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Arguing About Gitmo

Yesterday the Supreme Court heard arguments in what may be the most important constitutional case of the decade: whether the men detained at Guantanamo have a right to a fair trial before a real court. I spoke with Erwin Chemerinsky about the case – he's professor of law at Duke, and Dean of the new UC Irvine law school; and he represents one of the Gitmo detainees whose case is before the court, Salem Gherebi.

At issue is the Military Commissions Act, passed by Congress in 2006. Chemerinsky called it "one of the worst laws in all of American history with regard to civil liberties." The provision before the court yesterday says that no non-citizen held as an enemy combatant shall have any access to federal courts, including by writ of habeas corpus. They can go through a military proceeding--if one is convened by the government – and then they can get reviewed by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit.

The key issue, Chemerinsky said, "is there's nothing in the Military Commissions Act that requires that a military proceeding be convened. The government can hold all of these people for the rest of their lives without ever bringing them before a military tribunal. Then the have no ability ever to go before a federal court." And no matter how long they are held, they can't come to federal court with a writ of habeas corpus.

The Constitution says the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, "except in cases of rebellion or invasion." "I don't think there's a rebellion or an invasion," Chemerinsky said, "and I don't think it matters whether a person is a citizen or noncitizen. The government can't keep a person locked up forever without due process."

John Yoo, former deputy assistant attorney general for George W. Bush, now professor of law at UC Berkeley, defends the Military Commissions Act. On NPR recently he argued that granting terrorists the right to a regular trial in a regular court would hamper the war on terror and give aid and comfort to the enemy.

"He's assuming they ARE terrorists," Chemerinsky replied. "The whole point is that we don't know. My client has been in Guantanamo for more than five years, and I still have no idea why he's there. Maybe he's a dangerous person, or maybe he's there because the US paid a warlord who picked him out because they wanted to get the bounty. The only way we can know if somebody is a terrorist or a criminal is to have due process of law."

Yoo argues that we should trust the military when they say that only the most important and threatening of our enemies have been detained at Guantanamo.

Chemerinsky replied, "Here I say let's trust the Constitution. The Constitution expresses a great distrust of executive power. The Constitution is clear that nobody should be able to be held just on the say-so of the executive, without due process."

Court-watchers agree that the vote will be 5-4, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy holding the swing vote. If Kennedy votes for the plaintiffs, what happens then? Do they actually get a real trial in a real court with real lawyers?

"Not for years to come," Chemerinsky replied. "Then what will happen is that we'll go back to federal district court, where they can present their habeas petitions. Then the issue is going to be what does due process and international law require for these detainees. And my guess is that's going to be fought over for a long time, then appealed to the DC Circuit, then it will go to the Supreme Court.

"The sad reality is that, even if my client wins today at the Supreme Court, what my client wins is the prospect of going to court for years to come. The problem is that if my client loses today, he loses his lawyer and he can be held forever without ever getting his day in court."

John McCain recently commented, "it's not about who they are, it's about who we are." Chemerinsky agreed: "That about sums it up," he said.

Will Clinton, Obama, Biden and Dodd Show for Key Farm Vote?

Senators Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd are all running around Iowa telling farmers how much they care about them.

But do the Democratic presidential contenders care enough about farmers to take a break from the campaign trail to fight for farmers on the floor of the Senate?

On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid filed for cloture in order to force action on the Farm Bill, consideration of which has been delayed for months by senators who are playing politics with policy debates that will decide whether family farms and rural communities survive or struggle -- and perhaps even fail -- in 2008 and beyond.

"The farm bill has been deadlocked in the Senate for nearly a month, despite the bill's unanimous, bipartisan support in the Senate Agriculture Committee and broad support from the countryside," says National Farmers Union President Tom Buis, a progressive farm leader who has been arguing for some time that the delay in Senate action on the Farm Bill makes it difficult for working farmers to make critical decisions about how to run their operations.

"There has been plenty of time to move forward and it is disappointing that the Senate hasn't passed a farm bill, adds Buis. "It is time for Senators to stand up in support of rural America, our producers, consumers and their families, and vote to proceed on this important bill."

As fall gives way to winter, the NFU president has been reminding senators that, "The winter wheat crop is already in the ground and producers are beginning to make decisions for the upcoming planting season. Producers need to know what kind of farm programs they will be operating under next year"

Pressure from the NFU and other farm groups has finally gotten Reid to move.

