Tony Blankley

Other than the fight against radical Islam, the efficacy of free trade may be the most important issue pending before the American people and our government. Since the end of World War II, the principle of free trade has defined U.S. economic policy -- and thus, to a large extent, the world's economy. Globalization is the product of a long half-century of American free-trade policy.

Until the 1980s, it was not even a debated point. Both Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives largely supported free trade. During the past 20 years, doubt has emerged on the question of whether Americans gain or lose from free trade. But the Bill Clinton presidency, in full partnership with the Newt Gingrich Republican Congress, fully supported free trade.

However, even in the 1990s, the Democratic Congress only begrudgingly voted with half its caucus for Clinton and Gingrich's NAFTA. About two-thirds of the Republican caucus voted yes. Then, by about 40 percent to 30 percent, Republican voters thought free trade was good for America (with the remainder saying it made no difference). Now, according to an October 2007 Wall Street Journal poll, by 59 percent to 32 percent, Republicans think foreign (free) trade has been bad for America. Democrats are (SET ITAL) more (END ITAL) negative. Many other polls confirm this trend over the past two decades.

Thus, it was not surprising that this Monday, the Financial Times gave their lead headline (plus a 3-by-6-inch above-the-fold color photo) to Hillary Clinton on her statement that she doubted the benefits of the upcoming world-trade talks in Doha, Qatar. As her campaign is largely premised on the proclaimed wisdom and success of her and her husband's previous presidency, it is noteworthy in the extreme that she is breaking with her co-president (some guy named Bill, I think) on the question of free trade.

Whether Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic Party presidential nomination or not, few would doubt that she has shrewdly assessed the most useful position to hold on the issue. The Democratic Party is now, essentially, an anti-free-trade party. The Republican Party remains, at least at the presidential level, a pro-free-trade party, as exemplified by Rudy Giuliani's statement: "Our philosophy has to be not how many protectionist measures can we put in place, but how do we invent new things to sell" abroad. "That's the view of the future. What (protectionists) are trying to do is lock in the inadequacies of the past."

Are you certain, Rudy? Republicans venture forth into the 2008 election campaign with such an unquestioning free-trade policy at their peril. Certainly the most politically gifted of the Republican candidates, Mike Huckabee, sees that peril.

Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.

In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.

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