Hillary Clinton Pretends to Be Progressive; She’s Actually Conservative

Eric Zuesse

The contrast between Hillary Clinton’s stated positions and her actual record, is stark.

The record shows that she actually supports international trade treaties that allow the participating countries to allow international corporations to murder labor union organizers to keep wages down. Her financial backers include many of the controlling stockholders in corporations that shift jobs overseas to lower-wage nations so as to boost their stock-profits and executive compensation (those executives are paid largely by stock options in the companies they run – the more the stock rises, the bigger their pay); and portions of those takes by the top executives and other top owners of international corporations end up in the political campaign chests of conservative U.S. politicians such as of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and virtually all Republicans – i.e., of corrupt or otherwise conservative politicians. But this article will deal only with Hillary Clinton.

She also supports international trade treaties – such as Obama’s proposed TPP with Pacific countries and TTIP with Atlantic countries – that will cripple participating countries’ ability to regulate the safety of products, such as drugs, food-contamination, water-contamination, auto-safety, the environment, etc. However, her campaign rhetoric lies disfavoring such treaties, even more blatantly than Barack Obama’s rhetoric against NAFTA did, when he was running against her, in 2008.


On National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, on Thursday October 22nd, David Axelrod, who is one of President Obama’s chief advisors inside the White House, explained Hillary’s switch, from verbally supporting, to verbally opposing, President Obama’s proposed trade deals. The interviewer noted that, “Hillary Clinton had previously spoken in favor of the Pacific trade deal [TPP], then once the details were out she said she was against it.” Axelrod asserted, to explain what happened: “I actually think her switch of positions on trade was as much a response to Biden as it was to Sanders. She knew that the Vice President was very much tied to the President’s policy and would have to be, and she wanted to head him off at the pass particularly with organized labor.” That separation of herself from Obama’s proposed trade deals effectively killed Biden’s opportunity to win the support of labor union leaders who don’t believe that a self-declared “socialist” such as Bernie Sanders is even electable in the United States. Biden had been hoping to wedge into the Democratic primaries as being the “centrist” Democrat who could pull lots of supporters away from both Clinton and Sanders.

The reason why organized labor is opposed to Obama’s trade deals is that (as will be shown) the deals would allow all participating countries to allow international corporations to hire hitmen to murder labor union organizers so as to keep wages down. U.S. workers would then be competing internationally against workers whose rights to participate in labor unions are merely nominal, not authentic. That, in turn, would accelerate the shrinkage of labor unions in the United States; and this would even further benefit the big campaign-contributors. (Obama and Clinton actually support this, though it reduces the labor-union base of the Democratic Party. The electorate are split between a ‘liberal’ party that wants unions to be weak, versus a conservative party that wants them to be dead.)

President Obama’s Trade Representative, his longtime personal friend Michael Froman, organized and largely wrote Obama’s proposed trade treaties: TPP, TTIP, and TISA. Froman told the AFL-CIO and U.S. Senators that when countries such as Colombia systematically murder labor-union organizers, it’s no violation of workers’ rights – nothing that’s of any concern to the U.S. regarding this country’s international trade policies or the enforcement of them. On April 22nd, Huffington Post, one of the few U.S. news media to report honestly on these treaties, bannered “AFL-CIO’s Trumka: USTR Told Us Murder Isn’t A Violation,” and reported that, “Defenders of the White House push for sweeping trade deals argue they include tough enforcement of labor standards. But a top union leader scoffed at such claims Tuesday, revealing that [Obama] administration officials have said privately that they don’t consider even the killings of labor organizers to be violations of those pacts.” 

In other words: This is and will be the low level of the playing-field that U.S. workers will be competing against in TPP etc., just as it is already, in the far-smaller existing NAFTA (which Hillary had helped to pass in Congress). “Trumka said that even after the Obama administration crafted an agreement to tighten labor protections four years ago, some 105 labor organizers have been killed, and more than 1,300 have been threatened with death.” The Obama Administration is ignoring the tightened regulations that it itself managed to get nominally implemented on paper. “Pressed for details about Trumka’s assertion that murder doesn’t count as a violation of labor rules, Thea Lee, the AFL-CIO deputy chief of staff, told HuffPost that USTR officials said in at least two meetings where she was present that killing and brutalizing organizers would not be considered interfering with labor rights under the terms of the trade measures.” Furthermore: “’We documented five or six murders of Guatemalan trade unionists that the government had failed to effectively investigate or prosecute,’ Lee said. ‘The USTR told us that the murders of trade unionists or violence against trade unionists was not a violation of the labor chapter.’” That U.S. Trade Representative, Michael Froman, is the same person Obama has negotiating with foreign governments, and with international corporations, both Obama’s TPP, and his TTIP.

Any country in TPP, TTIP, or TISA, that introduces worker-protection regulations which are beyond this abysmally low level, will then be fined by corporate panels, and those fines will become income to the companies whose ‘rights’ (such as to murder labor-organizers) have been violated, under the terms of the given treaty: TPP, TTIP, and TISA.