A vote on cloture is expected Friday.

It's going to be a critical test.

"With the end of the year fast approaching, Congressional work days are few and time is running out," says Buis. "The Senate needs to act quickly to pass a farm bill so a House-Senate conference committee can be appointed, members can approve a conference report and the President can sign a farm bill into law."

To assure that the Senate gets serious about farm and food issues, Reid will need as much unity as he can muster from Senate Democrats.

Will Clinton, Obama, Biden and Dodd show up? Will they put policymaking ahead of politics, at least for one day?

Or will they decide that it is more important to run around Iowa spouting rhetoric about farm policy rather than to get a real debate on the Farm Bill started in Washington.

If the Democratic contenders need something more to chew on, they might consider this fact: The Farm Bill debate has meaning in states throughout the Midwest -- including Wisconsin, Minnesota and Missouri -- which will be the critical electoral battlegrounds next November.

If the eventual Democratic nominee wants to get an upper hand going into a race against New York Republican Rudy Giuliani or Massachusetts Republican Mitt Romney, the single best way to do so is by establishing credibility with rural voters. And the single best way to do that is by exiting Iowa and going to where the farm policy debate needs to play out: on the floor of the Senate in which Clinton, Obama, Biden and Dodd are supposed to be serving.

Media Ownership Fight Moves to Congress

Rutgers University recently hosted the latest in a series of town hall forums being conducted by the two members of the five-person Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) who are opposed to increasing media concentration. The tireless Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps have been criss-crossing the country involving the public in a conversation that FCC Commission Chairman Kevin Martin as well as Big Media would rather the citizenry stay out of.

At Rutgers, students and community members joined together in a large lecture hall to explore specifically to what degree the local, Fox-owned TV station, which has its license up for renewal, has observed its FCC mandate to serve the local community with news coverage of relevance to residents of Northern New Jersey. The short answer, according to virtually the entire audience including US Senator Frank Lautenberg, is not very well at all.

Chairman Martin tries to avoid talking to the public, but he couldn't avoid Congress today as he was grilled by lawmakers this afternoon. All five members of the FCC panel appeared before a hearing of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee convened by Rep. John Dingell. The questioning focused on Martin's efforts to ram through changes in the agency's media-ownership rules--changes that were widely unpopular when proposed by previous FCC Chairman Michael Powell in 2003. Martin was urged repeatedly by Democratic lawmakers not to expedite the rule changes, to allow sufficient time for the public to be consulted and to drop his plans to hold a vote at an FCC meeting on December 18 -- a vote he knows he's likely to win.

Last week, our friends at the media reform group Free Press released two reports criticizing Martin's rush for more media consolidation. Devil in the Details exposed how the loose and ambiguous "waiver" standard proposed by Martin creates a giant loophole for big media companies to exploit. Out of the Picture 2007 found minority-owned commercial TV stations decreased by 8.5 percent last year on Martin's watch -- with the number of black-owned stations falling 60 percent.

And the proposed rule changes will make all these problems worse! "What the FCC is proposing would result in sweeping changes to the American media landscape that would leave us with fewer competing voices and less diversity on the public airwaves," said S. Derek Turner, research director of Free Press.

After reading the reports check out this video to see why the stakes are so high.

Then, go to the Free Press Action Center for info on ways you can join the movement for a diverse, pluralistic and democratic media.

Washington Post Attacks the Man who Got Iran Right

The Washington Post's Al Kamen has a snarky little item in today's paper about the International Atomic Energy Agency's Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. Kamen awards ElBaradei "a yellow flag and 15-yard penalty for..unsportmanlike conduct --taunting--after the new intelligence assessment on Iran was released." Remember that ElBaradei is the man who warned the Bush Administration in 2003 about the lack of a nuclear program in Iraq and was subsequently attacked for his position by the Bush machine, the neocons and by many, including the Washington Post, in the mainstream media. Had ElBaradei's work on Iraq been heeded, imagine the treasure, the lives--not to mention our international reputation and security --that would have been saved.

