It likely will not make a difference in the outcome of today’s presidential election, but WikiLeaks offered more evidence Tuesday that even campaign staff for Democrat Hillary Clinton couldn’t follow her shifting position on trade.
Clinton had studiously avoided taking a public position on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, which her Democratic primary opponents had been bashing with gusto. On June 14 of last year, at a campaign rally in Iowa, she dipped her toe in the water.
“I want to make sure this isn’t interpreted as supporting TPP. I assume O’Malley and Sanders will characterize her remarks as support.”
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“I kind of fall in the group that says, ‘What’s in it?’ And, ‘Let’s make it as good as it can be, and then let’s make a decision,'” she said.
Clinton’s campaign advisers figured — correctly — that Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley would argue that her position was inadequate.
In an email with the subject line, “Should we make sure to frame her TPP position to reporters?” campaign manager Robby Mook wrote: “I want to make sure this isn’t interpreted as supporting TPP. I assume O’Malley and Sanders will characterize her remarks as support.”
Christina Reynolds, deputy communications director for the campaign, assured Mook that reporters on Twitter were “framing it as embracing Pelosi more, moving away from Obama.”
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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had come out the previous Friday against giving the president fast-track negotiating authority for the 12-nation trade pact. That bill ultimately passed, largely with Republican support — but Congress has not taken up the deal itself.
Reynolds then included a sampling of tweets by journalists.
“Ok. I’m fine w[ith] that then,” Mook responded.
In her speech in Iowa that day, Clinton seemed to try to have it both ways on the issue.
“I have held my peace because I thought it was important for the Congress to have a full debate without thrusting presidential politics and candidates into it,” she said.
In an account of the speech, The Wall Street Journal quoted Sanders and several liberal activists as criticizing Clinton for not making her position clear.
WikiLeaks has shown how troubling nailing down Hillary’s trade position has been. In one email just before the campaign formally launched, Mook wrote that he could not “recall where we landed exactly on trade. Is she going to say she supports it?” Another email suggested that campaign Chairman John Podesta wanted to “dodge” the issue.
An email contained the text of a paid, closed-door speech that Clinton gave after finishing her stint as secretary of state. She told her audience that she dreamed of “open trade and open borders” throughout the Western Hemisphere.
It would not be until October before Clinton, bowing to political reality, officially declared her opposition to the TPP.