The putative next president of the United States has been trying recently to seem more approachable, more warm, more friendly, more of a kind-of-person-you-and-I-would-want-to-have-a-beer-with kind of politician. Presumably, achieving all of this would cause the rest of us to want to give her the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
But when one looks beyond the charm offensive, one continues to find little charm, and much that is offensive.
Consider first Hillary Clinton’s sudden decision to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a long overdue effort on the part of the Obama administration to liberalize free trade, and bring greater prosperity to the United States and to the rest of the world. As Chris Cillizza writes, “[h]er flip flop seems largely the result of political calculation; Bernie Sanders, the liberal alternative to Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary, has long been opposed to the deal.” But Clinton herself admits that she hasn’t even looked at the agreement, saying “I don’t have the text, we don’t yet have all the details, I don’t believe it’s going to meet the high bar I have set.” The translation for this is, of course, “I haven’t the slightest clue what I am talking about, but Bernie Sanders has suddenly gone from being a joke to being a threat, so I know what position I must take.” Judy Woodruff, who cuts through this nonsense, makes the following salient points in questioning Clinton:
But just quickly, if this agreement is rejected, Asia experts are saying this is going to influence — it’s going to decrease the influence of the U.S. in Asia, it is going to give a boost to China, which is trying to become more dominant, and doesn’t it conflict with your pivot to Asia when you were secretary of state?
The clear answer is “yes,” but all we get from Clinton is blather about creating “middle-class jobs,” as though we cannot both cut good trade deals, and create “middle-class jobs.”
Daniel Drezner tells us that Clinton has come out against the Trans-Pacific Partnership “[b]ecause . . . um . . . reasons,” which is about the best way to summarize Clinton’s utterly incoherent and poll-driven decision. He adds:
Now, sure, the mainstream media is going to point out the 45 times that Clinton as secretary of state supported the TPP. And they’re going to point out that the agreement will bolster the U.S. pivot to East Asia, which was a key part of Clinton’s rebalancing strategy, which was one of her biggest accomplishments as secretary of state. And they’re going to point out that the objection she voiced about drug companies seems way off base:
[T]he final version of the TPP wound up being less friendly to big drug companies than the version US negotiators proposed. If Clinton was concerned about the TPP being too friendly to big drug companies, the final version should have made her more, not less, comfortable, than the “gold standard” version she once praised.
But, to be fair, Clinton is right that the TPP does not cover currency manipulation. And to be fair, she laid down this marker on the TPP six whole months ago. Never mind that no U.S. trade deal was ever going to cover currency manipulation because it would restrict U.S. monetary policy. Never mind that in the four years Clinton was secretary of state she never once brought up currency manipulation as something that should be tackled under the auspices of the TPP.
As Drezner writes, the TPP doesn’t propose to solve a lot of problems; among other things, it doesn’t provide us with “a cure for cancer.” But it does actually accomplish a great deal. Alas, it is currently being monumentally misrepresented by Clinton in the course of a desperate effort to move as far left as possible, as quickly as possible. And it is worth noting–as Drezner does–that in Clinton’s own memoirs–which are otherwise vapid–we find the following passage:
It’s safe to say that the TPP won’t be perfect — no deal negotiated among a dozen countries ever will be — but its higher standards, if implemented and enforced, should benefit American businesses and workers.
Too bad that particular version of Hillary Clinton is not running for president. It would be an improvement over the current version.
A few weeks ago, a poll asked people what were the first words that they thought of when they heard the names of the various presidential candidates. For Hillary Clinton, “liar” and “untrustworthy” ranked high. Many commentators saw this result as a problem for her.
I bring this up now because Clinton just came out against the TPP trade deal, even though the Obama administration strongly favors it and Clinton previously favored it. I don’t know of any poll of economists on TPP, but an overwhelming majority of the profession agrees that “Past major trade deals have benefited most Americans.” I would guess that TPP would also poll well among economists. FYI, here is CEA chair Jason Furman singing the praises of TPP, and here is an open letter from a sizeable group of past CEA chairs.