So, maybe the guy does deserve to gloat. But that's now what he appears to have done. All Kamen can come up with as an example of what he describes as "his unseemly I-told-you-so gloating" is that ElBaradei "notes in particular that the estimate tallies with the [IAEA's] consistent statements over the last few years that, although Iran still needs to clarify some important aspects of its past and present nuclear activities, the agency has no concrete evidence of an ongoing nuclear weapons program or undeclared nuclear facilities in Iran."

Maybe Kamen and his paper should set aside some time to reflect on how dead wrong they were in blasting ElBaradei on his Iraq assessment. While they're at it, they might also remember that the Post's failure to give ElBaradei and the IAEA a fair hearing didn't stop with Iraq. The paper's editorial page kept up its attacks, with guns blazing, on the agency's Iran assessments. You'd hope that institutions like the Post might have some humility given the magnitude of its past mistakes, the failure to ask tough questions, the willingness to accept the Adminsitration line, making it more difficult for the IAEA to play a role in maintaining international peace and security. But, naaah. Instead, Kamen prattles on: "Next thing you know, [Elbaradei] will be angling for another Nobel Peace Prize and reminding us about his report before the war that Saddam Hussein had no WMDs. That would would have drawn another 15 for unecessary roughness. Whatever happened to etiquette? Propriety?" Whatever happened to shame.

Unregulated, Uninspected Food For Thought

After an audit released last week that amounted to a complete and utter indictment of the Food and Drug Administration, Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt yesterday admitted "our [food safety] system is not adequate for the future."

But making a system that is might be hard when Leavitt's boss, President Bush, has already vetoed a bill that would give a modest, five percent increase in agency funding.

"Money doesn't solve everything but it does indicate the nation's priorities," Ted Kennedy said at a Senate Health, Education and Labor Committee hearing yesterday. "The FDA does not have the capacity to ensure the safety of the nation's food."

Kennedy's assertion was backed by a FDA Scientific Advisory Panel Board report he highlighted that blasted the lack of qualified scientists, inspectors, staff, information technology resources and agency mission.

"FDA is engaged in a reactive, fire-fighting regulatory posture instead of pursuing a culture of proactive regulatory science," the panel concluded. And it was a good thing they took the time to find this out because FDA inspector's reports, "are still handwritten and not rapidly analyzed."

Saying he had a "master plan" to improve the FDA, Leavitt sort of defended the White House. He said that money was not as important as the need to better communicate and reach understanding with China to prevent more incidents like the imported toxic toothpaste this summer. And he urged the coordination of 12 government agencies for greater food and drug safety. Still, he noted that those agencies would need across-the-board upgrades in resources.

Republican Senators like Wayne Allard of Colorado were more loyal to Bush's proclamations, viewing the issue instead as one of educating food processors and consumers. "Make sure your hamburger is well-cooked," the Senator counseld. "Don't let mayonnaise and eggs sit in the sun."

Democrats countered Allard's compelling arguments by saying government might have have to do more than education to protect the food supply. "It's fun to bash government, it's everybody's game," said Washington Democratic Senator Patti Murray. "But government is the one that regulates this."

What money the government has in 2008 to make regulations will say a lot about how much, or little, a Democratic Congress has affected the Bush Administration.

Left-Leaning Male Pundits Heart Huckabee

Have you noticed how liberal white male reporters get crushes on right-wing male candidates? For years John McCain had Democratic and even left men swooning at his feet--a straight talker! A war hero! He's cool and macho, and he'll invite you over for barbecue! Never mind that McCain was basically a militaristic reactionary with occasional twinges of sanity. Even at The Nation, McCain was a popular guy with the guys. in 2004, one of my Nation colleagues argued in an edit meeting that the magazine should endorse him.

This time round, the so-called-liberal-media men's Republican sweetheart is Mike Huckabee. He plays the bass guitar! He cares! He's not a total maniac like the other evangelical Christians even though he doesn't believe in evolution and probably thinks you're going to Hell! Ari Berman declares him " humble, decent, and funny." In The New Yorker, Rick Hertzberg is surprised to find himself charmed: Huckabee is "funny," "reassuringly ordinary" in appearance and demeanor, "curiously unthreatening" in affect; he speaks "calmly" and declines to serve up "red meat" on abortion, immigration, the Clintons, and other issues dear to rightwingers' hearts.

