Hillary Clinton has a real conundrum on her hands. It’s her walking-on-eggs observation about the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership vote. The vote will be in tandem with another controversial trade deal with the European Union, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. TTIP is another secretive and offensive deal of little benefit to the average U.S. citizen.
For our purposes, the concentration will be on TPP. When you’re an announced candidate for the Democratic Party presidential primary, and when you’re a former first lady and U.S. Senator, and you’ve just come off a stint as Secretary of State, the political paparazzi is going to pressure you relentlessly on your TPP stand. Yea or nay, Hillary?
Balancing the progressive vote with giant special interest donors, is a Herculean task for Clinton. There’s also the question of possibly defying the president who has been beneficial to her political career after the hard fought 2008 presidential primary. He appointed her as Secretary of State, sheltered her from right-wing attacks and, if he leaves office with a modicum of popularity, could be an important factor in her campaign efforts.
So far, Politico and other sites, attribute to the candidate, the tepid TPP statement that “Whatever agreement is reached, it needs to protect American workers and have appropriate safeguards.” Not an endorsement, not a rejection. The issue is a building-to-building tightrope walk on a windy day.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, the non-candidate who continues to behave like a candidate, shows no such reticence on the subject. She, among other Congressional critics, drew the president’s ire in their renouncing of his support of TPP. He singled out Warren in this AP-reported statement, “I love Elizabeth. We’re allies on a whole host of issues. But she’s wrong on this.”
In leaving no doubt where she stands on TPP and by extension, TTIP, she hasn’t wavered from her Washington Post opinion page statements of February 25th of this year. She begins with a question: “Who will benefit from the TPP? American workers? Consumers? Small businesses? Taxpayers? Or the biggest multinational corporations in the world?”
She answers her own query with this pithy paragraph: “One strong hint is buried in the fine print of the closely guarded draft. The provision, an increasingly common feature of trade agreements, is called “Investor-State Dispute Settlement,” or ISDS. The name may sound mild, but don’t be fooled. Agreeing to ISDS in this enormous new treaty would tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty.
Compressing the opinion piece, this is her explanation of what would happen in a typical ISDS action: “Imagine that the United States bans a toxic chemical that is often added to gasoline because of its health and environmental consequences. If a foreign company that makes the toxic chemical opposes the law, it would normally have to challenge it in a U.S. court. But with ISDS, the company could skip the U.S. courts and go before an international panel of arbitrators. If the company won, the ruling couldn’t be challenged in U.S. courts, and the arbitration panel could require American taxpayers to cough up millions — and even billions — of dollars in damages.”
She pretty much limits her comments to ISDS, but there is no disguising the fact she hates TPP. And there’s a contrast with an informative, dare I say professorial, approach to the issue, as opposed to the generalized “protect workers and have appropriate safeguards.” On the other hand, the president’s enthusiastic support for fast-tracking these pacts, with no ability to change the wording, is stunning and disappointing.
Given the dearth of knowledge by the typical American of even the most important of issues that could negatively impact generations and beyond, support of TPP and TTIP probably won’t harm Hillary Clinton’s chances of becoming president. Not having to vote as an ex-senator, she may opt to continue to occupy middle ground.
Those who do have to declare for the record, Congressional Republicans and Democrats, most of whom will also be running for office next time around, want to vote on this thing ASAP, some 18 or 19 months removed from the 2016 election. Contrary to popular belief, the political elephant has a short memory, and even a smart donkey can occasionally be a forgetful ass.
TPP is the perfect platform to mark the sharp contrast between the two women. Warren doesn’t shape her statements politically. Conversely, Hillary’s public positions and comments are political palindromes. They read the same backward or forward. No matter how the media tilts them, they’re the same careful lettering as can be seen in her TPP quote.
Then there’s a January article on Warren and Clinton, written by The Atlantic’s David Frum, a former G.W. Bush speechwriter. Frum reveals that Warren is no fan of Hillary’s (he apparently isn’t either) as evidenced by this statement: “Warren has characterized Hillary Clinton herself as a conscienceless politician who betrayed her professed principles for campaign donations.” There’s more here. Methinks Frum doesn’t mind emphasizing the conflict in the least.
If Warren does an about face and announces, we could see a replication of the contentious Obama/Clinton 2008 primary dust-up. Such candidate battles are common, however, and 2008 didn’t seem to have any lasting effects.
If you have given up hope that Warren would challenge Clinton in the primary, don’t despair. As you’ve doubtless read, Elizabeth Warren has a long and documented history or saying ‘no’ over and over. She’s taught law to varying degrees at the University of Texas, the University of Houston, the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard. In most cases, the original overture from the respective law schools was rejected. Some were repeatedly rejected. Harvard literally begged at one point. Even after accepting, she turned down a chance to be a tenured professor. So a ‘no’ from Warren is just the beginning of the conversation.
Her book “A Fighting Chance” is a good read on her law school experiences, her personal life and many other subjects, especially the issues of bankruptcies and the Troubled Asset Relief Program’s cynical 700 Billion dollar bailout of huge (and sleazy) banks. There are also a number of pages dedicated to her beloved Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The Republican House is currently messing with future funding of CFPB. She has also authored the “Two Income Trap” and “The Fragile Middle Class,” two other informative and prescient works.
There are no Democratic male rivals who even come close to the drawing power of either Clinton or Warren. Lincoln Chafee? Puleeze! Former Maryland Governor, Martin O’Malley, frankly, would be terrific. No chance! I heard him for the third time, live at last Saturday’s State Democratic Party Convention. Bernie Sanders was there too. A standing ovation before uttering his first word. I love Bernie. Sadly, so does father time and he’ll be hammered with the “socialist” label.
So, that leaves Hillary, and maybe Elizabeth, as our 45th president.
Hillary, if you win, please promise to appoint populist Warren to the Secretary of Treasury post. Or, if Goldman Sachs has already laid claim to Wall Street’s endowed chair, the next Supreme Court opening.