Hillary Clinton is scampering just as fast as she can away from policies that her husband supported as president and toward policies that the left wing of the Democratic party supports today.
Item: Bill Clinton not only supported but, against the opposition a majority of House Democrats, pushed through Congress approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993. Hillary Clinton as secretary of state was supportive of the Obama administration's push for a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. In 2011 she said,"Our hope is that a TPP agreement with high standards can serve as a benchmark for future agreements." But now, with labor unions and environmental groups baying against TPP, she is hedging her bets, as in this statement on the campaign trail in New Hampshire this week. "Any trade deal has to produce jobs and raise wages and increase prosperity and protect our security. And we have to do our part in making sure we have the capabilities and skills to be competitive."
Item: Bill Clinton, after reaching agreement with Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997 on Medicare reform, next addressed Social Security. In speeches in January 1998 he pointed out that the program was not sustainable in light of demographic realities and he seemed poised to work with Gingrich on another entitlement reform. But that month the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke and the window for bipartisan reform was firmly closed. (Those who have argued that Clinton's personal life had no policy consequences: Take note.) Today those on the left wing of the Democratic party are calling not for revision of this unsustainable program, but for increased Social Security benefits. And Hillary Clinton has no time for the kind of reforms to which her husband gave serious consideration. On the campaign trail in New Hampshire: "There's a lot of loose talk about Social Security, and I do not know how people can make some of the arguments they make. Because if you look at how dependent so many people are on their social security, they worked hard for it, they retire, they postpone retirement as long as possible because they want to keep working, but they also want to get the maximum amount of payout from Social Security. The Social Security trust fund, according to the trustees, will be solvent until 2035. So what do we do to make sure it is there, and we do not mess with it, and we do not pretend that it is a luxury, because it is not a luxury.
"It is a necessity for the majority of people who draw from Social Security. So I think there will be some big political arguments about Social Security. And my only question to everybody who thinks we can privatize Social Security or undermine it in some way — and what is going to happen to all these people who worked 27 years at the southern company? What is going to happen? It is just wrong. Everybody take a deep breath."
Policy conclusion: It was perhaps possible earlier in this cycle to argue that Hillary Clinton as president would, like her husband, support free trade agreements and entitlement reform. She's making it more difficult, arguably impossible, to make that argument.
Political conclusion: Hillary Clinton is afraid of the emergence of a popular left-wing opponent in the Democratic primaries — Elizabeth Warren or someone else — and she's taking no chances.