Reporting on yesterday’s events on Capitol Hill, the New York Times notes: “It is not easy to draw a straight line from the slumping economy to the war in Iraq and a trade deal with Colombia, but Democrats are trying to connect those dots.” For liberals, the connection between Iraq and the economy is actually very clear — but not in the way they hope to communicate to the American people: on both issues the two remaining liberal presidential candidates are not being honest with the American people.

On trade, both campaigns have found their top advisers in big trouble. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was forced to adamantly deny that his economic adviser Austan Goolsbee met with Canadian officials to assure Canada that Obama would not unilaterally pull out of NAFTA. Hillary Clinton was forced to demote top strategist Mark Penn for promoting the Colombia Free Trade Agreement. Asked if Clinton and Obama are saying things about trade that they simply don’t believe, Progressive Policy Institute’s Will Marshall told Byron York: “I can’t say that. … I think it’s implausible that the next administration is going to try to renegotiate NAFTA. So let people draw their own conclusions.” The Los Angeles Times was less circumspect than Marshall:

Either Clinton and Barack Obama secretly favor free trade but are pandering to blue-collar voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania by pretending they don’t, or they actually believe their anti-trade rhetoric and simply employed campaign advisors who weren’t on the same page. It’s tough to figure out which is worse, but it will be even tougher for the candidates to escape from the corner they’ve painted themselves into if one of them ends up in the White House.

Honesty from Democratic candidates is even harder to come by when it comes to matters of war. On the plus side, both Obama and Clinton did admit yesterday that they were wrong in predicting six months ago that Gen. David Petraeus’ surge would not reduce violence. Unfortunately, the straight talk ends there. When then-Obama foreign policy adviser Samantha Power told the BBC that when it comes to Iraq, Europeans should “not rely on some plan that [Obama]’s crafted as a presidential candidate or a U.S. Senator,” she was quickly fired. More recently, a top Obama military adviser authored a paper calling for as many as 80,000 U.S. troops in Iraq through 2010. This position contrasts sharply with Obama’s promise to the American people to “immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months.”

The two most important issues to the American people this year are the economy and jobs and the war in Iraq. After documenting the gap between Democratic rhetoric and reality on Iraq and trade, the Washington Post wrote yesterday: “Voters are left to wonder, and to ponder which would be worse: that the candidates are sincere and misguided or are insincere and lacking the courage to speak honestly.” We agree 100%.

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