Mankiw believes that economists don’t believe what Clinton is saying, and that she will reverse her position on the TPP if and when she gets to the White House; he tells us that economists “are counting on her to be untrustworthy. If they had reason to doubt her mendacity, then they would start to worry.” That quote alone speaks volumes about the putative next president of the United States, and what it says ought to worry the rest of us a great deal.
Here is something else that ought to worry us: Hillary Clinton doesn’t seem to have the slightest idea why she wants to be president of the United States. And neither does her campaign:
. . . the fact that Clinton and her army of advisers is seemingly unable to come up with a rationale for her campaign that can be easily summarized for voters is an indication of the criticism that many of have leveled against her campaign since it started in April. . . . In the end . . . this still leaves Clinton campaign in the same position it was in during the 2008 campaign, with confusion about what her message is and why exactly she wants to be President.
Presumably, the Clinton campaign believes that this brand of intellectual chaos is supposed to be appealing to voters.
LGBT voters, if having a president of the United States who will stand up for, and protect your rights is important to you, Hillary Clinton is not your candidate:
. . . Clinton only came out for marriage equality in 2013, in what the Economist dubbed a “farcically late conversion.” Even then, she seemed to endorse the Dick Cheney position that states should be allowed to decide whether or not to deprive gay people of their fundamental right to wed. A painful interview with NPR’s Terry Gross only aggravated matters, as Clinton tried to claim that a federal gay marriage ban somehow granted states the right to recognize same-sex unions. (The act, signed into law by her husband, actually impeded states’ efforts to legalize gay marriage, which the Supreme Court recognized when striking it down.)
Since then, Clinton has polished her LGBT message—but not to everyone’s satisfaction. Many of her gay donors are frustrated with her perceived lack of enthusiasm about LGBT rights. She supported the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling—but declined to explain why she suddenly believes marriage is a constitutional right and not an issue for the states. In July, Clinton endorsed the federal Equality Act, a sweeping LGBT nondiscrimination law. But then, in September, the Washington Free Beacon published a damning story alleging that, in 2000, then-President Bill Clinton questioned his wife’s commitment to gay rights. (Hillary, Bill reportedly told the historian Taylor Branch, found gay rights “harder to swallow” and experienced “discomfort” around “gay people who were kind of acting out.”)
Voters concerned about having a president of the United States who actually respects norms and procedures that are designed to safeguard the national security of the United States, should know that Hillary Clinton is not their candidate:
With her poll numbers declining and controversies over her private email account mounting, Hillary Clinton may be apologetic, but on Meet the Press on Sunday, Clinton again displayed a sense of indifference towards the scandal.
The former Secretary of State again acknowledged that using a private email account was a mistake, but then went on to dismiss new revelations that showed discrepancies about her public statement on the matter.
“[O]f course I take responsibility. It was my choice. It was a mistake back when I did it. And I’m trying to do the best I can to answer all of the questions that people have,” Clinton said to Chuck Todd. But she quickly undercut it by speaking with a sense of utter nonchalance.
“Whatever happened to them, happened to them,” she said about the work emails she apparently hadn’t turned over to the State Department, despite assurances that she had turned over all work emails. And as for why the Defense Department found private emails between her and a top general in January and March of 2009 when she previously said she began using her private account in mid-March 2009, she said she “wasn’t that focused” on the matter back then.
And even as his wife was trying to apologize for the scandal, Bill Clinton was undercutting the apology by dismissing the story entirely. “I have never seen so much expended on so little,” the former president said in a CNN interview to air Sunday.
Finally, it really does say something about how bereft Clinton’s campaign is of serious ideas that some of her fervent supporters are concocting the most ridiculous methods with which to try to convince the rest of us that Clinton would be a good president. To be sure, the fervent supporter we are discussing in this case is Matthew Yglesias, also known as The Person Who Is Wrong about Everything, but still, if one is looking for intellectually defensible reasons to support Hillary Clinton for president, Yglesias’s attempt to drum up respect–if not outright support–does not reassure. And of course, when George W. Bush was in office, people like Yglesias weren’t writing paeans to strong presidential leadership that completely bypassed the constitutional process. Rather, people like Yglesias were writing about the supposed dangers of the “unitary executive theory,” which was how the Bush administration was allegedly going to bring fascism to the United States.