David Sirota: Hillary Clinton Is Running Away from Her “Free Trade” Record

By David Sirota, a best-selling author of the new book “Back to Our Future: How the 1980s Explain the World We Live In Now.” He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado. E-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com. Originally published at Alternet

In her quest for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton has lately promoted herself as a populist defender of the middle class. To that end, she attempted to distance herself last week from a controversial 12-nation trade deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would set the rules of commerce for roughly 40 percent of the world’s economy.

As with similar business-backed trade pacts, labor unions, environmental groups and public health organizations are warning that the deal could result in job losses, reduced environmental standards, higher prices for medicine and more power for corporations looking to overturn public interest laws. And so, in her quest for Democratic primary votes, Clinton is suddenly trying to cast herself as a critic of the initiative.

“I did not work on TPP,” she said after a meeting with leaders of labor unions who oppose the pact. “I advocated for a multinational trade agreement that would ‘be the gold standard.’ But that was the responsibility of the United States Trade Representative.”

The trouble, of course, is that Clinton’s declaration does not square with the facts.

CNN has reported that during her tenure as U.S. secretary of state, Clinton publicly promoted the pact 45 separate times. At a congressional hearing in 2011, Clinton told lawmakers that “with respect to the TPP, although the State Department does not have the lead on this — it is the United States Trade Representative — we work closely with the USTR.” Additionally, secret State Department cables published by the website WikiLeaks show that her agency — including her top aides — were deeply involved in the diplomatic deliberations over the trade deal.

In a series of cables in late 2009 and 2010, State Department officials outlined their extensive discussions about the pact with government officials from New Zealand. At one point, State Department officials in that country requested an additional employee to specifically “allow the Economics Officer to focus on preparations for Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations.”

Similarly, a September 2009 cable detailed Clinton’s Deputy Secretary of State, James Steinberg, specifically discussing the TPP with Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister. In a November 2009 cable, the U.S. embassy in Tokyo detailed TPP discussions between Japanese government officials and Robert Hormats, a former Goldman Sachs executive who was then serving as Clinton’s undersecretary of state. In a December 2009 cable, State Department officials in Hanoi reported that the U.S. Ambassador “hosted a dinner on December 21 for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement country representatives.” The cable thanked the Clinton-run State Department for providing “regular updates” that “have been key to helping us answer the many TPP-related inquiries we receive.”

Meanwhile, in a January 2010 cable, State Department embassy officials in Kuala Lumpur advised Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis on strategies to negotiate the TPP with the Malaysian government.

The involvement of the Clinton-led State Department in the TPP is hardly surprising: In June, CBS News reported that “a senior administration official told CBS News Correspondent Julianna Goldman that Clinton was one of the biggest backers of TPP.” In a Bloomberg News interview that same month, President Obama’s National Security Adviser Susan Rice disputed the idea that Clinton was not involved in the TPP.

“She was integrally involved in all of the major initiatives of the first term of the administration,” said Rice, who served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations when Clinton was Secretary of State. “She was instrumental in formulating and implementing the rebalance to Asia, of which the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a part.”

Considering all the evidence, Clinton nonetheless pretending she had nothing to do with TPP is clearly a strategic calculation: She is betting that few voters will notice the gap between her rhetoric and her own record. It is certainly a cynical tactic. Time will tell if it is a politically shrewd one.

Comments enabled at the request of the author

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. davidly

    I seriously doubt that Clinton will sink or swim because of any of her stated opinions twixt now and the nomination. If the DLC (the PTB or whoever) decides the disgust-factor among the electorate is too high, then somebody else will get the nod. People vote how they are told; a look at the list of US presidents alone should prove that, otherwise it might be instructive to more closely examine the history of the primary process. Horse race indeed. The narrative for the current president was being written for the people to react to, not the other way around.

    Anyway, this trade deal comes down to the acquiescence of some ostensible leaders of other countries, I suppose, but in the US, whether it’s Jeb or Joe, or Rand-y or Rubio… be it the Don or the Hills that has the ayes, it’s a done deal. It might even be one of the current president’s last signatures — other than to pardon a few financial war criminals.

    1. Oregoncharles

      Apparently Trump is against the trade pacts – and for single payer, at least recently.

      Despite his personal offensiveness and bizarre comments on immigration, he’s arguably to the LEFT of the national Democrats.

      A Trump/Sanders contest would be really fun, wouldn’t it? since we no longer believe it matters.

      1. craazyboy

        Trump did explain his immigration comments during the debates, in his usual blowhard style. He says he met with border patrol officials and was told by them the Mexican government was shipping criminals across the border to avoid jail costs in Mexico. But Trump didn’t say how he or anyone verified this “information”.

        Probably nothing to worry about anyway. In the early years of America, Europe would empty out their jails and put ’em on a boat. It’s what helped make America great.