Marc Cooper, who can't throw enough rotten tomatoes at Democrats and "progressives," or as he likes to call them "pwogwessives," writes in his blog that Huckabee " radiates a core decency." Newsweek's Jonathan Alter: He "speaks American." (oh lord, where's Mencken when you need him?) "Even on faith and politics, Mike is easy to like." Really? It's easy to like a man who tells Bill Maher that "we really don't know" whether the earth is six thousand or six billion years old? Who doesn't think human beings are primates? Who wants to outlaw almost all abortion because "life begins at conception"? Gail Collins-- yes, yes, not all Huckabee fans are men -- thinks indeed, it is.

Hertzberg ruminates so pleasantly on Huckabee's sympathy for the poor, his attacks on the Club for Growth, his lack of the spit-flecked viciousness that has characterized so many religious wingnuts, that you almost forget Huckabee is a religious wingnut himself. Only in his second to last paragraph does Hertzberg get around to acknowledging that "None of this is to say that Huckabee's policy positions are much better than those of his Republican rivals; in some cases, they're worse. He wants to replace the federal tax code with a gigantic, horribly regressive sales tax; he cannot name a single time he has ever disagreed with the National Rifle Association; he wants to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage and abortion." But not to worry: "In practice, however, the sales tax and the amendments would go nowhere, and he couldn't do much about abortion except appoint Scalia-like Justices to the Supreme Court--which his rivals have promised to do, too."

Just so you know: One of Huckabee's first acts as governor of Arkansas was to bar state Medicaid from paying for an abortion for a retarded teenager raped by her stepfather, despite federal regulations requiring such payments. Is that your idea of a nice, decent, "curiously unthreatening guy ? As Todd Gitlin writes at TPMcafe, the media relentless scrutinizes the health-care plans of the Democratic candidates, but when Republicans say they want to ban abortion and declare that life "begins at conception,"--anti-choice code for banning most methods of contraception -- they get a free pass, including from the so-called liberal media.

Is there some weird masochism operating here, whereby left-leaning men, weary of failure and scorn, roll over for rightwingers who smile and throw them a bone? Does the issue of abortion-- which is a marker for a whole range of women's issues--just not matter to them the way it does to women with the same politics? Are they so desperate for a candidate who uses the language of "economic populism," --when he isn't pushing regressive taxation-- that they'll overlook everything else? Which is more likely: a Republican president who limits women's access to abortion, or a Republican president who limits laissez-faire capitalism? The question answers itself. I just wish more liberal male pundits were asking it.

UPDATE: Marc Cooper e mailed me to say he felt I quoted him out of context and am a good example of the "pwogwessives" he despises. He also called my attention to this staggering breaking news story from Murray Waas on the Huffington Post, a story Marc helped edit and has linked to on his blog. Be sure to check it out -- it's truly horrific.

NOTE: Apologies to John Nichols, to whom I originally attributed Ari Berman's quote. Far from being charmed by Huckabee, Nichols wrote a persuasive post on this website attacking him for applying religious tests to Romney. And before anyone else writes in to point out that the pundits I mentioned were discussing Huckabee's public persona, not his character, "decent" is a moral term that describes someone's actual character as expressed in action, not their social manners as expressed in an interview or debate. It's not a synonym for "affable," "pleasant," or "seemingly not insane, despite adherence to nutty beliefs about imminent end of world etc."

Washington Post Attacks the Man who Got Iran Right

The Washington Post's Al Kamen has a snarky little item in today's paper about the International Atomic Energy Agency's Director General Mohamed ElBaradei. Kamen awards ElBaradei "a yellow flag and 15-yard penalty for..unsportmanlike conduct --taunting--after the new intelligence assessment on Iran was released." Remember that ElBaradei is the man who warned the Bush Administration in 2003 about the lack of a nuclear program in Iraq and was subsequently attacked for his position by the Bush machine, the neocons and by many, including the Washington Post, in the mainstream media. Had ElBaradei's work on Iraq been heeded, imagine the treasure, the lives--not to mention our international reputation and security --that would have been saved.

So, maybe the guy does deserve to gloat. But that's now what he appears to have done. All Kamen can come up with as an example of what he describes as "his unseemly I-told-you-so gloating" is that ElBaradei "notes in particular that the estimate tallies with the [IAEA's] consistent statements over the last few years that, although Iran still needs to clarify some important aspects of its past and present nuclear activities, the agency has no concrete evidence of an ongoing nuclear weapons program or undeclared nuclear facilities in Iran."

