May 23, 2016

Clinton’s Trade Flip-Flop Draws Friendly Fire From President Obama

This morning NPR took a look a Hillary Clinton‘s history of habitually changing her policy positions. 

One of Clinton’s most prominently “evolving” positions has been on free trade. As First Lady and Secretary of State, Clinton praised NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership respectively, yet each time Clinton has faced a competitive Democratic primary she flip-flops to oppose those deals.

Unfortunately for the former Secretary of State, Clinton’s flip-flop on TPP is drawing fresh scrutiny today with President Obama in Vietnam promoting the deal. Apparently Obama remembers that when Clinton wasn’t looking for votes from liberal Democratic primary voters she called TPP “the gold standard in trade agreements.”

Yet facing pressure from Sanders’ better-than-expected performance in the Democratic primary, Clinton came out against the finished TPP deal:

“‘What I know about it, as of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it,’ Clinton replied, making news after she had spent months refusing to take a position on TPP.”

For months Republicans have been pointing to Clinton’s TPP flip-flop as being solely motivated by politics, and now it seems President Obama agrees. Speaking at a press conference in Vietnam, Obama implicitly critiqued Clinton when he decried politicians that oppose TPP in order to “score political points”:

“President Obama called criticism of a Pacific trade deal ‘trying to score political points’ Monday, countering arguments that the hot-button Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would be bad for the United States. ‘I have not yet seen a credible argument that once we get TPP in place, we’re gonna be worse off. We’re demonstrably better off, American workers and American businesses are better off if we get this deal passed,’ Obama said at a press conference in Vietnam.”

Clinton has long wanted credit for the pivot to Asia. Yet by disavowing TPP, one of the central tenet of that policy, Clinton showed that nothing is sacred when it gets between her and political success. As the most prominent politician to flip-flip on TPP, Clinton’s actions shows the peril of being the say or do anything candidate.