Tony Blankley
For the past few years, fear of China's predatory mercantilism has been steadily growing in America, both amongst the public and in elite business and political circles. But last week, for the first time, one could discern the genuine possibility that America might actually do something about it -- even if it means a trade war.

It's not that anything new has been revealed about China's practices, but rather that something new has emerged about the nature of Washington's opposition to it. Last week, the Senate passed a bill that would force U.S. retaliation against China's currency manipulations. The bill passed with 63 votes -- including 16 Republican votes.

There is nothing new about most Democrats supporting what some might consider "protectionist" legislation. But 16 Republican Senate votes are new and revealing. There was no ideological or regional pattern to them. They included Ohio's Rob Portman, a solid senior member of the Republican free-trade establishment who served as President George W. Bush's trade representative and director of the Office of Management and Budget; Maine's liberals Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins; conservative southerners such as Jeff Sessions and Lindsey Graham; and the Rocky Mountain's conservative Mike Crapo.

Also, last week Mitt Romney -- the very model of a Republican financial man and free trader -- wrote in a conspicuous Washington Post article: "If I am ... elected president, I will work to fundamentally alter our economic relationship with China." It got tougher after that. While he firmly defended free trade, he made the argument, "Actually doing something about China's cheating makes some people nervous. Not doing something makes me nervous. We are warned that we might precipitate a trade war. Really? China is selling us $273 billion per year more than America is selling China -- why would it possibly want a trade war?"

Whether Romney is right or wrong about that, what is politically fascinating is that he is not afraid to talk about the threat of a trade war. Yes, he is running for president, so it could be just political. But he may well be the next president, so campaign rhetoric may become presidential policy. And given his deep support in the internationalist, GOP business community, he must have a sense that he is not outraging those supporters by his strong stand.


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.

©Creators Syndicate

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