Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Friday, December 05, 2003  

Moving right along, we go to...

Dubious Claim 2: "We're not dropping steel tariffs because the EU was threatening to target exports from states key to our re-election, we're dropping them because the American steel industry is now fit as a fiddle, which was our original intent, and so tariffs are no longer necessary. Oh, and we're into free trade."

Bush, scared stiff because the steel debacle has now offended three groups since he brilliantly imposed the tariffs (that would be conservative free traders and manufacturers who use steel, who were offended then, and steel workers, the people he was trying to woo in the first place, now), sent McClellan out to read a statement in his (scaredy-cat) stead. Scott?

"Today I signed a proclamation ending the temporary steel safeguard measures I put in place in March 2002. Prior to that time, steel prices were at 20-year lows, and the U.S. International Trade Commission found that a surge in imports to the U.S. market was causing serious injury to our domestic steel industry. I took action to give the industry a chance to adjust to the surge in foreign imports, and to give relief to the workers and communities that depend on steel for their jobs and livelihoods.

"These safeguard measures have now achieved their purpose. And as a result of changed economic circumstances, it is time to lift them. The U.S. steel industry wisely used the 21 months of breathing space we provided to consolidate and restructure. The industry made progress, increasing productivity, lowering production costs, and making America more competitive with foreign steel producers.

Well, it makes a good story (though not as good as the British Airways dodge). Is anyone buying it? I should say, is anyone not employed by Clear Channel or Fox buying it? No, particularly not those in Europe, who are gleefully declaring victory. The Economist, who endorsed Bush (and lost me), had this scathing appraisal:

On December 4th, a mere 20 months after imposing the tariffs, Mr Bush withdrew them. The president said his decision was based on his “strong belief” that America was “better off with a world that trades freely and a world that trades fairly.” It would be nice to think that a chastened Mr Bush had recovered his zeal for free trade. The truth is that the White House's electoral-college-vote-counters, led by Karl Rove, realised that a fight with Europe, as well as with the steel-making countries in Asia who stood ready to pile in, was not worth it....

The EU's strategy of retaliation was especially clever. It would slap new tariffs on Floridian oranges and a host of other American exports from Republican southern and western states. The last thing Mr Rove wanted was for textile workers in the Carolinas to start voting Democratic. Steel executives called the Europeans' threat “blackmail”, which it undoubtedly was.

Blackmail the President paid, without so much as a whimper. He did offer a pretty story, though, so he gets some points for that.

posted by Jeff | 10:29 AM |
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