Carefully Scripted Debate Answers Don’t Cut It, Part V


Okay, enough about the Republican debate, dammit. I need to finish this series on the Democratic debate.

Which noticeably would be incomplete without something on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP as it is widely known.

From Politifact:

Clinton at the debate:

I did say, when I was secretary of state, three years ago, that I hoped it would be the gold standard,” Clinton said. “It was just finally negotiated last week, and in looking at it, it didn’t meet my standards. My standards for more new, good jobs for Americans, for raising wages for Americans. And I want to make sure that I can look into the eyes of any middle-class American and say, ‘this will help raise your wages.’ And I concluded I could not.”

Clinton in 2012:

So it’s fair to say that our economies are entwined, and we need to keep upping our game both bilaterally and with partners across the region through agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP. Australia is a critical partner. This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field. And when negotiated, this agreement will cover 40 percent of the world’s total trade and build in strong protections for workers and the environment.

So, why the revisionist history? On the surface, it might seem that this was just a way to dress up a change in position as a non-change in position. After all, Hillary has already had to acknowledge a bunch of other position changes, so it would make sense to avoid adding to that count.

But there’s more to it than that. Changing your position on the Iraq War, for example, is relatively easy. You’re simply acknowledging an error of judgment. This one would be a different. a position change here would raise the question of whether the change was out of expedience and, perhaps worse, which position (support for TPP or opposition) reflected Hillary’s true feelings and which was taken out of expedience. Or whether both positions were driven by expedience.

In that regard, it seems that Hillary is threading the needle with her Democratic primary campaign positions, with the goal being to appear just progressive enough to thwart a Sanders candidacy, but not so much as to frighten her corporate, Wall Street and political establishment sponsors.

Compare the positions on TPP and the re-institution of Glass-Steagall. By the time January 20, 2017 rolls around, TPP will be a done deal. So, it’s okay to say it doesn’t “meet her standards,” because that leaves her the flexibility to say the next trade deal written by and for the benefit of corporate America does. You don’t see her bashing trade deals in general, do you?

The reinstitution of Glass-Steagall, however, is different. On January 20, 2017, it could be a live issue, as there’s already some Republican support for it. Which means it matters to the people who count in November 2016. Wall Street already is favoring the Republican candidates to Hillary. Her promise to re-institute Glass-Steagall would be deadly on this front. The bottom line: Hillary has to plan for the general (and her second term) on this issue, so she’ll let Sanders have a few votes.

The bottom line on TPP is that Hillary’s change in position itself is not troubling. Minds change. Thinking evolves. But this is a change of position that screams of political calculation, which leads us to wonder whether there exists any issue on which Hillary’s position is driven by her actual beliefs, as opposed to political calculation.

Previous posts in this series:

Carefully Scripted Debate Answers Don’t Cut It, Part I

Carefully Scripted Debate Answers Don’t Cut It, Part II

Carefully Scripted Debate Answers Don’t Cut It, Part III

Carefully Scripted Debate Answers Don’t Cut It, Part IV


  1. I have to wonder if… “which leads us to wonder whether there exists any issue on which Hillary’s position is driven by her actual belief…” she has EVER, or at least at any time in this presidential campaign, made any declaration that is based on deep-seated belief/conviction.

    By the way, Bob, have you read anything written by corporate anthropologist Jane Ann Morris?

    She’s written about related subjects:

    Gaveling Down the Rabble: How “Free Trade” is Stealing our Democracy has some intriguing insights on the Free Trade movement that dates back more than a century prior to NAFTA.

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