Why Ideologues Make Bad Presidents

With Hillary Clinton on the ropes, some hope Elizabeth Warren, the leftist Senator from Massachusetts, can rescue of the Democratic Party’s chances of retaining the White House in 2016.

The main problem I see with Warren is that she is another Obama­––someone who seeks to impose her ideology on the rest of the world and who as a result fails to see where opportunities exist to make positive changes. A good example that shows the danger she represents is her response to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement proposed by President Obama.

In an Op-Ed piece in the Washington Post on February 25, 2015, Warren argues one feature of the trade agreement––Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)––“would tilt the playing field . . . further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty.”

She warns this provision for settling disputes between investors and nations would allow foreign companies to by-pass U.S. courts and win big financial settlements against our government. Her examples include a French company that “sued Egypt because Egypt raised its minimum wage.”

The problem is that she has her facts wrong. Her understanding of ISDS is colored by her anti-corporate ideology. The truth of the matter, as the Post’s editorial board wrote on March 11, is that this method of resolving disputes has been included in over 3,000 trade agreements and that corporations win only 25 percent of their cases, while only 17 cases have been brought against the U.S.

She also got her facts wrong about the examples she cited. In the matter of the French company versus Egypt, the company was merely seeking to enforce a contract provision that required additional compensation if costs rose, which the minimum wage increase brought about. They weren’t challenging the minimum wage increase per se.

The Post suggests another reason Warren and those opposed to the agreement don’t like the pact is the it encourages “private investment in one another’s economies.” In other words, she is opposed to investor driven economies, otherwise known as capitalism.

Contrast Warren’s ideological approach with that of Larry Summers, former president of Harvard University and former Treasury Secretary. Writing in the Post on March 8 about the same trade pact, Summers takes a pragmatic look at the impact of various provisions and as a result offers a reasoned argument how it could be in the interest of working Americans––namely “through binding arrangements in areas such as labor and environmental standards.”

Summers also notes a provision that favors corporations unnecessarily, which he would modify.

Ideologues are people who view the world through a filter, seeing things they way they want to see them as opposed to how they really are. That may be fine for professors who lack the power to affect the real world, but it’s a terrible way to try to run a country. Democratic Party leaders should look elsewhere for Hillary’s second if she continues to stumble.

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