If TPP is the economic centerpiece of President Obama’s signature strategic objective, why is he not using his bully pulpit to sell the deal on its merits and pressure Senate Democrats to follow suit? He has taken almost every opportunity to do just that with Republicans on issues big and small. But on TPP and Democrats, he has been more or less silent. He mentioned the agreement briefly in his State of the Union, but has applied no discernible pressure on Democrats to help sustain the rebalance by passing trade promotion authority for TPP. The obvious and unsurprising reason is politics. It may be a reason, but it’s no excuse.
If President Obama wants to make the rebalance a success, the president could send a powerful message by addressing the American people and their representatives from Asian soil. He could indicate his intention to actively pursue a package of spending reforms to replace the sequestration cuts that are undermining confidence in America’s security commitments to the friends and allies we are pledged to protect. He could tell Congress that he expects the cooperation of both parties in this endeavor because nothing less than American national security is at stake. And with at least a fraction of the urgency with which he has attacked Republicans, he could call on members of his own party to stop holding TPP hostage to election-year politics, and pass the trade promotion authority that will advance what Donilon describes as “the most important trade deal under negotiation today.”
Now that would be a pivot.
Dustin Walker is the founding editor of RealClearDefense. He previously served as a communications staffer for Governor Mitt Romney and the House Armed Services Committee. Follow him on Twitter: @Dustinrwalker.