Saturday, July 31, 2010

Bill Clinton, Nafta, Rahm Emanuel and the Jack Abramoff Two-Front Squeeze.

I was thinking about Bill Clinton this morning. Maybe partly because of his daughter's wedding. $5.0 million spent on a party. I remember reading that when he left the White House, Bill Clinton's total assets had a value of about $800,000, but he owed several million in attorneys' fees that he had run up in defending against all the crazy charges that had been brought against him. Well, things sure worked out okay for him, didn't they? He went from being $1.2 million in the hole to having so much money that he can throw away millions for an afternoon party. To which President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama weren't even invited! (Me neither).

I remember both he and the Mrs. were given millions to write their "memoirs," which probably was an indirect gift by their supporters to help them crawl out of the financial hole. But that was just the beginning. Bill Clinton soon was being showered with so much money from so many sources that it was hard to keep track of it all.

When Hillary was a Senator, I ran out some of the disclosures of finances, and they showed Bill getting $250,000 from Citibank (his buddy Bob Rubin, co-destroyer of the U.S. economy) for showing up for lunch, then the same thing a month later, and again, and again. Various Israel, or Jewish groups were giving him enormous amounts of money. Then there were a bunch of princes, or royalty from Saudi Arabia. It was an unbelievable amount of money, and it just kept coming. Remember some guy from one of the Stans paid Bill Clinton $100,000, something like that, to go with him to Canada and try to schmooze a deal for him? At one point, I counted up the money that had been paid to Clinton by various corporate and foreign interests, and it was closing in on One Billion Dollars. Much of which he hides in his personal "charity," meaning he doesn't pay taxes on it. My, how the lad has prospered since leaving the White House.

What were all those crazy charges against him? Travelgate? Allegations that Hillary Clinton fired somebody in the White House travel office? So what if she did? Somebody said the Clintons were running cocaine in and out of a private airfield in Little Rock. Who makes up this crazy kind of nonsense? Then they killed Vince Foster, for reasons no one ever could explain. The crazies said Hillary killed Vince Foster! Completely manufactured lies, even accusing them of murder! Then Whitewater: While Hillary was a partner in a firm in Little Rock, she billed 10 hours on a real estate development project that later got into some kind of trouble? So what?

We know the sex claims. Clinton had an affair with somebody Flowers. Okay. Then he supposedly wagged his weenie at Paula Jones. Yuck, but okay. Nobody said he attacked her, raped her, groped her, hit her. How did these unsubstantiated claims of a relatively unknown female become a nationally-financed lawsuit designed to bring down the Clinton White House? Who paid for this, and why?

How much money was spent in pursuing these claims, and for what purpose? Who financed it? Do you know how much it costs to engage in litigation at this level? Trust me: millions of dollars. So who financed it?

We were always told it was the crazed right-wing. But why were they so excited about Bill Clinton? Who was he but some moderate cracker from a poor southern state? He had no real national ties, no particular money-mob behind him. Why would they be worried about him?

Bill Clinton signed nafta in 1993. Rahm Emanuel was the finance guy on Clinton's white house campaign, then has a mysterious blank on his resume, then reemerges in 1993 just in time to push through nafta. Which Clinton must have known would destroy the country. So why did he sign?

Here's what I'm thinking. Jack Abramoff secretly got the "Christian" Ralph Reed to round up a group of lunatic Christians to picket against a proposed Indian casino gambling. Then Abramoff told the Indians that they would have to pay him a ton of money, so he could lobby the government and get the casino approved. It was the double-squeeze: secretly create the problem, put someone under intolerable pressures, threaten to destroy them, then come in and offer to rescue them -- for a price.

It occurs to me that may be what happened to Clinton. He was attacked by the right like the last morsel of food in a starving nation. Irrationally so. They spent millions to keep him under constant attack, and force him to run up millions in debt to pay attorneys to defend him. Then after he signed nafta, and became a cheerleader for the WTO, they kept the pressure on to force him to continue the corporate-sponsored program, finishing up his term by deregulating Wall Street and giving them the green light to steal all our money. He ended up receiving hundreds of millions of dollars from the beneficiaries of his largesse.

Now Rahm Emanuel is back in the white house. Presumably putting pressure on Obama at the corporate direction, to make sure that every last piece of meat is shredded from the bones of our citizens before our nation is abandoned, and the WTO and their predator servants move on to their next victims. Is Obama receiving the Clinton treatment, the double-squeeze Jack Abramoff con job? It may have worked once.

Assuming they just can't find any scandal in Obama's history, is it possible that the threat, the pressure point would be to bring down every black politician or higher-level employee in the federal government if Obama does not do exactly as instructed by the corporate rulers, the WTO and their agents? I look at the Shirley Shirrod story, now we've got Charlie Rangel, rumors they're going after Maxine Waters next.

