Obama, Clinton Feud Will Play Again in 2016

Hillary Clinton Speaking AP
AP/Jose Luis Magana

Presumed Democrat frontrunner Hillary Clinton is shifting her positions on many hot-button issues, most recently Obamatrade. She was for it before she now opposes it.

On the one level, these new stances are intended to blunt the unexpectedly robust challenge on her left from Vermont socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Clinton’s new positioning also, however, puts her on the opposite side of President Obama on several major issues. Her fears of a Joe Biden candidacy for the nomination are rekindling the Obama-Clinton war from 2008.

On Wednesday, Hillary Clinton dramatically broke with her own record, and her family’s political legacy, to publicly oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade treaty that is a top priority of Obama. CNN mercilessly documented 45 times Clinton had praised the trade pact in public. The trade deal was even featured in her recent memoir, Hard Choices.

In 2012, in a speech in Australia, Clinton said that the trade deal being negotiated at the time, “sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open, free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field.”

Apparently running for President demands its own “Hard Choices,” especially with a primary campaign seen by many as floundering. With opposition to the trade deal gaining steam among the far-left of the Democrat party, as well as with conservatives, Clinton’s move is widely seen as an effort to block a surging Sanders.

Clinton’s flip-flop on trade is just the latest in a long line of new policy positions she has taken which put her on the opposite side of the Obama Administration. Recently, she has openly criticized a key component of ObamaCare, a new tax on “overly-generous” health insurance benefits provided by employers. Dubbed, the “Cadillac tax,” the measure, which isn’t yet enforced, has long been a target of organized labor, whose collective bargaining agreements include these high-dollar benefit plans.

Curtailing such benefit plans, and utilizing the revenues from a tax on them, was a cornerstone of Obama’s plan to extend health insurance to all Americans. ObamaCare can only “work,” to the extent it does, if these generous health benefits can be reined in. The Obama Administration has resisted all attempts to mitigate or alter this “cadillac tax.”

Clinton has also come out recently against construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a litmus test issue for many environmentalists. The Obama Administration has refused to rule out construction of the pipeline, needed to bring Canadian oil to American refineries.

Just this Summer, Clinton had explicitly refused to take a position on the pipeline and expressly deferred to the Obama Administration on any decision.

In recent days, too, Clinton has criticized the Obama Administration over its deportation policies of illegal immigrants and promised much more action on gun restrictions than Obama has currently taken.

It is no accident that Clinton’s shifts in positions have come as speculation increases that Vice President Joe Biden will enter the race for the Democrat nomination. Clinton’s new positions, after all, aren’t just moves to the left, but moves to the left specifically in opposition to Obama Administration policies.

These shifts have less to do with Bernie Sanders and everything to do with Joe Biden, who presumably would campaign on Obama’s record and legacy. Biden, as a candidate, will obviously have to defend Obama’s trade deal, explain the inaction on Keystone and argue on behalf of Obama’s actions on immigration and guns.

Clinton’s new stances are not minor disagreements over obscure policies, but diametrically opposed to significant parts of Obama’s legacy. As the situation in Syria and the Middle East continues to spin out of control, expect Hillary to take a much more robust stand against Obama’s policies in the region. She is already reminding voters of her alleged support for arming factions within the country’s civil war several years ago.

The risk for Clinton in these new positions is that it almost guarantees a challenge from Biden. With Obama’s Presidency coming to an end, the national leadership of the Democrat party is back in play. After being forced into a back-seat for the past 8 years, the Clinton’s are reasserting their claims over the party. Clinton’s new stances are a clear attempt to separate the party, and her campaign, from Obama’s tenure in office.

Clinton likely intends the new positioning as a warning to Biden that, if he gets in, she is prepared to campaign against several important aspects of Obama’s record. Biden, and by extension Barack Obama, is not likely to shy away from that fight.