        He also backed off his “single payer” support. But then said he had a different plan.

      2. davidly

        It’d be entertaining for sure, but we know it ain’t gonna happen. Somehow it doesn’t fit the natural narrative of history.

        On the other hand, assuming either one could reach that high office, neither would change the overall scheme: the Don wouldn’t be vetoing any trade deals and you can imagine what he’d have to say when the time came about why it’s different, and any kind of bankster reform achieved by the Bernster would at most bolster populist support for a figurehead while the war profits continue to skyrocket. And there’s just no way in Hades that any kind of retooling to the ACA — let alone abolishment — can happen now that the mandates are flowing from the bottle to the corporate coffers (in spite of the crocodile protestations from the direction of the insurance industry).

        1. jrs

          I think what Trump can do by running is make the culture WORSE, even more so if he won the R nomination or the Presidency (unlikely I think) . And I DO mean culture (wait cue David Brooks, if he wasn’t a hack maybe he could write about this.) not economics etc.. Because I think economics will continue to get worse for the 99s, foreign policy will continue to drone bomb kids etc. certainly regardless of a Trump or Hillary or Jeb win. And yes the culture intertwines with economics but like I said that won’t be good regardless. But hateful twaddle can make the culture even worse than it would have been otherwise, even given all other factors.

  2. Praedor

    She’s in a tight spot. Obama has been a major force behind TPP and as part of her job as Sec State she pushed for it, now she had to try to get elected and TPP is not a voter winner. She could try to tweak the truth by saying she changed her mind on the trade deals and opposes them (and pisses off Obama who she will be seeking to get strong backing from), she could do what she’s doing and do what politicians do: lie her ass off. She’s doing the late in a way to try to not piss off Obama.

    She should have tweaked the truth and at least said she’s opposed to aspects of the deals: ISDS and the overly cozy Big Pharma language AT LEAST. Maybe it would be enough, though not for me.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I think changing her mind on 90’s Era trade deals might have flown in 2008 if she didn’t vote for a few as Senator, but she’s 67 not a naive kid and “free trade” isn’t new.

      The sentencing standards were so egregious and not couched in promises of international feel goods that she can’t get away from that either.

      I think there is room to change one’s mind, but there needs to be the appearance of a genuine change or results have to be produced. Short of shedding “Obama Plus” and denouncing Bill and her whole campaign staff and donors, she has no chance except for ignorance on the part of voters.

  3. Larry

    This is why Clinton could not beat Obama the first time around. Obama was a cipher with no record of long term malfeasance. Clinton has been in the national spotlight for long with such a long trail of dishonest behavior that she has no credibility with anyone outside of Democratic true believers. Nearly everything that comes out of Hillary’s mouth is a lie and shiftless, even that’s when she’s even capable of taking a position. Look at her stance on the Keystone pipeline. Hey, wait until I’m president, then I’ll tell you what I think.

    1. optimader

      she has no credibility with anyone outside of Democratic true believers
      And so her position on TPP is irrelevant when it time to vote.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Not necessarily, TPP became an issue which motivated petitions and phone calls. This may not seem like a big deal, but it gives ownership of the issue to people. Hillary’s support or even waffling on TPP is a reach rock bottom place for TPP opponents. Hillary’s help was needed, and she showed her true face.

  4. Sam adams

    In a nutshell this explains H.Clinton’s dilemma: acknowledge her role in destroying the middle class voter or deny her role in these trade deals and be labeled untrustworthy.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      My belief is Hillary was given a chance to control the narrative, but she announced her “tea with the commoners” strategy instead of a coronation when voters are expecting a candidate of Hillary’s stature and resources (she’s been out of work for three years now, so she has the time) who has been running for President since 1998 to have a vision for the country beyond she’s doin’ it for her grandmother, a woman, who would be very proud of her.

      Hillary didn’t speak and didn’t seem to grasp her record would speak for herself.

  5. Pelham

    The Clinton scorecard: Pro-free trade, pro-immigration, pro-ACA. Credibility near zero.

    The Trump scorecard: Anti-free trade, anti-immigration, anti-ACA but pro-single payer. Credibility unknown.

    Advantage Trump.

  6. Sluggeaux

    she has no chance except for ignorance on the part of voters

    And hoping that most of them walk away, discouraged by all the “After Citizens United it’s just an oligarchy, so your vote doesn’t count!” talk by Party tambourine-bashers.

    This is more of that classic “I didn’t inhale” prevarication so typical of Hill and Bill’s generational cohort (not just the Dems; that dry drunk occupying the White House from 2001-2008 was the worst of the lot).

  7. tegnost

    Funny how no one wants to own the TPP, I even saw an article recently claiming something along the lines of big business didn’t really want tpp they were just going along to get along but I can’t find it now…figured it was just a smoke screen to get people to focus on something…anything…, else but all told it’s a sign of weakness.

