Thursday, October 16, 2008

The third debate and Latin America

The third presidential debate, which I found to be the most interesting to watch of the three because there was more direct engagement, included a surprising amount of Latin America. First, however, I want to point out that immigration did not come up, except McCain briefly accusing Obama of misrepresenting his position on the issue (a very kettle-like statement, that). Look, I know that the economy is the big issue, but in three debates and 4.5 hours we couldn't even give it a few minutes?

The first Latin America reference was McCain saying he favored opening up our markets to Brazilian ethanol. Give him credit for that--it is an unpopular stance and does go up against a powerful lobby. Obama didn't say anything about it.

But then, suddenly, Colombia became a major point for McCain. He criticized Obama for not supporting the FTA, and Obama responded by referring to the murders of trade unionists. Adam Isacson has a clip, showing how McCain's eyebrows went haywire while Obama was saying that. I actually was watching the debate on a laptop, which didn't have that split screen, so I didn't even see that the first time around.

McCain bungled the FTA theme. If you did not know anything about the topic, his answer was too confusing to make any sense of it:

But let me give you another example of a free trade agreement that Sen. Obama opposes. Right now, because of previous agreements, some made by President Clinton, the goods and products that we send to Colombia, which is our largest agricultural importer of our products, is -- there's a billion dollars that we -- our businesses have paid so far in order to get our goods in there.

Because of previous agreements, their goods and products come into our country for free. So Sen. Obama, who has never traveled south of our border, opposes the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. The same country that's helping us try to stop the flow of drugs into our country that's killing young Americans.

And also the country that just freed three Americans that will help us create jobs in America because they will be a market for our goods and products without having to pay -- without us having to pay the billions of dollars -- the billion dollars and more that we've already paid.

Even if you do untangle that, McCain's point is off kilter. He argues that the current situation favors Colombia, and that an FTA strongly favors the United States to "create jobs in America," not in Colombia. He does not explain how that is good for Colombia. Ultimately, it matters very little, because voters are not very interested in Colombia. They are even less interested in whether Obama travels to Colombia.

There was also brief mention of ending dependence on Venezuelan oil (you know, that sha-VEZ guy) and NAFTA. Especially in a tough economy, the latter (along with the Colombia FTA) is unlikely to resonate with voters for McCain.


Anonymous,  12:52 PM  

It was exciting to see Latin America finally mentioned. I was looking forward to your post about it today.

You should have seen the whole debate in split screen. It was fun, particularly this moment.

Manuel 10:15 PM  

Hi Greg, I thought you might find this interesting...

In Their Own Words:
United States Presidential Candidates on Latin America

Justin Delacour 12:48 AM  

He criticized Obama for not supporting the FTA, and Obama responded by referring to the murders of trade unionists.

A good reason to vote for Obama.

Greg Weeks 6:12 AM  

Manuel, thanks--that's a useful tool.

Michelle 5:07 PM  

At least one GA voter cares about the Colombia FTA... I called registered Latino voters for Obama and got one who told me that he would not vote for Obama precisely b/c he opposed the FTA. was only one voter... :)

Greg Weeks 7:52 AM  

I have to figure you found yourself an outlier there!

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