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Monday, August 10, 2009

Obama's Mexico City Presser: The Review

President Obama just finished a joint press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderone in Mexico City following three way talks. Here are some highlights. Both President Obama and PM Harper renewed their support for the Mexican government in their war with the drug cartels. President Obama called the policy "courageous". He said that there were ways to defeat the cartels while respecting human rights but also emphasized that the biggest violators of human rights are the traffickers themselves. PM Harper commented that his country needed to tighten up their visa policies because entrance into Canada by Mexicans with "bogus" human rights claims.

1) trade

President Obama renewed his commitment to free trade in general and especially with his neighbors Canada and Mexico. He was asked about the "buy American" provision in the stimulus bill and the provision that stopped Mexican trucks from crossing the border. Obama minimized these provisions. He said he wouldn't have wanted them in the bill. Yet, he said that he didn't want to get bogged down in minutae, so to speak, because of the "urgency" of the matter at the time.

This is pretty disingenuous. First, Obama seems to have a different position on free trade depending on the audience. Catch him in front of the SEIU and you will find a protectionist. He was in favor of so called "fair trade" throughout the primary and suddenly switched as soon as he moved into the general election. As for the provision, the Mexicans have responded with a plethora of tariffs on our goods and so it's clear our Southern neighbors didn't see this is as minimal. Second, this stimulus is $787 billion and so the idea that a "buy American" provision in that bill is minimal is totally absurd.

2) Honduras

All three reiterated their support for former President Zelaya. President Obama called the take over a "coup", "illegal", and said that Zelaya was the "Democratically elected leader of Honduras". He reiterated his intention to work with the Organization of American States to see to it that Zelaya is granted his power back immediately.

Then, Obama used another straw man argument. He proclaimed that the same people that weren't taking a strong enough stance in favor of Zelaya also decried that the U.S. was meddling in Latin America, and they couldn't "have it both ways". I don't know anyone, but maybe Hugo Chavez, that has said both of this at the same time. Chavez' argument shouldn't even be acknowledged even if it is merely to point out that its hypocritical. Instead, a lot of people argue that Obama is choosing the wrong side. They argue that the so called "coup" was legal and that the only person that acted illegally was Zelaya himself, and he got what he deserved. Furthermore, most of those same people argue that this same president had a lot of trouble choosing sides in Iran. That's the main criticism that this policy is getting and the president again set up a strawman argument to deflect from it.

3) Immigration

President Obama renewed his support for "comprehensive immigration reform". He said that people would oppose him because there are "elements in America" that don't want to see reform. He called for a fair policy that doesn't exploit the migrants, has tough border security, and deals humanely with all those in the country today.

The most interesting thing said here was that the president acknowledged that immigration reform wouldn't come up until at least 2010. In fact, he essentially said he has too much on his plate. That's a rather startling pronouncement given how often he dismisses this very argument when opponents say that his current domestic agenda is too much too soon. If he has enough time for the stimulus, the budget, cap and trade, and health care reform all before the end of the year, he seems to be picking a very random place to say enough is enough.

Finally, he weighed in on the health care town halls. He called the town halls a good expression of Democracy and said they were leading to a good a vigorous debate. As such, he totally contradicted what Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer said in their op ed this morning.

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