When I found out that Gary Locke was nominated to be Secretary of Commerce, I felt a weird sensation wash over me. With every APA blog post, every APIAA organization press release, and every APA podcast singing praises upon the Governor, my heart sunk. The reality is that I may be the only one in this small APA blogosphere who hesitates to happily welcome a third Asian American to President Obama’s cabinet–I’m so torn.

It’s a dilemma because in truth, I am actually happy that Governor Locke may become the nation’s second APA Secretary of Commerce. He was a solid Governor of the State of Washington and a committed social progressive. Governor Locke is also committed to his APA roots–from his 1997 speech to the AAJA:

“And we have to remember that America belongs to all of us – not just to those whose families have been here longest, or to those who have connections, or to those who never suffered the indignity of slavery, exclusion, or defeat.”

I also have no problems with a Governor who worked within the constraints of a Republican “no new taxes” policy as a centrist.

I may have a problem with the Governor’s response to George W. Bush’s State of the Union address when he enthusiastically connects Saddam Hussein to WMD’s, but I see a role model in someone who can say:

“We will fight to protect a woman’s right to choose and we will fight for affirmative action, equal opportunity and diversity in our schools and our workplaces. Above all, we will demand that this government advance our common purpose and not pander to narrow special interests.”

on national TV.

So where’s the beef?

It comes down to this: Like President Obama, Governor Gary Locke supports free trade.

As a card carrying member of the DLC, Governor Locke’s trade policies fall firmly in line with the status quo. The Wall Street Journal (ugh) profiles Locke as a supporter of NAFTA and China’s entry into the WTO.

Why is this a problem? A 4-point answer.

The biggest problem is that the Office of the Secretary of Commerce is directly involved in executing the administration’s trade policies, which are no doubt those of the free trade kind.

I have great respect for Governor Locke’s character, work ethic, and progressive social agenda. Not to mention an incredible life story. I would have loved to see him as the Attorney General or a high-level member in the Justice Department. Maybe even as a Vice President. Hell, I would have donated triple the money I gave to Obama if it was Locke who was up against John McCain. (Although, Locke probably wouldn’t have my vote during the primaries, if I could vote in a Democratic Primary.)

But this is the reality of things. The bottom line in Progressives Trade Policies 101 is fair trade over free trade.

Governor Locke is a great APA. He’s surely no Elaine Chao. In fact, it’s probably a mistake for me to mention those two on the same line of text. But he’s not the one Progressives need in the Office of the Secretary of Commerce. Even though I, as an Asian American, desperately want him there.

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