As the U.S. election heats up, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is looking like a crime scene. Economists on both the right and left are investigating what's killing Washington's ambitious plan to show China who's boss in the Asia-Pacific region. Let's drop the suspense: No one whacked the TPP. Rather, America's biggest-ever trade deal is committing suicide.

The conventional wisdom is that Donald Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders have economic blood on their hands. Both presidential wannabes, the thinking goes, bowed to an anti-trade tsunami washing across America. So powerful is this populist wave that even Hillary Clinton, who once hawked the TPP as a top Cabinet member, now promises to scrap a deal President Barack Obama sees as pivotal to his Asian legacy.

But the likely death of the TPP bears the Obama administration's fingerprints and its demise would actually be a good thing.