From NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan and NBC's Domenico Montanaro and Mark Murray
The back and forth over NAFTA mailers keeps on. In an ironic twist, union representatives from Ohio fired back at the Clinton campaign in a conference call with reporters today because of a mailer that indicates Obama's record is inconsistent on NAFTA. Obama's campaign came under fire over the weekend from the other side for a NAFTA mailer against Clinton.
The union member complained that the mailer does not directly quote Obama. The Obama mailer also did not directly quote Clinton; it quoted a New York newspaper's characterization of what Clinton had said.
Further, the pro-Obama union members said newspaper headlines and characterizations used in the mailer against their candidate are taken out of context.
"Obama said the United States should continue to work with the World Trade Organization and pursue deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement," reads one line, pulled from an Associated Press article.
Another from the Herald & Review: "Obama said the United States benefits enormously from exports under WTO and NAFTA."
Union representatives from Unite HERE and the International Transport Workers Representatives of Unite HERE, unions that have endorsed Obama, said those quotes don't accurately reflect Obama's position and that he has always opposed NAFTA, and said the trade deal should be amended and renegotiated.
Asked about the Obama campaign's mailer, Roger Tauss, a representative for the International Transport Workers Union, claimed there were many direct quotes that Clinton has said that praised NAFTA. Bruce Raynor, general president of Unite HERE, had harsher words not for Sen. Clinton but for her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Raynor said Bill Clinton used all of his "political capitol" to get NAFTA passed.
"I don't believe that after all the damage that he's done he should be able to walk away from NAFTA," Raynor said of Clinton, adding later, "As everyone's noticed he is part of this campaign." Raynor also Sen. Clinton has latched onto her husband's legacy and should also bear responsibility for NAFTA.
NAFTA has dominated the political conversation in Ohio where manufacturing job losses have devastated the economy. Hitting Clinton on NAFTA has become a regular part of Obama's stump speech.
"Sen Clinton has gotten mad at me, because I said she supported NAFTA," Obama said at a rally in Toledo. "She said, 'Well, that's misleading.' And I had to say, 'Well, hold on a second.' The Clinton administration championed NAFTA, passed NAFTA, signed NAFTA. She's saying that part of the experience that makes her the best qualified to be president is all the work that she was doing in the Clinton administration. You can't take credit for everything that's good in the Clinton administration and then suddenly say you don't want to take credit for what folks don't like about the Clinton administration."
For some context, here's the full part to that AP article cited by the Clinton campaign. (Alan Keyes wanted to withdraw completely from trade agreements.): "Keyes, the Republican nominee, said the United States should move away from negotiating multinational trade agreements, arguing the country can cut better deals by bargaining one-on-one and imposing tariffs on countries that undercut American farmers with cheap products. 'Why is it in American economics that you say 'tariffs' and everybody thinks you cursed,' Keyes said. 'We need to make sure we get a fair deal.' He also called for complete elimination of the inheritance taxes, as well as the income tax.
"But Democrat Obama said Keyes' ideas could lead to trade wars that would harm farmers, who are always looking for new markets willing to buy American crops. He said the United State should continue to work with the World Trade Organization and pursue deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, but the country must be more aggressive about protecting American interests. 'We don't want to set off trade wars. What we want to make sure of is that our farmers are treated fairly,' Obama said. 'The problem in a lot of our trade agreements is that the administration tends to negotiate on behalf of multinational companies instead of workers and communities.'" (AP, 9/8/04)
Here is the full part to that Herald & Review article -- on the same topic: "The candidates? Views differed slightly on the World Trade Organization and the North American Free Trade Agreement. Keyes said he is not fond of the WTO and believes the United States has given away nearly half its negotiating clout on trade issues by entering into multilateral arrangements such as the WTO and NAFTA. He said powerful competitors can hide behind the veil of group interest and get more favorable treatment than if they were negotiating with America one-on-one.
"While some people believe NAFTA has been good for U.S. farmers, the trade results could have been better, Keyes said. NAFTA negotiators said the United States might lose manufacturing jobs but would become a service economy, but now those service jobs also are being exported, he said. Obama said the United States benefits enormously from exports under the WTO and NAFTA. He said, at the same time, there must be recognition that the global economy has shifted, and the United States is no longer the dominant economy." (Herald & Review, 9/9/04)