While there’s no doubt that in a lot of ways, Obama is successful as a president in that he set out to reshape the country in his image and has succeeded in frightening ways, there have also been several examples Obama being a fairly incompetent leader who is prone to shoot himself and the country as a whole in the foot.

Case in point: In order to try to get a bunch of anti-free-trade Democrats to support a free trade pact that they would rather die than support (because their union benefactors hate it), he’s allowed an obscure provision to end up in said trade pact that means the Republicans he needs to vote for the bill will not. Otherwise put, you should be getting access to cheaper goods coming from the Pacific region sometime in the near future, but because Obama failed to recognize a political reality that even your average drunken college sophomore could see, you probably won’t. From the Hill:

Public health groups are pressing Democrats to back a controversial Pacific Rim trade deal negotiated by the Obama administration.

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other groups are backing the deal because of language that blocks tobacco companies from using the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s dispute settlement system.

Being carved out of that system means tobacco companies can’t sue when foreign governments restrict labels on cigarette packaging.

Inclusion of the carve-out in the TPP was a big win for anti-smoking groups, but it is costing President Obama some valuable Republican votes in Congress as he seeks to win approval of the deal.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned the administration not to include the provision, and several Republicans from Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia — all tobacco-producing states — say they will oppose the TPP because of the language.

That’s a big problem for Obama, who would need Democrats to make up for the lost GOP votes. Much of the Democratic Party, under pressure from labor unions and other groups on the left, opposes the TPP.


McConnell has said that the deal may not get a vote until the lame-duck session after the November elections. 

North Carolina Republican Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr have said that they will actively oppose the TPP because of the tobacco language. 

While Democrats will undoubtedly try to make this out to be Republicans “kowtowing” to big tobacco, in actual fact, the issue in question is one of principle that only happens to involve tobacco— there is also the prospect of it impacting everything from California’s wine industry, to chocolate makers, to McDonald’s or Kentucky Fried Chicken (which happens to be very popular in parts of Asia). That’s because increasingly, the way that nanny-staters are trying to get consumers to make particular choices is by instituting labeling requirements that ban companies from using their own logos and other intellectual property. Those bans act as a barrier to free trade, as well as undercutting property rights which are, you know, kind of important for capitalism. 

So this fight isn’t really about tobacco, it’s about whether or not US leaders want to protect a foundation of capitalism, even where it involves big, bad, American companies that make sinful products. It’s no surprise that Obama would be kind of “meh” about this, but it is both irritating and funny that in his seventh year of the presidency, he still hasn’t figured out that with a Republican House and Senate, he’s going to need Republican votes to pass things, and that he’s going to need a LOT of them if what he’s trying to pass is something his own party would in general rather blow its collective brains out than support.

I guess it’s just more evidence that Ivy League degrees can’t teach you everything, right?

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