Obama Tries to Sell Free Trade in Holland, MI

I’ll have more to say about Obama’s speech at Johnson Controls later today when I get back to reliable Toobz.

But here are my first impressions.

First, here’s the order of emphasis in his speech:

  1. Freedom
  2. Debt and compromise
  3. The kinds of investments that make this factory possible

That’s a problem. Republicans like Crazy Pete Hoekstra and Rick Snyder have already come to these factories to claim credit for the jobs. And they’re not going to talk about how these jobs depended on government investment.

I was unsure whether Obama was going to just ignore his pitch for trade. He didn’t. But not only did it come later in his pitch of late (after payroll tax deductions), but he changed the delivery. He claimed that if we pass these trade deals, people around the world will be driving Fords and Chevys.

Of course, people around the world already are driving Fords and Chevys. Made in places like Brazil and Mexico and China. Trade deals won’t change where the American-branded cars sold in Colombia and Panama and Korea are made.

The one exception, of course, is the most dangerous. Korea will import electric Volts and Ford Transits–they even adopted a change in KORUS to allow for them. But how long do you think the real leader in battery technology–Korea–will stand for the importation of batteries from MI? I have long believed–and still do–that KORUS may kill just this kind of factory, because once GM starts building Volts in Korea, they’ll export those higher-margin Volts to other markets.

In any case, the applause when Obama talked about trade was much quieter than the other applause lines.

One more thing about this event. It was, I believe without exception, the whitest Democratic event I have ever attended in MI. Now, Holland is whiter than much of MI (though it has a growing Latino population). But Grand Rapids, which is just  a half hour away, is racially balanced. Moreover, I know an auto supply plant about 10 miles from here that has more Latinos working at it than were in this room.

That’s probably more a testament to who the VIPs were that got invited to this event (and that the employees who have been hired here thus far tend to be white collar workers). But still, I found it striking.

19 replies
  1. scribe says:

    There’s a truism, I’d guess one would call it, that the people at the bottom know all to well every nuance of how the system works and who is feeding them bullshit and when. And, since (like it or not) a larger percentage of the people at the bottom are black than white, I suspect the black community has long since figured out that Blankfein’s Houseservant isn’t one of them and does not have their interests anywhere on the radar.

    I’ve told this story once, and I’ll tell it again. On Election Day 2008 I worked a precinct in a large Eastern city for Obama. It was a working-class black neighborhood – small business people, the black women who make so much of the government and large businesses really work, schoolteachers, firemen, cops. There were 800 people registered to vote in that precinct. Of that, 640 showed up, most before noon. When the polls opened, there was a line two blocks long. I walked that line, making sure everyone’s questions re ballots, etc. were answered or kicked upstairs to be answered. Of that 640, there was one non-AA person, an older Asian woman. I checked the official results later and, of those 640 votes, exactly 7 were for McCain. The rest were for Obama.

    The kids were cadging our Obama buttons, etc. until we ran out. One 8 y/o kid’s mom told us he’d done his whole room up in pictures and posters of Obama, totally covering over his sports heroes. The local convenience store had a one-day promotion: blue cups for Obama and red for McCain. People were desperate to find out where I’d gotten the blue cup I was drinking coffee from and there was a run on that store.

    I kinda think there is not that kind of enthusiasm for BHO now, and will not be in 15 months or so. And that, as much as anything else, explains why he was looking at a white crowd. He’s lost the AA vote.

    And he has no one to blame but himself.

  2. Jason Leopold says:

    Fantastic analysis, Marcy. So much better, as expected, than what’s being reported by other reporters. Thanks for breaking this down for us. Will look for your follow-up.

  3. Gitcheegumee says:


    I don’t know if you are familiar with the progressive site called Black Agenda Report. Bruce Dixon et al have been “making it plain” about Obama’s (and others’) perfidies for some time now.

    Pulls no punches and takes no prisoners. Excellent and highly recommended.

