The conventional wisdom is that you have to be a protectionist these days in order to survive politically. But Daniel Griswold reminds us that history is on the side of the free traders:

John Kerry, Ross Perot, Michael Dukakis and Walter Mondale all tried to play the protectionist card, but none made it to the White House.

Obama’s skeptical line on trade contrasts not only with McCain but with the most recent Democratic president. Bill Clinton championed trade expansion as an important plank in his centrist economic program — successfully championing NAFTA, the Uruguay Round agreements on world trade, the World Trade Organization and permanent normal trade relations with China.

Obama and fellow Democrats like to point to the economic boom of the 1990s while rejecting the Clinton trade agenda that helped to fuel that growth.

The bipartisan policy of trade expansion has served America’s broader interests for the past half century. If Barack Obama wants to polish his presidential credentials, he should do the same.

And if he doesn’t, there should be a penalty. If you reject the benefits of free trade, the only way that you should be allowed to see the inside of the Oval Office is as part of a White House tour.