Maybe Kamen and his paper should set aside some time to reflect on how dead wrong they were in blasting ElBaradei on his Iraq assessment. While they're at it, they might also remember that the Post's failure to give ElBaradei and the IAEA a fair hearing didn't stop with Iraq. The paper's editorial page kept up its attacks, with guns blazing, on the agency's Iran assessments. You'd hope that institutions like the Post might have some humility given the magnitude of its past mistakes, the failure to ask tough questions, the willingness to accept the Adminsitration line, making it more difficult for the IAEA to play a role in maintaining international peace and security. But, naaah. Instead, Kamen prattles on : "Next thing you know, [Elbaradei] will be angling for another Nobel Peace Prize and reminding us about his report before the war that Saddam Hussein had no WMDs. That would would have drawn another 15 for unecessary roughness. Whatever happened to etiquette? Propriety?" Whatever happened to shame.

 

Everybody Look What's Going Down

Recently, I wrote about the No Nukes crowd fighting to remove $50 billion worth of nuclear industry subsidies from landmark energy legislation. Indeed, an upwelling of grassroots opposition – including 130,000 signatures collected by Nukefree.org – has kept the Energy Bill to be voted on in the House this week nuclear subsidy-free

"There are no subsidies for nuclear industry in the bill," Brendan Daly, spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, confirmed for me yesterday.

"We're celebrating a partial victory," said Harvey Wasserman, co-founder of Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) and editor of Freepress.org. "But we're not out of the woods yet."

That's because – like nuclear waste itself – the industry and its cronies never go away. $50 billion is enough to fund 25 plants, and despite the fact that so few people want these monstrosities that can't pay for themselves and are environmental and security nightmares to boot – Big Nuclear will not walk away from bundles of free taxpayer money without a fight.

Senator Pete Domenici is expected to fight the Energy Bill's 15 percent renewable portfolio standard(the amount of electricity utilities must produce from renewable sources) and perhaps condition his support on including the $50 billion nuclear bailout. And with every piece of legislation requiring 60 votes to overcome the seemingly permanent Republican filibuster, Domenici & Friends will wield their power like a radioactive weapon. If the Nukes fail there, there will probably be another battle on the Appropriations bill, or even the Lieberman-Warner climate legislation where the nuclear industry has already submitted a "wish list" of amendments to the bill.

The coalition working with NukeFree.org includes the core of the environmental movement, as well as TrueMajority, MoveOn.org, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, and others. The Union of Concerned Scientists has circulated a separate petition, and the Cato Institute and Forbes magazine have voiced strong opposition to the subsidies as well. Look for the coalition to continue to reach out to conservatives, libertarians and taxpayer rights groups like Taxpayers for Common Sense, Grover Norquist, Paul Gigot (editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page), the American Enterprise Institute and other free marketeers and fiscal conservatives.

Representatives John Hall (a MUSE co-founder, longtime anti-nuke activist and great musician formerly of the band Orleans) and Shelley Berkley of Las Vegas are circulating a letter for their colleagues to sign onto – addressed to Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Harry Reid – which reads in part, "Given [its] record of risk and nonperformance, expanding taxpayer support for nuclear power would be throwing good money after bad. In order to truly make the most progress possible toward a clean, profitable, independent energy future for our nation it will be more effective to devote maximum federal support to renewable energy technologies like wind, solar, geothermal as well as new technologies and improvements in efficiency…. We urge you to take one more step by removing new taxpayer supports for nuclear power from the final legislation that will be considered by Congress…."

Moving forward, it's clear that continued vigilance will be needed – even if NukeFree.org and its allies are successful on the Energy Bill which Wasserman expects to be "a real cliffhanger, with our future in the balance." But, he says, vigilance isn't a problem: "We've won this much and are committed to continuing the fight as long as it takes."

Shame on Obama and Clinton for Skipping Peru Trade Vote

New York Senator Hillary Clinton and Illinois Senator Barack Obama desperately want Democrats to believe that they are serious about serving the American people as the next president of the United States.

