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Today in Terrible Arguments

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Caroline Kennedy provides the worst possible argument for supporting the Trans Pacific Partnership: that her father supported free trade.

Serving as the U.S. ambassador to Japan has given me a chance to experience first-hand how our country is perceived in Asia. It has been a deeply moving experience to see how much the American dream still matters from 7,000 miles away.

The people of this region are eager for American involvement of all kinds—they cherish the free expression that we sometimes take for granted, their workers are seeking the kinds of hard-won protections the U.S. labor movement has gained, entrepreneurs are eager to innovate and young people are desperate to connect with us on a free and open internet that protects intellectual property and cybersecurity.

With assistance from the United States, Japan and other nations, developing countries throughout Asia are working to educate girls and young women and to protect their environments so future generations can reduce the risk of natural disasters and live sustainably.

This is a dynamic region that, right now, is at peace. It is also growing, presenting enormous economic opportunities for Americans. With a continued focus on President Barack Obama’s “rebalance to Asia,” we can keep it that way for generations to come.

A vitally important part of that strategy is the Trans Pacific Partnership. This ambitious, 12-nation trade agreement, now in the final stages of negotiation, has the potential to knit the United States and our allies into the world’s strongest, most prosperous partnership.

Yet, there are some who are reluctant to change the status quo and embrace the future. This is nothing new. But there is a proud Democratic free-trade tradition that we should not forget. For my father, President John F. Kennedy, expanding trade was integral to America’s prosperity and security. As he told Congress on January 11, 1962, when asking for a precursor to the same authority President Obama is requesting today, “Our decision could well affect the unity of the West, the course of the Cold War, and the economic growth of our Nation for a generation to come.”

It’s followed with a standard defense of the TPP and reminding us that Ted Kennedy also supported free trade, which is probably the worst policy position he consistently held.

And let’s think of the upshot of this. Should Democrats today then also support other Kennedy policies? Perhaps we should arm Cuban exiles to overthrow the Castro regime in a half-baked invasion plan. Or provided arms and advisers to Latin American nations to bust their unions in the name of development. Or move the nation significantly ahead toward a pointless war in southeast Asia. Or drag our feet on civil rights. Or this:

Kennedy insults us with this argument. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, appealing to a mythical Democrat of the past is pathetic. Given that Caroline Kennedy is Obama’s ambassador to Japan, one has to wonder whether the administration didn’t ask her to openly appeal to the Kennedy myth to promote this specific policy. Never mind whether JFK would have actually supported the thing. I mean, our whole judicial system is based on trying to figure out whether James Madison would have approved of violent video games. But resorting to cheap nostalgia to a president mythologized all out of proportion to his actual accomplishments is really a ridiculous argument to make.

If there is a reason for Democrats to support the Trans Pacific Partnership, it sure isn’t because JFK’s daughter says he would have supported it too.

In conclusion, Caroline Kennedy deserved to be appointed to Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat in 2009 because of her lineage.

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