Bush chides Clinton, Obama

The president isn't happy with Democratic candidates for dissing NAFTA.

Published February 28, 2008 10:26PM (EST)

At a White House press conference on Thursday, President Bush accused Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama of trying to "score political points" by picking on the North American Free Trade Agreement on the trail.

"There's been a lot of criticism on the campaign trail of free-trade policies and even talk about the U.S. opting out of NAFTA," a reporter said to the president at the press conference. "But just given all the concerns about the economy that people have, do you feel like you could win in a state like Ohio if you were running again for president?"

"Landslide," Bush replied, to laughs from the press. "Yes, I heard the talk about NAFTA," President Bush went on to say. "The idea of just unilaterally withdrawing from a trade treaty because of trying to score political points is not good policy. It's not good policy on the merits, and it's not good policy as a message to send to our -- people who have, in good faith, signed a treaty and worked with us on a treaty."

Both Clinton and Obama said at the Democratic debate in Ohio Tuesday that as president they would threaten to withdraw from NAFTA unless it was renegotiated to strengthen labor and environmental standards.

Update: Speaking in Hanging Rock, Ohio, on Thursday, Clinton responded to Bush's criticisms: "I find that highly ironic, since President Bush has turned a blind eye to all of the actions by China and others who dump steel into Ohio, hurting Ohio workers and the Ohio economy, and has also failed to act in the face of other imports like lead-based toys and contaminated pet food and so much else that really requires a president to step in and protect the interests of American workers and consumers."

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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