The other night I caught a bit of the AFL-CIO Presidential "Forum." I guess a forum is what they call a debate with too many participants.
Dennis Kucinich was among that multitude of candidates. Now, I have to admit to some admiration of the diminutive Ohioan's willingness to stand for some really unpopular (to point of being unrealistic) positions. But he's going too far. If he keeps it up, he'll soon have gone the way of Ralph Nader.
Though it would probably offend both men, Kucinich reminds me of Richard Nixon. He's kind of like the bizarro Nixon, really. Like Nixon, he's a hopeless nerd. Like Nixon, he, being a hopeless nerd, married a very attractive woman. A nerd triumph. Like Nixon, he's unattractive on TV. However, in true bizarro fashion, whereas Nixon had the grumpy scowl complete with jowls, Kucinich has the goofy Alfred E. Newman-esque grin.
But until last night, I thought Kucinich's Nixon-like qualities were confined to his personal life. Now I know that he also share's Nixon's disdain for the constitution. Consider this exchange from the debate:
MR. OLBERMANN: Congressman Kucinich, scrap NAFTA or fix it?
REP. KUCINICH: You asked a direct question. I think it deserves a direct answer. In my first week in office, I will notify Mexico and Canada that the United States is withdrawing from NAFTA. I will notify the WTO we’re withdrawing from the WTO. (Applause.)
We need a president who knows what the right thing is to do the first time, not in retrospect. And I think that we need to go back to trade -- excuse me -- we need to go forward to trade that’s based on workers’ rights, human rights and environmental quality principles.
No one else on this stage could give a direct answer because they don’t intend to scrap NAFTA. We’re going to be stuck with it. And I’m your candidate if you want to get out of NAFTA. (Applause.)
Let’s hear it. Do you want out of NAFTA? (Cheers, applause.) Do you want out of the WTO? (Cheers, applause.) Tell these candidates.
(Read the full transcript here.) Sounds reasonable, right? If NAFTA and WTO aren't beneficial, we just withdraw, right? Yes, except that NAFTA and WTO, if I'm not mistaken, are treaties*. Look at the what the Constitution says about treaties:
...all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby,...
(Article VI, Paragraph 2.) Since when can the President single-handedly repeal the "supreme law of the land" after it's already in place? That would seem to be a violation of the law. According to the Constitution, though, the President can make treaties, only with the "advice and consent" of the Senate. (Article II, Section 2, Paragraph 2). It would stand to reason then, that the Constitution would allow a treaty withdrawal only with the consent of the Senate. Then again, I suppose Rep. Kucinich assumes that "when the President does it, that means that it is not illegal."
In Kucinich's defense, though, he didn't actually say that he would withdraw, only that he would "notify Mexico and Canada that the United States is withdrawing from NAFTA." Presumably, he would then pass the buck to the Senate and blame them when labor called him on it. So maybe that tiny vegan is "not a crook" after all.
*Maybe my understanding of NAFTA and the WTO is incorrect, though; maybe we haven't actually joined by treaty in the sense that Article VI speaks of them. Perhaps Cabeza or Warren can enlighten us on that issue.