade deal. Colombia is both our closest and most important ally in Latin America.

Colombia’s hugely popular president, is winning a decades-long civil war with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Spanish acronym FARC), a narcoterrorist group backed by Venezuela’s anti-American dictator Hugo Chavez. Rejection of the free trade deal would be “a slap in the face” that could affect bilateral relations, Colombia’s vice president told a German newspaper last Wednesday.

Mrs. Pelosi’s action drew sharp criticism from Democrat-friendly newspapers. The Washington Post described the trade agreement as “manifestly in America’s interest.” USA Today said: “Democrats pander to Big Labor, flirt with return to protectionism.”

Democrats in recent years have done much to undermine both our economy and our national security. But this is the first time they’ve been able to accomplish both in a single measure.

Mrs. Pelosi continues to keep the terrorist-surveillance bill from coming to a vote because trial lawyers want to be able to sue telephone companies that cooperated with our intelligence agencies after Sept. 11, 2001.

I’m not questioning their patriotism. (They’re doing a fine job of that all by themselves.) But Democrats do exhibit a disturbing tendency to subordinate the national interest to narrow partisan interests.

Jack Kelly, a syndicated columnist, is a former Marine and Green Beret and a former deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Reagan administration. He is national security writer for the Pittsburgh (Pa.) Post-Gazette.


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