Trade is yet another issue where Hilary has backtracked and hedged. Her husband has always been staunchly free trade and NAFTA was one his first term’s few successes. And yet when, Hillary was asked if Ross Perot was right in 1992 about NAFTA she made a bizarre joke about only remembering there being a lot of charts.
Forced to give a direct answer she offered this bundle of clarity: “NAFTA was a mistake to the extent that it did not deliver on what we had hoped it would.”
Here is another issue where Hillary is trapped between her desire to please the policy wonks in Washington who hail her as the “serious” candidate yet avoid angering key Democratic constituencies. The unions are vehemently opposed to free trade and are an important force in Iowa. So Hillary backtracks on one of her husband’s signature accomplishments and calls for a trade “timeout” – whatever that means. Never mind that she voted for the most recent trade agreement to come before Congress.
On social security she not only hedges but continues to lie about her husband’s record. She again claimed that the Clinton administration left office with the trust fund solvent until 2055. But in 2000 the trustees actually estimated the fund would be solvent until 2037 and under President Bush that date has been pushed back to 2041. Bush has added four years not erased fourteen.
Hillary Clinton may have stopped her political collapse at last night’s debate, but her campaign is still rooted in a fanciful nostalgia for her husband. And as the primary has heated up she continues to be evasive, flip flop and has largely abandoned the very policies that allowed her husband to achieve some measure of success.
Hillary slipped her politician mask back on last night in Las Vegas, but her liberal policies and careful avoidance of honest answers remain at the heart of her campaign.
The question is whether her opponents have the skill to use them against her.