Friday, October 16, 2015


“[It] would link markets throughout Asia and the Americas, lowering trade barriers while raising standards on labor, the environment, and intellectual property. As President Obama explained, the goal of the TPP negotiations is to establish ‘a high standard, enforceable, meaningful trade agreement’ that ‘is going to be incredibly powerful for American companies who, up until this point, have often been locked out of those markets.’ It was also important for American workers, who would benefit from competing on a more level playing field. And it was a strategic initiative that would strengthen the position of the United States in Asia… 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.”
—Hillary Clinton, Hard Choices, 2014

“So for the larger issues and then what I know, and again, 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.”
—Clinton, in an October 7 PBS interview

“It was just finally negotiated last week, and in looking at it, it didn’t meet my standards—my standards for more new, good jobs for Americans.”
—Clinton, at the presidential debate on Tuesday
As far as I can see, the big winner in Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate was Carly Fiorina.

Why would I say that? Because after Tuesday it became pretty clear that the Democrats have no viable candidate other than Hillary Clinton. The other guys on the stage were not ready for prime time—even Bernie Sanders, whose following is very real and very sincere and very much a minority. And Clinton did well enough that it is increasingly unlikely that Joe Biden would get into the race. So, barring an unlikely event, like a health crisis or an indictment, it looks as though Clinton will get her coronation.

It is worth pondering why such a diverse political party, which is the nation’s largest, can produce only a single viable candidate. The short answer, as far as I can see, is that Democrats have fallen back into old party machine habits. As a result, they do not have as much competition in the marketplace of the ideas. On the positive side, however, they don’t have as much chaos or dissension as the Republicans.

So why is this good news for Ms. Fiorina? Well, because the Democrats are likely to nominate someone who could become the country’s first female president, there will be a strong temptation to put the former Hewlett-Packard CEO on the GOP ticket. Probably not as the presidential nominee, but she would be a very good bet for the vice-presidential slot. Does that seem cynical? Well, we are talking about politicians, aren’t we? But don’t wager any of your own hard-earned money on my say-so. I have a very bad track record of making political predictions. And, for what it’s worth, this particular one assumes that Donald Trump will not be the Republican nominee, since no one would want a ticket consisting of two CEOs.

What kind of president would Clinton be? Probably a pretty good one, but that is based more on her history than on anything she is currently saying. The problem she has to deal with in the next twelve and a half months is that there no particular reason for anybody to believe anything she says. No, I’m not talking about her email server—although pretty much everything she has ever said on that subject has been demonstrably false. I’m talking about things that really matter, like the economy.

Does anybody really believe that, once elected, she would not do whatever was necessary to implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement or its equivalent? And that would be the right thing to do. Free trade is in the world’s interest in general and definitely in America’s interest in the long run. And she was actually involved in negotiating this particular agreement. So her current stance of being against it is not credible. In the debate she said, “in looking at it” she found it wanting. The thing is, though, no one outside of the Obama administration has actually seen it yet—not even her, according to the White House. So she just pretended that she had seen it—just like she pretended in the debate that she had previously “hoped” that it would meet her standards instead of actually having said that it did meet her standards.

Never mind that her current position is a stunning indictment of the competence of the Obama administration—and, by implication, even of herself—but it makes her look like someone who will say anything to get the nomination. Can we look forward to a series of reversals of her reversals once she has clinched the nomination and has to start appealing beyond Democratic constituencies?

In the debate, she countered Bernie Sanders’s populist anti-Wall Street position by noting that, as a senator, she represented Wall Street and that she roundly chewed them out and told them that they had to behave better. Does anybody actually believe that? The Clintons have more friends on Wall Street than anyone. When she talks about reining them in, they surely know to take her no more seriously than, say, gay rights activists took Barack Obama two election cycles ago when he swore that in his heart he believed that marriage should be between a man and a woman.

Does that mean she won’t get elected in the end? No, it probably means she will. But it is really all up to the Republicans and whether they nominate someone who is crazy—no matter how much of a straight talker he might seem to be.

Another interesting question raised by the debate is whether Democrats have written off ever winning the House of Representatives (or, for that matter, a majority of state offices) again. After all, in recent history the party was only successful in gaining that house of Congress after they decided to deemphasize the gun control issue. Yet another good question is whether the days of cross-over voting are well and truly over. Clinton must think so anyway. Otherwise, she might not have answered Anderson Cooper’s question about what enemy she was most proud of making by saying, “Well, in addition to the NRA, the health insurance companies, the drug companies, the Iranians; probably the Republicans.”

We certainly have come a long way since a newly elected senator once said in a 2004 Democratic convention keynote address, “[T]here is not a liberal America and a conservative America—there is the United States of America.”

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