      1. Vatch

        Good point. The flailing TPP campaign got them Trade Promotion Authority, which will help them get TTIP and TiSA passed.

        1. craazyboy

          Plus it’s easy to get US & Euro Pharma companies to agree 30 year drug patents are a great trade idea.

  8. unique 201

    Obama has too much on Hillary Clinton. She must do as Obama tells her to do.
    Hillary is not in a good spot with her personal assistant Huma Abedin and her
    mother, both of whom are members of the Muslim Sisterhood and whose father
    is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Nothing that Hillary has ever done has
    been done for the Middle Class. Hillary only does for herself, her family and now
    her Foundation. As Secretary of State why would she think it would be alright to
    take donations from countries and people all over the world for her Clinton Foundation.
    Even Donald Trump as a Businessman donated to the Foundation so Hillary would
    do what he wanted her to do when he wanted her to it.

  9. MBm

    The comments about Hillary Clinton bring to mind a statement Dick Nixon made to the press when he lost the California race for governor in 1962 “Just think of what you’re going to be missing. You won’t have Nixon to kick around any more…”
    What will you do when you don’t have HC to kick around any more?
    The level and mentality of some of the comments is positively jaw dropping.

    1. hidflect

      We’ll find the next worst mendacious, lying, ethics-free scumbag to kick in the head. There’s no limit to the supply.

          1. craazyboy

            Marco Rubio may be old enough by then. The upside being maybe they will finally let us move to Cuba.

    2. Ian

      I think the comments are much more about an appropriate context on which to view Hillary. They can get nasty, but she’s earned it, along with many others. If you ain’t pissed of about what is being done and has been done, you are either corrupt, beaten down/given up or just plain delusional about the realities we face.

    3. Jerry Denim

      First of all if you’re out to defend Hillary Clinton you may not want to compare her to Richard Nixon. Nixon’s legacy has not aged well in the forty plus years since he abdicated the White House in disgrace. Nixon is widely regarded as overly consumed with politics as opposed to governing, and being petty, paranoid, power-mad, prone to vendettas, Machiavellian and an outright crook.

      Concerning the “jaw dropping” comments, perhaps you may wish to refute some of them with concrete examples or information to the contrary. What exactly do you consider unfair? Facts please.

        1. different clue

          I remember hearing recently on a radio show about the meaning of yet more of Nixon’s released tapes that Nixon always viewed the Environmental Movement as a left wing plot to undermine America’s economy. I wish I could remember the name and time of the show.
          The speaker claimed that Nixon signed the EPA act to avoid the embarrassment of having his veto overridden, and for no other reason.

      1. Ensign Nemo

        Hillary wiped her server after she realized that Congress was gong to subpoena her records about the murder of our ambassador in Libya.

        Nixon didn’t just burn the Watergate tapes, even he wasn’t quite arrogant enough to simply destroy the evidence of his guilt.

        Hillary actually served on the staff of the Watergate investigators. She learned the wrong lessons from Watergate.

        She has out-Nixoned Nixon.

      2. GuyFawkesLives

        Nixon’s wrong-doing felonious behavior has been trifled by the massive criminal behavior of our elected officials these days.

    4. jrs

      We should be so blessed.

      (yea, yea the system produces sociopaths but one less IS one less …)

  10. me

    She voted for every “free trade” bill but CAFTA. She spoke out against the South Korean deal and the Colombian deal when running in 2008 but then strongly pushed for the deals when at the State Department. Her record on trade is horrible and her economic proposals to this point are, at best, vague. Her top three donors, if I remember correctly, are banks, the fourth is a corporate law firm, the fifth is a bank. A few weeks ago she said she wanted to reform the economy to move it away from short term investment, which would in actuality be a move away from financialization. Almost immediately after she was in Chicago, accepting a boatload of money from the high frequency trader Raj Fernando. I don’t know who believes Clinton on this stuff, especially after Obama. At some point I stop believing people are deceiving themselves or don’t know better.

  11. tdraicer

    Ah, Clinton Derangement Syndrome in action,a disease of both Right and Left, which gave us the disaster of Obama over Hillary in 2008. But to state some obvious points:

    Hillary as Secretary of State represented the positions of the President, not her own.

    Unlike myself, and a majority of Democratic primary voters in 2008, Sirota fell for Obama, something he later had cause to regret. That Hillary was the more progressive choice in 2008 should have been obvious (it was to some-see Krugman), except for sexism, CDS, and the desire to see electing Obama as the culmination of the Civil Rights era (when it was nothing of the sort). But like most Obama dupes, he can’t simply admit he got it wrong, and so has to continuously strive to prove that Hillary would have been worse. Too bad the evidences doesn’t support him.

