Commentary Magazine


China Fight Shows Obama’s Cynicism

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney is paid to deny the obvious on a daily basis, but even his ability to lie on behalf of his boss was strained to the max today when he told reporters on Air Force One the administration’s decision to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization about Chinese tariffs on American cars had nothing to do with the president’s re-election campaign. The WTO complaint just happened to coincide with President Obama’s bus tour of Rust Belt states where U.S. cars are manufactured and where he will beat his chest about the beastliness of China’s unfair trade practices. But though the move comes after three years of kowtowing to Beijing, Carney asserted that the complaint was in the works for years and the timing was pure coincidence.

“It can’t suddenly be a political action because it happens during the campaign,” Carney told the press. Oh, no?

This rhetorical flight of fancy doesn’t just display the boundless cynicism of the Obama campaign. It also illustrates the way the president is prepared to seemingly alter his foreign policy to suit the needs of his re-election hopes. Just as he expects friends of Israel to forget about what occurred during the first three years of his presidency prior to the current Jewish charm offensive he is pursuing, he thinks auto workers and their families have memories that are equally as poor.

The president is right when he now says U.S. car manufacturers have been adversely affected by China’s trade practices. But though the administration has registered prior complaints, the overall tenor of Obama’s attitude toward China has been more focused on appeasing Beijing rather than standing up to it. He has done little if anything to open up China’s markets to U.S. goods, China’s theft of American intellectual property, or to adequately respond to its currency manipulation. Indeed, the only consistent theme of Obama’s policies has been a desire to create U.S. subsidies that give the Chinese cause to complain they are being judged by a double standard.

The contrast between Mitt Romney’s aggressive stance toward China and the more lenient attitude of the Obama administration was illustrated during the Republican presidential debates when Jon Huntsman, the president’s ambassador to Beijing, accused the eventual winner of the GOP nomination of being too tough on the issue. The harsh talk about China we’re hearing now is just one more election-year conversion and about as credible as the laughable Democratic talking points about Obama being Israel’s best friend ever to sit in the White House.

While Americans are used to presidential candidates employing the most transparently cynical political tactics, Obama’s 2012 transformation into Israel’s friend and China’s foe is a bit much for even his most ardent loyalists. While his allies among the leaders of the labor movement have good reason to stifle their own disgust at his trade double-dealing, it’s not likely many rank and file members are going to buy this brazen baloney.

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