The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

87° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Even Bush has a silver lining

    Sen. Hillary Clinton drew cheers and applause at her rally on the UA campus when she announced that, “”On January 20, 2009, the next president of the United States is going to be sworn in and we’re gonna say goodbye to George Bush.””

    The crowd roared and no doubt many of her supporters (and even detractors) checked their Bush countdown clocks. Bush bashing has been in season for quite a while and not without reason. Barring some miracle, President Bush will go down in history as one of the worst of all time, his legacy one of shame and regret for what might have been.

    Yet as his cultural relativist critics should know, no one is purely evil. After all, it was the reviled President Richard Nixon who ended the nightmare of the national draft. Similarly, it is President Bush who, in spite of his other failings, has been one of the strongest proponents of free trade.

    Some may think that this is but another complaint to add to the litany of evils committed by the Bush administration. Would these critics, however, relegate the father of the North American Free Trade Agreement, President Bill Clinton, to the same circle of hell? Of course not. In spite of the recent rash of protectionism that has broken out across the country, the global consensus remains: Despite occasional failures and its overbearing bureaucracy, free trade has a large positive effect on the world. It is a policy of peace and prosperity – Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke once remarked that “”removing all remaining barriers to trade would raise U.S. incomes anywhere from $4,000 to $12,000 per household.”” No one put it as eloquently as British statesman Richard Cobden, who remarked that, “”Free Trade is God’s diplomacy. There is no other certain way of uniting people in the bonds of peace.””

    As far back as 2001, President Bush stood firm against the anti-Mexican vein that ran through his party, and implemented a NAFTA program whereby truckers from Mexico could transport cargo through the United States. This was supposed to be an aspect of the original NAFTA treaty, but in 1995 the Clinton administration stalled, citing “”safety concerns.”” President Bush urged Congress “”to deal fairly with Mexico and to not treat the Mexican truck industry in an unfair fashion … Mexico is our close friend and ally and we must treat it with respect.””

    The Bush administration has also been responsible for the widest expansion of free trade agreements in recent memory, ranging from the multilateral Central American Free Trade Agreement to Australia, Bahrain, Chile, Jordan, Morocco, Singapore and Oman.

    The Dubai Ports World controversy clearly exhibited the president’s support of global trade. Protectionists, hiding their jingoism behind the veil of “”national security,”” argued that allowing the United Arab Emirates (UAE) state corporation to purchase the management rights for U.S. ports was too dangerous.

    President Bush spoke out against these nativist arguments, stating that, “”This is a company that has played by the rules, that has been cooperative with the United States, a country that’s an ally in the War on Terror, and it would send a terrible signal to friends and allies not to let this transaction go through.”” He also pointed out that the UAE provided $100 million for Hurricane Katrina relief in New Orleans. In contrast, the leading presidential candidates for the “”tolerant”” Democratic party sided with Lou Dobbs and the John Birch Society against the deal.

    Even where President Bush has erred off this path to freedom, he has been quick to correct his mistake – which is far more than can be said of his other policies. The most egregious was the imposition of steel tariffs in 2002, a lousy protectionist move that was done in a purely political gesture for the “”Rust Belt”” states. When they lashed out, those used to the “”cowboy diplomacy”” of the administration in foreign relations were no doubt surprised when President Bush acquiesced, lifting the tariffs in 2003.

    In spite of his lame-duck status, President Bush shows no sign of rest in his free trade agenda. “”We’re working to break down barriers to trade and investment wherever we can,”” he said at this year’s State of the Union address, urging for congressional support in approving free trade deals with Columbia, Panama and South Korea. If his previous strides are indication, we may see these deals go through before his term ends.

    Judging from their rhetoric, the candidates for the presidency appear to have learned from President Bush’s failures.

    Unless they seek a similar reputation, however, these candidates would be wise to learn from his successes as well.

    Evan Lisull is a sophomore majoring in economics and political science. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search