I'd like to officially register my surprise that "Goolsbeegate" is turning out to have all these legs. It's a totally legitimate story, though I have trouble getting outraged about it since I agree with Goolsbee on the merits of NAFTA. That said, I'm mostly filled with bitterness and rage. Back during the 2004 campaign, I did a story full of on the record quotes from Laura Tyson, one of Kerry's top economic advisors, promising that Kerry's rhetoric about trade was bullshit:
"When people say, 'well, listen to what the Kerry campaign has said about trade in some of the primaries, we are concerned that Senator Kerry will move the US away from trade integration,'" she said, she tells them to "think about the issue of national campaigns in the US" and to "recognize that what might be said in one primary ... is not an indicator of the future."
Tyson further argued that Kerry would be able to liberalize trade more than Bush has, because Kerry would support policies that help compensate the inevitable losers in globalization -- a step that will allegedly drain the swamp of anti-trade sentiment. Lest it be thought that Tyson's commitment to the multilateral process and to continued trade integration leaves plenty of wriggle room to keep the process but add, say, environmental standards into the mix, she explicitly disavowed this option during a later exchange. Adding environmental issues to the WTO's brief might bog it down and impede progress on further integration.
"I want to assure you that a Kerry-Edwards administration will continue in the great American tradition of leading the way on global economic integration," she concluded.
I got exactly zero bounce from this article even though, in my opinion, it was much more solidly grounded than a story about a memo about something someone told a diplomat at a party*. Since that time, I've tried to eschew reporting.
Stepping away from my bitterness, you have two candidates, both of whose economic advisory teams are full of proponents of trade deals, both of whom are now campaigning in a state where trade deals are very unpopular, both talking the trade-skeptic talk while also trying to quietly reassure other key constituencies that the Washington Consensus is a alive and well. The larger irony here is that the multilateral trade process as a whole ran aground several years ago over agricultural issues and shows no signs of reviving no matter who wins the election. We're left to argue over deals with tiny countries like Peru and Costa Rica where the impact either way on a giant country like the USA isn't going to be noticeable.
* I can perhaps now reveal that also during the 2004 cycle I actually did get to talking to a Canadian diplomat at a party who relayed to me concerns that it would put NATO members in an awkward position if President Kerry offered to hand political authority in Iraq over to a UN body in exchange for securing an international peacekeeping force there, since nobody really wanted to contribute to such a force but they didn't have any good off-the-shelf excuses to say "no."