The nation owes a debt of gratitude to Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper for providing the English language with a colorful new way to say, “You’re not serious!” As Harper put it in 2012 to a reporter who voiced an especially dumb query, “That’s a clown question, bro.”
Here’s why, if “Bam Bam” followed trade policy, he’d say that Wall Street Journal contributor William Galston has just written a clown column.
Galston, a leading Clinton Democrat, wants President Obama to make a big push for new trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) this year, and for the fast track negotiating authority crucial to its chances of Congressional passage. Nothing ridiculous about that, though I do believe approval of either would be deeply misguided. What was clownish was the argumentation Galson used. Here’s what he apparently believes will be convincing to the unconverted:
>an unsupported claim by Mr. Obama’s chief trade negotiator, Michael Froman, that America’s TPP policy has learned “the lessons of the past,” especially of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA);
>an equally unsupported claim by Froman that the TPP talks will “produce breakthroughs in areas of concern such as labor rights and environmental protection”;
>yet another unsupported declaration by Froman – that he will succeed where all his predecessors have failed, and that the TPP will actually “open Japan’s market”:
>the observation that “trade experts and veterans of past negotiations believe that attaining this goal requires” fast track authority – even though these undoubtedly are the same former U.S. officials who have been snookered repeatedly by empty Japanese (and other countries’) market-opening promises;
>a contention by these trade whizzes that, without fast track, Japan and the other TPP countries won’t negotiate seriously with the United States – even though even easier and better guaranteed access to the American market is far and away the biggest prize of the talks;
>”evidence” of this point consisting of “a former government official” asserting that “Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe had made this link clear in a private conversation.”
In the real world, this kind of flimsy case for TPP would be laughed out of the room. But in the chattering class circus in which Galston and The Wall Street Journal editorial page staff live and work, it’s the clowns of course who rule – and publish one another.