August 15, 2004


Trade rep's victory a boost for Bush (GEORGE WILL, 8/15/04, Chicago Sun Times)

On Bob Zoellick's office wall hangs a portrait of George McClellan, the Union general who was Napoleonic in self-regard but not in martial spirit and who is remembered primarily for his reluctance to fight. ''I asked for a good portrait of a Civil War general,'' says Zoellick. ''I should have asked for a portrait of a good general.''

Zoellick, the most important government official most voters have never heard of, holds a job that is one of the underestimated stakes in this presidential election. John Kerry, who is given to complaining that questions about his policies impugn his patriotism, has said smarmily that as president he will ''appoint a U.S. trade representative who is an American patriot.'' Zoellick, the man Kerry slandered, is President Bush's trade representative, and on one day last month in Geneva he did more discernable good for his country than Kerry has done in 20 years in the Senate.

On July 31 the string of setbacks in trade liberalization that began in Seattle in 1999 -- five years of growth stolen from the world -- ended. The World Trade Organization reached an agreement that the industrialized countries -- especially the United States, members of the European Union and Japan -- will eliminate their agriculture export subsidies, which inhibit and distort trade, and will make ''substantial reductions'' in domestic farm supports, starting with a 20 percent cut. Poor countries will make similar cuts. [...]

In the world's long postwar march, under both parties, toward ever-increasing trade liberalization, the United States has been, in former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's phrase, the ''indispensable nation.'' If it does not push relentlessly, progress stalls. This matters now more than ever. As Zoellick correctly says, his work is one front in the war on terror because liberalizing trade is a means of opening closed Islamic societies and strengthening the modernizers within them.

Kerry may still be, as he was in earlier incarnations, more of a free trader than he now seems while pandering to his party's base. However, his trade policy would be hostage to Democratic factions -- organized labor, especially -- whose hostility to free trade will make his trade representative into a McClellan.

Zoellick, who hails from northern Illinois, resembles the pride of Galena, Ill. -- Ulysses S. Grant. Lincoln, while enduring McClellan, tersely explained why he liked Grant: ''He fights.''

Grant was incidental; it was Lincoln's war.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 15, 2004 12:19 PM
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