William McGurn: John McCain's JFK Opportunity





One presidential candidate says our Latin American neighbors are "drifting away" because we do not support our democratic friends. That "our failure to help the people of Latin America to achieve their economic aspirations" is a moral and strategic tragedy. And that we need to confront those who are "exploiting domestic distress and unrest, encouraging growing dislike of the United States, working to impose Communist rule."

No, the words are not John McCain's. They are John F. Kennedy's. But on the day that Sen. McCain leaves for a quick trip to Colombia and Mexico, they present him with an opportunity: The chance to remind American voters that his opponent has more in common with the party of Ted Kennedy than the party of John Kennedy.

JFK spoke the words quoted above on the steps of a Tampa, Fla., courthouse during the 1960 campaign. As president, he would transform those words into a new Latin American policy. Though it covered many parts, the gist was that only freedom could transform Latin America, and that both our interests and our ideals compelled us to support those making brave stands for freedom.

If these words have more of a Republican ring to them, it's probably because it has been some time since any Democratic Party leader has offered such muscular language – especially with regard to trade and opportunity and American purpose. To the contrary, JFK would have a hard time reconciling his outward and optimistic vision with the crabbed protectionism the Democratic Party now stands for. And there's no better example than the way House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has refused to schedule a vote on a U.S. trade agreement with Colombia.

Even the critics have mostly given up arguing the economics of this agreement. Under legislation Congress has approved, most Colombian goods already enter the U.S. duty free. The same is not true for what we export to Colombia. So mostly what this agreement would do is level the playing field for American goods and send an important signal to the region that we know who our friends are....

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