    4. But people change, Hillary my well have learned the wrong lessons from Obama’s “victory,” and if nothing else Bernie (who I may vote for; my genuine admiration for Hillary doesn’t mean I’ve decided she is the best candidate this time round) is hopefully reminding Hillary of why she beat Obama in the actual voting.

    5. Times also change. Unfortunately any Democrat in 2017 is almost certainly going to face a GOP Congress, or at least a GOP House, severely limiting what can be accomplished. The lost opportunity of 2008, thanks to people like Sirota, will not come again anytime soon.

    1. Lambert Strether

      Clinton said: “I did not work on TPP.” As it turns out, that’s not true. The fact that she worked on TPP at Obama’s direction is not germane to her claim. I don’t read this post as CDS, therefore; and I supported Clinton, in 2008.

    2. Me

      Clinton derangement syndrome? I am so sick of Democratic Party talking points and bumper stickers. So, she and her husband have kind of admitted to the disaster that is NAFTA. How could they not at this point? Well, did that stop her from supporting every free trade bill but CAFTA? Did that stop her from supporting the South Korean and Colombian free trade deals, strongly, once at the State Department? It wasn’t like she gave the type of language you see when politicians don’t agree with something but feel they have to do it because of their jobs. She was fully supportive of those deals (and take a look at the data regarding our trade balance with South Korea since) and used very strong language when pushing for them.

      Most of her top donors are banks and other huge corporations. Here, take a look. Seen this movie before?


      How in the world have you people not learned anything after her husband’s and Obama’s administration? NAFTA, the WTO, the TPP (bye bye!), the three free trade deals under Obama, the push by her husband to privatize Social Security, the “welfare reform”, the radical deregulation of finance under his watch, the push under Obama to privatize public education, the TVA, water systems, on and on and on. Nothing ever changes, election after election, nothing changes. Things continue to get worse and we continue to have no viable alternative electorally.

      Two-thirds of the people who could have voted in the last election didn’t. Those considering themselves as “independent” is the highest in polling history. Maybe ask yourself why. Why do people not bother voting, increasingly not identify with either party and (according to polls) are spitting angry at the system itself?

  12. David Mills

    You are debating the minutiae without addressing the rotting rhinoceros corpse under the throw rug. She’s corrupt (and I live in Malaysia, so I know what that is). Hillary and Bill have been that way since (but not limited to): Cattle futures trading, the Rose Law firm, ADFA, Marc Rich (and Glencore), Uranium deals, directorships for Chelsea, shakedown/pay-to-play speeches, etal ad nauseum. The Clinton Global Initiative is just another in a long string of grifts for them. Sanders has been gentlemanly, knowing that may have to work with them in the future, has not brought any of this up. I wonder if Bernie will barf in his mouth a little if he has to endorse Hillary. It still boggles the mind how this persists, they are coated with more teflon than Gotti (and have a higher body count).

    So now that my spleen is fully vented, have at me.

    1. davidly

      Couldn’t agree more re. the Initiative, etc.

      The presumptive “Bernie re-ingesting his regurgitation” scenario is reminiscent of the “holding one’s nose despite one’s vote” boilerplate that passes for democracy, or the “What would you have him do!?!?” protests heard to defend whenever a prominent Democrat does bad things (at least just prior to their suddenly supporting the previously bad thing).

      That we already know that Sanders inclusion in the process will not force any change in the status quo, that Clinton can concede his stated issues to him along the way — and count on co-opting them at convention time to drowning peeps from the Bernie faithful — displays in full color where both their breads are buttered, and that the only thing that makes Sanders a socialist is that he’s contending for a smaller slice that he’ll be eating himself, with or without the proverbial vomit.

  13. TG

    Hillary Clinton talks like Eleanor Roosevelt, but she walks like Marie Antoinnete. ‘The poor, they have no bread? Say we care and let them starve! Vote for me I’ll be the first woman president!’

    Hillary is a Potemkin liberal, like Barack Obama – a stage set of two-dimensional building fronts behind which are only a few struts and technicians manning the lights. It’s astonishing how much the corporate press only reports on her utterly-divorced-from-reality fantasy position papers and so little on her contemptable record…

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I suggest reading Eleanor directly. They are both women and former first ladies. Their husbands had affairs; although given the nature of the Roosevelt marriage, it’s more understandable. FDR wasn’t preying on interns.

      The similarities end there. Hillary championed warehousing. Eleanor quit the DAR over its racist policies. Their stated morality is a vast chasm. Going back to 93, Hillary is more tolerable. That’s about it.

    2. jrs

      I wonder if she isn’t supported by the same people who supported Obama and if the Dem base at this point hasn’t attracted itself an awful large following of people who 20 years ago would have been Republicans. Even the Dem base at this point may be mostly conservatives, who like to call themselves liberals, because it makes them feel good I guess (and liberalism is not very left, but I’m saying the base isn’t even liberal).

Comments are closed.