Rahm Emanuel received more money from Wall Street than did any other person in Congress, but nobody said a word against him. Instead, they go after little folks for small-potatoes claims, destroying by media instead of by evidence. It's beginning to smell like more than just a coincidence.

Here's an article discussing Obama's appointment of Rahm Emanuel right after the election:

But, it is Emanuel’s role in securing the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that seems most at odds with Obama’s campaign and the economic debate over NAFTA during the 2008 Democratic Party primary.

Emanuel and the Passage of NAFTA

The passage of NAFTA under President Bill Clinton was one of Clinton’s most controversial actions. It pitted environmentalists, organized labor, and activists against the Democratic Party’s corporate backers and ushered in a debate that still rages to this day. Many of these constituencies saw the passage of NAFTA as a betrayal and point to job losses, weakened environmental standards, and other problems as proof of their critique.

In facing down stiff opposition to the trade agreement from the Democratic Party’s base and grassroots groups, Clinton turned to Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel cut his teeth as a fundraiser during Clinton’s 1991 presidential campaign. Following the campaign, Emanuel become one of Clinton’s key operatives in the fight to pass NAFTA. Emanuel worked closely with the so-called “NAFTA czar”–William Daley, the son of late Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley (and a friend of Obama’s who was recently appointed to his transition team)–in mustering enough votes for the trade agreement.

In The Selling of ‘Free Trade,’ Emanuel is remembered for his “aggressive” work on NAFTA and being a critical part of the administration’s NAFTA working group. Emanuel lobbied for votes, helped direct the media strategy (including one targeted leak to undercut news of an anti-NAFTA politician’s election in Canada), and participated in the administration’s campaign to get the agreement passed–over public opposition–no matter what the cost. An October 26,1993 article in The Hotline said that the White House’s NAFTA effort “came to life” under Emanuel, who served as its “operational director.”

Emaneul has reflected positively on the administration’s passage of NAFTA:

“You know, politics is about mending and tacking and so on, and setting your priorities. We were a very determined administration. We made a lot of compromises to get NAFTA passed and a lot of deals to get NAFTA passed.”

Emanuel’s Support for NAFTA and Obama’s Position: Not that Strange After All?

In his statement announcing Rahm Emanuel’s appointment, Obama makes no mention of Emanuel’s support of NAFTA–even when he highlights his work during the Clinton administration. Instead, Obama says:

“During his seven years in the Clinton White House, Rahm was the point man on some of the most difficult issues, from the passage of landmark anti-crime legislation to the expansion of health care coverage for children.”

Most press coverage of Emanuel’s appointment has mentioned that he played a key role in the passage of NAFTA, but none has explored how this may be at odds with Obama’s campaign.

During the primaries, Obama aggressively criticized NAFTA. However, following the end of the primary, Obama began to tone down his rhetoric and appeared to retreat on his NAFTA rhetoric. In an interview with Fortune magazine, Obama stated that much of the anti-NAFTA rhetoric was “overheated and amplified” and that he is a supporter of free trade and is looking for ways to make free trade agreements work for all.

Emanuel now has issued mild criticisms of NAFTA and has said that it would be negotiated differently now, but that the NAFTA issue is a distraction from larger problems with the economy. These mild criticisms are a lot like what Obama has said and are in many ways similar to Obama’s position: it isn’t the logic of free trade agreements and neoliberalism that is wrong, it’s how they are done. For his part, Rahm earlier this year urged the passage of several pending neoliberal trade agreements.

Rahm and NAFTA: Does it even Matter?

There is certainly a progressive case to be made against Rahm and a such critique certainly has merit. On issues from NAFTA to the Iraq War, Rahm’s position has been disappointing or at odds with what many progressives believe.

However, many progressives are defending Rahm as being necessary to navigate the difficult inter-workings of Washington politics. They argue that Rahm will not set policy priorities, but simply reflect Obama’s goals and direct his staff. Still, the Chief of Staff is responsible for determining the president’s schedule and controlling access to him–which gives Emanuel a key role in determining the voices Obama will hear.

At the same time, Emanuel is representative of some of the worst of Clinton’s politics and the rightward shift of the Democratic Party over the past two decades. Emanuel’s appointment–coupled with the appointment of a slew of former Clinton administration officials to Obama’s transition team–serve as important reminder that progressives need to be on their toes if they want to be represented in the Obama administration.

1 comment:

  1. One of Obama's biggest campaign promises was a re-do of NAFTA, saying it was unfair. He promised this would be one of the first things on his agenda. But on the side he called Canada and told them not to worry he did not mean it? These WTO, "FREE" trade, IMF agenda's have done america in. Now we must agressively vote out any and eyery one who voted for it.