  4. Gitcheegumee says:

    Well, Obama was a little late this year for the annual Holland,Michigan Tulip Time festival,which is held the first week of May.

    Holland,Michigan’s very own native son,Erik Prince, received the warmest of welcomes when he appeared there some time ago.

    Prince,however,IS creating jobs-albeit they are in UAE. To wit:

    Blackwater founder Erik Prince, a Holland native, launches new secret desert force, NY Times reports

    Published: Sunday, May 15, 2011,
    By The Grand Rapids Press staff

    The New York Times is reporting today that Holland, Michigan, native and Blackwater (turned Xe) founder Erik Prince has been hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to build an 800-member battalion of non-Muslim foreign troops for United Arab Emirates.

    Prince, a former Navy SEAL, is a Holland native whose family fortune was made in the auto parts industry. His sister, Betsy DeVos, a former chairwoman of the Michigan GOP, is married to Dick DeVos, a Republican and Amway Corp. heir who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2006. Prince moved to Abu Dhabi last year to take a “break from America.”

    Experts quoted by The Times indicate Prince’s new project might not have the “official blessing” of the U.S. government. The company, called Reflex Responses, or R2, might be “breaking federal laws that prohibit American citizens from training foreign troops if they did not secure a license from the State Department.” Blackwater paid $42 million in fines last year for similar violations.(Excerpt)

    NOTE: Is DOJ tiptoeing through the tulips on this one?

  5. emptywheel says:

    @MadDog: I went as press.

    The invites for this were really hard to come by–as I understand it, even Holland’s volunteers didn’t necessarily get a seat. That may have been because it was indoors. But still–it wasn’t even announced by the GR party and teh Holland party was really apologetic they couldn’t offer invites.

  6. Gitcheegumee says:

    Media blackout at Blackwater founder Erik Prince’s Tulip Time talk …www.hollandsentinel.com/…/Media-blackout-at-Blackwater-founder… – CachedApr 30, 2010 – The Holland Sentinel – Blackwater founder Erik Prince has …

    Erik Prince Says His Enemies Are al Qaeda, Taliban and ‘Noisy …www.thenation.com/…/erik-prince-says-his-enemies-are-al-qaeda-tal… – CachedMay 6, 2010 – HOLLAND, MI—Erik Prince, owner of Blackwater, received a standing ovation in his hometown Wednesday and was praised by supporters for …

    Blackwater founder Erik Prince, a Holland native, launches new …www.mlive.com › Michigan News – CachedMay 15, 2011 – The New York Times is reporting today that Holland, Michigan, native and Blackwater (turned Xe) founder Erik Prince has been hired by the …

    NOTE: The first link about media blackout is quite extraordinary,and worth a look. My excerpt was derived from the third link,btw.

  7. Rpm says:

    Americans of all economic classes including the elites and political class shares a common thread, its called consumption or the right to buy anything and everything, its what American society is based upon. The elites are elites since they can buy whatever they choose which makes them VIP’s to the political class which views it’s primary role to create a positive business environment to foster greater consumption.
    The big issue suddenly is that large parts of the public can no longer practice excessive luxury consumption and in many cases no consumption, therefore we have a crisis. If the stock market tanks then the big worry is that the elites might curtail spending, the horror!
    Obama shares these same values and views his current job as giving the consumer more choices at even better prices. Democrats and Republicans share a religious belief in the unfetter desire to promote consumer consumption anything else is unAmerican!
    Many folks have wondered the why of so called
    free trade as it hollow outs our manufacturing and job base yet the political set is routinely reelected. The idea that any
    political alternative to the consumption ideology could get elected seems far fetched.

  8. MadDog says:

    @emptywheel: Interesting! Does this mean you are firmly accredited by the White House as a journalist?

    Was there any “meet and greet” before or after Obama’s speech?

