What the TPA debate shows us

No human being living on the earth in 2015 is perfect.  There was a carpenter’s son walking around about two thousand years ago, but that is another topic for another day.

We all make inadvertent mistakes.  Human beings range from the honest maker of inadvertent mistakes to the purposeful liars, cheats, murderers, thieves, criminals, etc.  To me, those who engage in corrupting others are actually the lowest of the low, even worse than murderers, because we all die but not all of us become corrupt hollowed-out souls.  The Devil doesn’t try to kill us in a conventional sense, but he does try to pervert our lives so that we are worse off than dead.  To close us off from sources of insight and goodness, so that what remains will inevitably lead to a bad result.

Thus the credibility of a human being is never absolute, but credibility is nonetheless the most important currency that we have in the world of public life and self government.

[mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ] might be wrong about his vote in favor of the TPA.  However, he has earned sufficient credibility as part of the conservative movement to not be readily dismissed as a hack or mouthpiece for the GOP leadership in DC.  Are we truly ready to believe that a man who is hated by DC GOP leadership, and who has been persistent in speaking out against the DC GOP leadership, is now a lap dog for that same leadership?  A recent Breitbart article treats Cruz in the same manner that the New York Times, MSNBC, NPR, and the Huffington Post treat Cruz.  The article expresses no openness to the possibility that Cruz is speaking honestly and in good faith …  much less that he may actually be right on the issue.

That Cruz would use the same talking points as him is interesting and probably disappointing to many conservatives. That Boehner is using Cruz to push Obamatrade is probably even more disappointing to most conservatives, and Cruz’s press operation hasn’t–over the past 48 hours, since Boehner ratcheted up his decision to use Cruz’s support for this to whip votes for it–given Breitbart News any comment in response to that revelation despite multiple opportunities to do so.

Dismissing the other sides arguments as “talking points” is Saul Alinsky at its core.  Cruz is no lapdog barking for Boenher. Boehner is not “using” Cruz.  Cruz actually supports the TPA for the same reasons why conservatives have traditionally supported fast track authority.  The fact that Breitbart totally discounts that possibility is very disappointing, particularly given Ted’s history.

“TPA is Trade Promotion Authority, it’s also known as fast track,” Cruz continued in his answer on Hewitt’s program. “That is the process through which free trade agreements are negotiated. Historically, since FDR virtually every president has had fast track authority. What fast track provides is simply if a free trade agreement is negotiated, that Congress will vote on it up or down without amendments, and history has demonstrated for the last 80 years that the only way to get free trade agreements adopted is to have fast track. That if there is no fast track, free trade agreements do not end up being negotiated.”

Cruz went on to defend his vote in favor of the TPA.

“TPA is what the Senate voted on recently,” Cruz continued. “I voted in favor of fast track because I support free trade. I think free trade benefits America. It creates jobs–opening markets to our farmers, to our ranchers, to our manufacturers, improves economic growth. In Texas alone, roughly 3 million jobs depend upon international trade. And if you support free trade, the only way history has shown free trade agreements get negotiated is through fast track.”

He then went on to distinguish the TPA from the TPP.

“Now there is a second issue which has caused a great deal of confusion, and that is TPP,” Cruz said.

“Trans Pacific Partnership,” Hewitt interjected.

“Correct,” Cruz continued. “That is one specific trade deal that is currently being negotiated. It is separate from TPA. Congress has not voted on TPP, and there’s a great deal of concern about TPP. Now, I have not voted on TPP, and I haven’t decided if I will support it or not, because the negotiation isn’t complete, and I’m going to wait and review and see what the agreement is first before assessing if it would be beneficial or harmful.”

There is a lot of emotional heat being discharged in our discussion of TPA and TPP, but remarkably little in terms of light.  I haven’t seen any analysis as to how this TPA in 2015 is somehow materially different from the TPA’s of the past. Moreover, every trade debate that the country has had in my lifetime included concerns about “loss of sovereignty” (yes, the there are NAFTA courts) as well as arguments that were essentially against the concept of lower tariffs.  Added on to those historically unsurprising arguments is the concept that the Republican legislators in DC will somehow just be unable to resist whatever President Obama puts before them.   I have seen people essentially argue that if a trade deal bill comes to the House and Senate floor with climate change carbon regulation in it, that both houses will hopelessly vote for it despite the fact that Republicans have never before supported such legislation in the past.

The Republican legislators have been pretty good about voting “no” when Obama tries to change the status quo through legislative action.  There is no reason to call into question almost 7 years of history, particularly without any evidence or rationale that makes sense.   I fear that we are becoming the victims of our own political hyperbole.

The fact that some conservatives are now accusing Cruz of being a lap dog, sell out, etc. when he has been one of the strongest voices for conservatism that we have is troubling.  We are eating our own political seed corn.  Our public discourse so quickly reaches into hyperbole that true communication is impossible, even among generally like minded citizenry. It doesn’t bode well for the republic.  Maybe Boehner is “using Cruz to push Obamatrade” but the alternative explanations for Cruz’s statements and positions are far more likely.  Ted Cruz has earned some credibility.  It would be prudent for us to hear what he has to say with some level of openness.  He has certainly earned more credibility than any reporter/opinion writer.

Are we, like the Brietbart article, expressing no openness to the possibility that Cruz is speaking honestly and in good faith?  Are we discounting the possibility that he may actually be right?