George Will

     He would try to force signatory nations (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and, soon, the Dominican Republic) to adopt labor and environmental standards more pleasing to him. The ostensible purpose of this would be to improve the lot of labor in those nations. But the primary purpose of the renegotiation would be to raise production costs in those countries, thereby making imports from them less competitive with American products.

     Time was, Kerry was a free trader. Now he favors ``fair trade,'' as defined by his labor allies. But he still is a critic of what he and likeminded people consider the Bush administration's obnoxious tendency to tell other nations how to behave.

     The Wall Street Journal reports that ``it would be unprecedented for a newly elected president to turn his back on a major trade deal negotiated by his predecessor.'' Unprecedented and, in Kerry's case, inconsistent.

     When Kerry and kindred spirits criticize what they consider the Bush administration's hubris and bad diplomatic manners, they often cite its withdrawal from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on climate change. It is understandable that they do not dwell on the fact that the Clinton administration refused to submit it for Senate ratification, or that the Senate voted 95-0 for a resolution against proceeding with the protocol as negotiated. The junior senator from Massachusetts said ``no one in their (sic) right mind'' would favor it as it is.

     Regarding Yucca Mountain and CAFTA, Kerry's comportment reflects toughness -- call it Navarrean toughness -- about subordinating all considerations of principle to the exigencies of winning power. Someone in the White House has naughtily said that Kerry ``looks French.''  The scalding truth is that he wears Hermes neckties, which are French, and, worse still, he speaks French. But his real French connection is his spiritual kinship with Henry of Navarre.

     Henry was raised a Protestant but converted to Catholicism -- twice -- for political reasons. His explanation still resonates with those politicians -- a large tribe -- who believe, as Kerry does, in doing whatever is necessary: ``Paris is well worth a Mass.''


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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