  9. matthew carmody says:

    @Gitcheegumee: The non-Muslim fighters will be used against people in the Muslim countries to avoid having Muslims fighting Muslims. Prince has recruited Latin American nationals from the countries that had death squads during the Reagan years and their intended targets will be the rioters who will inevitably appear in the streets of the US. This will preclude any further violations of Posse Comitatus while serving to begin the execution of the whining workers of America.

  10. emptywheel says:

    @Rpm: Consumption has zero connection with these trade deals. We already import lots of cheap stuff from Korea. We’re passing this deal so as to have a economic beachhead next to China and so we don’t lose competitive advantage against Europe.

  11. emptywheel says:

    @MadDog: Yeah–I have been. I even covered Obama’s announcement on GM/Chrysler BK in 2009 at the White House (there was a bomb scare that day, btw).

    There was no meet and greet. The pool reporters got to go on the tour of the factory w/O. But he was probably onsite for no more than 45 minutes.

  12. emptywheel says:

    @Rpm: It may well be, but we’re not passing these trade deals because they’ll help Americans consume more.

  13. Gitcheegumee says:

    matt carmody:

    Are you a leftist tapeworm?

    Erik Prince Says His Enemies Are al Qaeda, Taliban and ‘Noisy Leftists’

    Jeremy Scahill

    May 6, 2010

    HOLLAND, MI—Erik Prince, owner of Blackwater, received a standing ovation in his hometown Wednesday and was praised by supporters for “put[ting] God first” after delivering a 30 minute speech that media outlets were banned from recording. As Prince spoke, about 80 people protested outside the DeVos Fieldhouse in Holland. As the local paper, The Holland Sentinel, reported, Prince told the crowd of 700 that the “worth of a warrior is not best defined by his deeds, but by his enemies” and “described his own enemies as Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and ‘noisy leftists.'” He called critics of Blackwater “tapeworms.”
    During his speech, in front of the Tulip Time Festival luncheon, Prince also delved head first into Tea Party mode. “The greatest threat to our freedom and prosperity is not al-Qaida, the Taliban, Iran or even China,” he said. “It’s an idea, the idea that we can spend our way out of our problems without tightening our belt and paring down the very bloated government.”

    Prince appeared to stray completely away from the stories he told earlier this year at a private event, a recording of which was obtained by The Nation, where he claimed Blackwater forces had “call[ed] in NATO air strikes,” suggested sending armed contractors into Yemen, Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria, expressed disdain for the Geneva Convention and called those who fight the US in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan “barbarians” who had “crawled out of the sewer.”

  14. matthew carmody says:

    @Gitcheegumee: I’m a leftist tapeworm who was taught to shoot by the Marines and who perfected that art in Vietnam. When Prince’s boys come to my town I’ll have my Che shirt on and a well sighted-in Remington Model 700.

    I like to think of myself as a revolutionary socialist.

  15. Gitcheegumee says:

    matthew carmody:

    Here is an exceptional piece..it IS long,but a real primer on Blackwater .

    Think this may be “right up your alley “,matt.

    Daily Kos: Erik Prince: American Bin Laden – CIA Asset, Money & Gunmenwww.dailykos.com/…/-Erik-Prince:-American-Bin-LadenCIA-Asset,… – CachedDec 4, 2009 – Erik Prince is the American Osama Bin Laden: a CIA asset with a lot of money and gunmen working for him. The parallels extend further than …

  16. Kathleen says:

    Spent summer after summer in Holland for at least 30 years. Not the last five. Family cottage at Ottawa beach. About as white as it gets. Glad to hear there is a bit of diversity growing. Although economically has always been a bit mixed.

    What the hell can Obama do at this late of date about jobs? Chris Matthews has been pounding on a government jobs program (WPA) for a solid two years. What was holding the Obama team back from such a plan?

    This winter road a bus from Dayton Ohio to the Ohio State house in Columbus for the SB 5 protest. So many GM workers etc who had been laid off on the bus. How in the hell is Obama going to lasso those folks this next time around?

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