McCain v. Bush on Earmarks and Free Trade

Nico Pitney has a video of Wolf Blitzer making life uncomfortable for Mark Sanford:

BLITZER: Are there any significant economic differences between what the Bush administration has put forward over these many years as opposed to now what John McCain supports?
SANFORD: Um, yeah. For instance, take, you know, take, for instance, the issue of — I’m drawing a blank, and I hate it when I do that, particularly on television. Take, for instance the contrast on NAFTA. I mean, I think that the bigger issue is credibility in where one is coming from, are they consistent where they come from.

Nico summarizes what followed:

Sanford finally came up with an answer — McCain has opposed earmarks while President Bush hasn’t — but Blitzer twisted the knife a bit further, following up on Sanford’s initial mention of NAFTA. “He’s a huge supporter of free trade, John McCain, the Bush administration supports free trade. I don’t see a big difference.”

Well?! Bush says he opposes earmarks – just as Bush says he is for free trade. Bruce Bartlett objects to the latter premise:

Republicans in the steel-producing districts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia were especially fearful of electoral retaliation. They demanded that Bush do something to help the steel industry as the price for their vote on trade-negotiating authority. In June 2001 Bush initiated an investigation by the U.S. International Trade Commission into whether the steel industry was being injured by imports. It was virtually preordained that the commission would find such injury, because of the low legal threshold for such a determination. The commission did indeed find injury in December. Under the law, President Bush had until March to decide what actions he would take to protect the steel industry. At the same time, Republicans from agricultural areas were complaining about low farm prices and demanding more subsidies, even though Bush had promised to move toward a more market-based agricultural system during the 2000 campaign. It was vital Bush do the right thing on the 2002 agriculture bill because the whole point of the trade negotiations, known as the Doha Round, was to remove subsidies for agriculture, which cost taxpayers in the industrialized countries dearly while making it impossible for farmers in the developing world to compete and better themselves. In both cases, Bush made exactly the wrong decision … On March 5, 2002, Bush sought to assuage those concerned about steel by imposing a 30 percent tariff on steel imports. In an amazing example of doublespeak, Trade Representative Zoellick explained that this was a major step toward free trade. The tariffs, he said, would compensate for government subsidies often given to foreign steel producers. Most observers saw Bush’s action as nothing but buying a few votes in politically important swing states.

George W. Bush does have a rotten record per the trade issue.