Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised eyebrows pretty much across the board on Wednesday.
In a PBS interview, the Democratic presidential front-runner announced that she opposes the landmark trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership “as of today.”
That statement not only amounted to a major break with President Barack Obama, whose administration staunchly supports the Pacific Rim trade deal.
It also constituted a major break with her own record.
As a member of the Obama administration, Clinton repeatedly boosted the deal. CNN once even tallied up 45 times Clinton pushed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, including when she called it a “gold standard in trade agreements.”
Clinton issued a lengthy statement explaining that she is “continuing to learn about the details” about the agreement. But the more she learned, the more reservations she said she had.
“I still believe in the goal of a strong and fair trade agreement in the Pacific as part of a broader strategy both at home and abroad, just as I did when I was secretary of state,” Clinton said.
“But the bar here is very high and, based on what I have seen,” she added. “I don’t believe this agreement has met it.”
However, critics on the left and right widely viewed Clinton’s new position on the deal as a cynical political play. Many of them pointed to the fact that Clinton is currently battling against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), a staunch opponent of the agreement, for the Democratic nomination.
Additionally, Vice President Joe Biden may soon enter the race — and Clinton’s announcement arguably positions her closer to the ideological consensus of their party.
Business Insider rounded up some of the reactions to Clinton’s policy shift below.
When the history of ’16 POTUS is written, Clinton’s flip-flop pander on TPP should loom large. So transparent it’s cringe-worthy.
— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) October 8, 2015
Clinton keeps taking positions that are…hard to believe.
Of late, Clinton is again looking like the kind of candidate who puts polls in front of policy.
[T]he argument here isn’t that there aren’t reasons to oppose the TPP, but that knowing Clinton’s record, her advisors, and her past comments about the deal, it’s hard to believe that Clinton really opposes the TPP deal.
Is anybody going to believe that she will actually oppose the treaty as president? Sure, she might slightly mollify some supporters in labour, who would like cover to support her candidacy even though they disagree on the agreement. But she will also do more damage to her overall credibility and reputation for conviction — which happens to be the biggest single problem she faces right now.
This is supposed to be the year when voters want authenticity in a candidate, but Hillary Clinton seems determined to test that proposition.
Perhaps Mrs. Clinton is anticipating Joe Biden getting into the race and wants to carve out space to his populist left. But she really must think voters are dunces.
Coming out against TPP has all the trappings of Clinton trying to placate labour and keep them from endorsing Sanders
— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) October 7, 2015
It’s clear that Clinton and her campaign made a simple calculation: The damage done by flip-flopping on TPP was less worrisome than the reverberations on the left — and among unions especially — if she supported the trade deal.
That’s a concession, whether the Clinton folks admit it or not, that they are more than a little concerned about Sanders. Fact.
BREAKING: Hillary Clinton opposes TPP trade deal, explaining “I’m running for President. I’ll support it again once I’m elected.”
— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) October 7, 2015
If the deal looked OK a year ago, it should still look OK today. Likewise, if it looks bad today, it should have looked bad a year ago. So what really changed? Bernie Sanders, most likely. Just as the Republican side of things has been buffeted by the Trump Effect, the Democratic race has been been influenced by the Bernie Effect — which is just what he wanted, since I don’t think he entered the race because he truly believed he had a chance to become president. He just wanted to move the conversation to the left, and he’s succeeded at that.
Anti-trade posturing by candidates is very often disingenuous, of course.
— Josh Barro (@jbarro) October 7, 2015
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