Clinton Joins Dems Against Trade Deal 10/08 06:33
Hillary Rodham Clinton has joined her Democratic presidential rivals in
opposing President Barack Obama's Pacific trade deal, delivering a major blow
to a Democratic president as she works to court her party's liberal base.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Hillary Rodham Clinton has joined her Democratic
presidential rivals in opposing President Barack Obama's Pacific trade deal,
delivering a major blow to a Democratic president as she works to court her
party's liberal base.
The now-united opposition from the Democratic presidential field leaves
Obama in the uncomfortable position of watching a Democratic presidential
debate next week in which none of the major candidates is willing to defend a
deal that the White House sees as a key piece of his presidential legacy. The
Trans-Pacific Partnership trade accord has enraged the labor unions,
environmentalists and other liberal constituencies whose support is crucial in
the Democratic primary contest.
Yet Clinton's position marks a sharp reversal from a deal she backed as the
Obama administration's top diplomat as she works to appeal to skeptical
"I appreciate the hard work that President Obama and his team put into this
process and recognize the strides they made," Clinton said in a statement. "But
the bar here is very high and, based on what I have seen, I don't believe this
agreement has met it."
Clinton promoted the deal in dozens of appearances as secretary of state
during Obama's first term in office --- a turnaround that was not lost on her
"Secretary Clinton can justify her own reversal of opinion on this but I can
tell you that I didn't have one opinion eight months ago and then switch that
opinion on the eve of debates," said Clinton's presidential rival, former
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.
Clinton's support for trade deals has seemed to fluctuate with the political
As first lady, she trumpeted the North American deal brokered by her
husband, telling unionized garment workers in 1996 that the agreement was
"proving its worth."
Her support for trade pacts began softening during her time as a New York
senator, when she voted for trade agreements with Chile, Singapore, Oman, and
Morocco but opposed the Central American Free Trade Agreement.
In a November 2007 presidential debate, Clinton described the North American
agreement, with Canada and Mexico, as "a mistake" and called for a "trade
In that vein, she said she opposed then-pending trade agreements with Korea,
Columbia, and Panama. But fast-forward to July 2011 when, as secretary of
state, she described those three deals as "critical to our economic recovery."
She also repeatedly lent her support to the Pacific trade initiative being
pushed by Obama, at that time, describing the deal during a 2012 trip to
Australia as the "gold standard in trade agreements."
Clinton aides know she must tread lightly when it comes to criticizing
Obama, given that much of her strategy relies on the still-loyal coalition of
African-Americans, Latinos, women and younger voters that twice elected Obama.
But at the same time, they say she must find ways to distinguish herself ---
and undercut Republican attacks that Clinton would simply provide a third Obama
But the White House doesn't deny that Clinton's new distance has sometimes
created awkwardness for the president. The Clinton campaign gave White House
aides a heads up Wednesday before she made the comments, according to a White
House official who would not be named discussing the private conversation.