After a four-year hiatus, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton finally returned to a major network Sunday morning political talk show a few weeks ago. Everything boiled down to one question: Who is the real Hillary Clinton?
“I am a real person with all the pluses and minuses that go along with being that!” she said, rebuffing arguments that she does not come across personable enough on the campaign trail.
It was an honest enough answer that managed to cause a stir in itself, especially when Clinton gave what may be construed as an even more revealing description of herself in an interview with Buzzfeed’s Another Round podcast.
“You guys are the first to realize that I’m really not even a human being,” she said after the interviewer noted that she didn’t sweat in hot weather. “I was constructed in a garage in Palo Alto a very long time ago.”
Often Clinton calculates that a minus should be a plus, or a plus a minus. Here are six issues over which the real Hillary – robot or human – has taken opposing sides at different times.
Rushing to War
Clinton couldn’t have reasonably been expected to vote against the Iraq War in 2003. Not after backing her husband’s presidency which oversaw the codifying of regime change policy, a no-fly zone, bombing campaigns and starving sanctions.
But it’s worth noting the words carefully chosen by Senator Clinton in 2002 when she explained her approval for going to war as well as her politicization of the war in 2007.
In February 2007, Clinton said, “Our president rushed us into war in Iraq,” less than five years after she prepared her pro-war vote with this remark: “A vote for it is not a vote to rush to war.”
This year, Clinton said her Iraq War vote was “a mistake.” In search for a lesson she might have learned from the mistake, what is Clinton saying about Syria now?
“The Russians would have to be a part of it, or it wouldn’t work,” Clinton said last week about her proposal – another no-fly zone like her husband enforced in Iraq – to the war in Syria.
But what about just a couple weeks ago? In September, Clinton said, “I hope we’re not turning to the Russians” when pressed about the failure of training so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels.
Late to the gay rights party … Not that there’s anything wrong with that
“I believe marriage is not just a bond, but a sacred bond between a man and a woman.”
More than a year after Clinton came out in favor of gay marriage, an NPR interview went badly for her.
“So, what’s it like when you’re in office and you have to do all these political calculations to not be able to support something like gay marriage that you actually believe in?” the host asked.
Clinton cited her stint as Secretary of State doing international work on raising awareness of equal human rights for gay people. “Being out of domestic politics,” she says, is why she didn’t come out in favor of gay marriage any sooner. But her timing worked politically, just as it had for her before with LGBT issues.
As a presidential candidate in 2007, Clinton was asked about comments by the then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, who said homosexuality was immoral. Did the real Hillary agree? “I am going to leave that to others to conclude,” she told ABC News.
Her gay supporters were outraged, and soon the talking point changed. “I disagree with what he said and do not share his view, plain and simple.” But the first statement had been on a mass media show, while the second had been targeted for the fewer activist-types who needed consolation.
Campaigning is a gas
The Keystone XL pipeline is another one of those hard choices for Clinton. Much like how her position at the State Department precluded her from commenting on domestic issues, her being out of the State Department precludes her from commenting on this domestic issue.
Her response set in motion a string of political consequences. They came in the forms of heckling protesters and coverage of Senator Bernie Sanders’ mega-crowds against the proposal.
Trader or traitor?
On international trade agreements, Clinton again finds herself under pressure to reimagine how she can stand on her experience while leaping away from it at the same time.
“NAFTA was a mistake to the extent that it did not deliver on what we hoped it would,” she said in 2007 of the North American Free Trade Agreement signed by Canada, the US and Mexico under her husband’s term.
“I think, on balance, NAFTA has been good for New York and America,” Hillary Clinton said just three years prior.
Enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Once for it, now she’s against the secretive deal she had more direct input on it than any other candidate.
Gunning for votes
Gun control is another issue where Clinton has veered to the political right when it suits her.
Needing to make her mark before the 2008 Democratic primary in Nevada, Hillary Clinton opposed national gun registration. She said, “I don’t want the federal government preempting states and cities like New York that have very specific problems.”
Also in 2008 she said, “What might work in NYC is certainly not going to work in Montana. So, for the federal government to be having any kind of blanket rules that they’re going to try to impose, I think doesn’t make sense.”
What’s changed? Now she’s up against Sanders, who himself has flip flopped on a previous position that gun manufacturers should not be held liable for crimes committed with their products. For the first time in a Democratic primary, Clinton feels safe moving to the left on an issue. She recently proposed stricter, more encompassing executive orders she promises to take as president.
On both sides of the border
“We’ve got to do several things and I am, you know, adamantly against illegal immigrants,” sounds like something Donald Trump would say, but in this case it’s the Democratic frontrunner telling it like it is to a talk radio host in 2003.
Leading immigration reform advocate Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois) must be pleased to hear Clinton’s new policy, exalting herself above even President Obama, who controversially used a pen and phone to advance immigration reform.
“If Congress continues to refuse to act, as president, I would do everything possible under the law to go even further,” the real Clinton said.
At another point, Clinton expressed support for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants but qualified her statement by saying Congress needs to pass legislation and that the president “can do as much as possible, which I will do.” Her statement was booed by the crowd.
Clinton seems to change with the seasons, and in most cases it’s in campaign season.