Competitive Enterprise Institute | 1899 L ST NW Floor 12, Washington, DC 20036 | Phone: 202-331-1010 | Fax: 202-331-0640
We all now know better than to pronounce monumental political ramifications from this event or that stumble. Still, it is difficult to imagine even a sympathetic media ignoring this week's performance by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle on Fox News Sunday, particularly should he, in fact, pursue the presidency he is rumored to covet.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Facing the ever-gracious Tony Snow, it is no overstatement that Daschle seemed to abdicate any meaningful concept of U.S. self-determination or sovereignty, largely in the futile name of making others more approving of us. Worse, he radically spun reality to cast the U.S. as "bad guy" in international matters where it is in fact our competitors who bully and dissemble.
Liberals tend to parrot disapproval from our European trade competitors — excuse me, allies — as evidence of their moral superiority. Their bane, of course, encompasses most actions in America's interest. What many Americans seem to have forgotten is that Europeans have their own agenda for us and love American politicians who are willing to help, through the International Criminal Court, energy-rationing Kyoto Protocol, etc. Count Tom Daschle among each of these ranks.
First, consider the following exchange, that in a rational world would make even Daschle blush:
SNOW: You were harshly critical the other day at the Bush administration's foreign policy. Once again you said, "I don't know if we've ever seen a more precipitous drop in international stature and public opinion with regard to this country as we have in the last two years." Typically, people cite several things with regard to this. One was the Kyoto protocol, correct?
SNOW: You voted against that.
DASCHLE: I did.
SNOW: OK. The International Criminal Court, you voted against that.
DASCHLE: That's correct.
SNOW: And Iraq, where you voted with the president. So on all these key issues, the ones that the Europeans are constantly citing, you're on the same side as the White House.
This prompted our hero to voice his real complaint:
DASCHLE: Well, it's not necessarily the position in that legislative approach that I think is the concern. It's the attitude. It's the way that we have gone about foreign policy, especially, Tony, this unilateral approach to foreign policy, dictating on a unilateral basis what the United States' position is going to be and expecting, really, all these countries in a very autocratic or very authoritarian way to comply. [Emphasis added.]
Snow scratched the surface, with "How can you say the United States has been dictatorial? We've made our position known. We haven't forced anybody along, have we?" One also wonders precisely which nations Senator Daschle would have determine the U.S. position in any debate? Libya? The Maldives?
In response, however, Daschle showed he either does not know, or does not care for, the truth. "I mean, basically in the Kyoto accords it was, 'Look, you do it our way or we're not going to do it at all.' There was no negotiation. This was, 'This is the way it's going to be.' That's the way we did it in the Middle East. That's the way we've done it in virtually every one of these instances."
Not that there's any acceptable circumstance to abdicate sovereign decision-making. Still, consider Kyoto: No U.S. administration has developed or pushed an alternative to Kyoto (nor, incidentally, has Tom Daschle); no U.S administration ever demanded any other country adopt our position. A reality check reminds us, however, that while the courts were sorting out the 2000 U.S. elections, Kyoto negotiations took an ugly turn in The Hague. EU negotiators, sensing that Clinton-Gore negotiators were desperate to lock in a deal, sought to redefine set terms. Specifically, they demanded near elimination of the means by which the U.S. intended to keep its cost of Kyoto below four percent of Gross Domestic Product (according to Clinton's Department of Energy).
Forgive the banality of specifics, but the EU demanded the near elimination of the use of greenhouse-gas "sinks," land-use practices removing GHGs from the atmosphere. Kyoto Article 3 plainly states that sinks "shall be used to meet the commitments under this article." Kyoto compliance, in particular for the U.S., means massive reliance upon sinks, or even more massive energy-tax increases. Always ready to saddle our economy with their burdens, the EU insisted upon near total removal of this mechanism. Thus initiated the U.S.-Kyoto stalemate. The administration that rejected this blackmail was Clinton-Gore.
On Fox, Tom Daschle closed with this gem: "And I think that, as you travel, and I know you have internationally, the feedback you get is, and the editorial comment, go through Europe, go through the Middle East, go through Africa, go through Southern Asia, go through most of Latin America today, it is almost universally negative."
In sum, leadership means doing what others want us to do. It means making it more comfortable for Tom Daschle to hang out with fashionable Europeans. It means the U.S. not deciding "on a unilateral basis what the U.S. position is going to be." Tom, you could not have done the public a better service, in the debates over Iraq, Kyoto, or who deserves to be a "leader."