But the party faithful – along with the independent and even Republican voters who may be asked to consider these contenders – would be well advised to distrust any claim of conscientiousness from this pair.

Clinton and Obama -- along with fellow Democrats Joe Biden, of Delaware, and Chris Dodd, of Connecticut, and Republican John McCain, of Arizona -- are not even serious about serving in their current positions as members of the U.S. Senate.

When the Senate voted Tuesday of the Peru Trade Agreement, a critical test of U.S. economic policy that raised fundamental questions with regard to how this country will frame its economic ties to hemispheric neighbors, the five senators who would be president were the only members of the chamber who missed the vote.

If we are to trust their statements with regard to the issue: Biden and Dodd would have voted against the Peru deal, while Obama and Clinton would have supported it.

But senators who don't bother to show up get the out of being able to rewrite history – including their own statements. And that appears to be more important to Clinton, Obama and their fellow senator-candidates than doing the job to which they were elected.

Would the presence of Obama, Clinton or the other contenders have changed the practical result of the vote? No. The Senate approved the Peru deal by a 77-18 majority, meaning that, in the words of Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, "Congress (has) passed another job-killing trade agreement that will shut down our factories, hurt our communities, and send more unsafe food into our kitchens and consumer products into our children's bedrooms."

But if the standard that is applied to senators seeking the presidency is that only their positions on close votes matter, then Clinton would have been wise to skip the fall 2002 vote on whether to permit President Bush to attack Iraq. Then, she could have played the issue different ways, depending on the crowd she was talking to – just as Clinton, and to an even greater extent Obama, cynically portray themselves as corporate critics when they are in front of labor and farm audiences and corporate allies when they are shaking down Wall Street donors.

The fact is that the votes senators choose to skip tell us just as much about them as do the votes they cast.

Clinton, Obama, Biden, Dodd and McCain all have track records on trade issues that have tended to place them on the side of multinational conglomerates and investors rather than workers and farmers in the United States and abroad.

They have all taken too many wrong stands in the clearest and most meaningful economic debate facing the country today. Notably, their positions on past trade tests – and their failure to recognize the significance of Tuesday's Peru vote -- put them at odds with key voters in battleground states such as Ohio, which the Democratic presidential nominee will almost certainly need to win in November, 2008.

As Ohio Senator Brown, arguably the Senate's savviest critic of our country's misguided approach to trade, explained, "The trade polices set in Washington, and negotiated across the globe, have a direct impact on places like Toledo and Steubenville, Cleveland and Hamilton. And that is why voters in my state of Ohio, and across the country, sent a message loud and clear last November, demanding a new direction for our trade policy."

Brown, like the other freshmen Democrats elected to the Senate in 2006, understands something that Clinton and Obama are still missing."Our current trade model chases short-term profits for the few, at the expense of long-term prosperity, health and safety for the many. It's a model that doesn't work. Look at our trade deficit, look at manufacturing job losses, look at wage stagnation, look at imported product recalls, look at forced labor, child labor, slave labor. Look what it does to communities," says the senator, who made changing trade policy a central issue in his successful challenge to Republican Senator Mike DeWine, as did other Democratic winners such as Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Claire McMaskill of Missouri, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, John Tester of Montana and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island – all of whom opposed the Peru deal.

Senators who have actually faced the voters in key states in recent elections share Brown's position that, "We want trade and plenty of it – but under rules that raise standards and ensure American exports have a lasting and sustainable market of consumers. Trade can be a development tool. The American people want a pro-trade, pro-development, pro-labor and forward-looking approach."

That's the sort of statement that a Democratic presidential nominee should be making next year.

But neither Clinton nor Obama will be in a position to deliver the message -- at least not to any voter who expects more than empty rhetoric.

The Peru vote gave both senators a chance to send a clear signal that they understand the need to set a new course on trade. That signal would have helped to distinguish them from any of the likely Republican nominees. But they skipped the chance to make it. As such, Clinton and Obama are stuck with their records – which, at least on this issue, mark them as unacceptable choices.

Hopefully, Iowa voters, who are hearing so much from Clinton and Obama these days, will notice that both of the apparent frontrunners failed to stand with their own senator, Tom Harkin, a one-time proponent of free trade who saw the light some years ago and who on Tuesday voted against the Peru deal.