And that’s just one example of the type of sovereignty (in this instance over workers’ rights) that is being, essentially, ceded to panels controlled by international corporations, under these ‘trade’ deals. They’re actually about a lot more than just tariffs etc.; they’re about sovereignty – switching sovereignty to international corporations.

As the UN’s top official on such matters has said, TTP & TTIP will produce “a dystopian future in which corporations and not democratically elected governments call the shots.”

Here was Hillary Clinton’s past record on NAFTA, her own husband’s trade deal, which was almost as bad as are the ones that Obama is now trying to pass – and Obama’s will cover vastly more nations:

During the 2008 Presidential campaign, an Obama flyer that Hillary was complaining about, quoted Newsday’s characterization of Hillary’s NAFTA view in 2006: “Clinton thinks NAFTA has been a boon to the economy.” Hillary was claiming that this was a lie. Many in the press blindly supported her accusation against Obama here, because “a boon” was Newsday’s phrase, not hers. However, it was she, and not Obama, who was actually lying: Her 2003 Living History (p. 182) really did brag about her husband’s having passed NAFTA, and she said there: “Creating a free trade zone in North America – the largest free trade zone in the world – would expand U.S. exports, create jobs and ensure that our country was reaping the benefits, not the burdens, of globalization.” This was one of, supposedly, her proudest achievements, which were (p. 231) “Bill’s successes on the budget, the Brady bill and NAFTA.” But Hillary was now demanding that Obama apologise for his flyer’s having said: “Only Barack Obama fought NAFTA and other bad trade deals.” 

If you want to get insight into the reality of both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, just click here and examine that 8 February 2008 flyer from the Barack Obama for President campaign, during Obama’s Democratic Party Presidential primaries phase, when both candidates were deceiving Democrats, but only Hillary Clinton was provably and clearly lying to them. Here are the details:

Obama’s flyer said: “Of the two candidates in the race, only Barack Obama has been a consistent opponent of NAFTA and other bad trade deals. [Chicago Tribune, 2/29/04]” But, actually, back in 2004, Obama had had nothing to do with NAFTA, except campaign-rhetoric against it in his campaign at that time, to become the Democratic nominee to win the open U.S. Senate seat for Illinois, and his main opponent at that time was Daniel Hynes, the son of a former Mayor Daley machine Democratic Ward Committeeman, Thomas Hynes. This was mere rhetoric from candidate Obama.

As for Hillary’s record on NAFTA, it was (unlike Obama’s) more than merely rhetorical, and both her rhetoric and her actions had actually supported NAFTA, before NAFTA became so unpopular among Democrats that she had to become merely rhetorically against it. On 20 March 2008, the day after Hillary finally released her schedule during her White House years, The Nation’s John Nichols blogged “Clinton Lie Kills Her Credibility on Trade Policy,” and he said: “Now that we know from the 11,000 pages of Clinton White House documents released this week that [the] former First Lady was an ardent advocate for NAFTA; … now that we know she was in the thick of the maneuvering to block the efforts of labor, farm, environmental and human rights groups to get a better agreement; … now that we know from official records of her time as First Lady that Clinton was the featured speaker at a closed-door session where 120 women opinion leaders were hectored to pressure their congressional representatives to approve NAFTA; now that we know from ABC News reporting on the session that ‘her remarks were totally pro-NAFTA’ and that ‘there was no equivocation for her support for NAFTA at the time’; … what should we make of Clinton’s campaign claim that she was never comfortable with the militant free-trade agenda that has cost the United States hundreds of thousands of union jobs?”

On 24 March 2008, ABC’s Jennifer Parker, headlined a blogpost “From the Fact Check Desk: The Clinton Campaign Misrepresents Clinton NAFTA Meeting,” and she reported: “I have now talked to three former Clinton Administration officials whom I trust who tell me that then-First Lady Hillary Clinton opposed the idea of introducing NAFTA before health care, but expressed no reservations in public or private about the substance of NAFTA. Yet the Clinton campaign continues to propagate this myth that she fought NAFTA.” Hillary continued this lie about herself, even after it had been repeatedly and soundly exposed to be a lie. Her behavior in this regard was reminiscent of George W. Bush’s statements on WMD in Iraq, and on many other issues.


Hillary Clinton favored the coup that overthrew the progressive democratically elected President of Honduras on 28 June 2009. And she favored the coup that overthrew the democratically elected (but like all of Ukraine’s Presidents) corrupt President of Ukraine in February 2014. And she favors fracking. (And see more of that here.) And she favors the Keystone XL pipeline. (And see more of that here.) (And here.) And she condemns proposals for a single-payer health-insurance system such as in Canada, and European countries, or else via universal access to Medicare, and she vigorously supports healthcare-as-a-privilege that’s based on ability-to-pay. But her rhetoric, especially after the challenge from Bernie Sanders, is opposite her actions and her long public record on those and many other key issues.

The only issues where her record has been progressive in her actions, and not merely in her words, are ones where the beneficiaries are ethnic, gender, racial, or other label-groups among the general public, whose votes are crucial in order to be able to compete at all in Democratic Party primaries – plus, of course, gun-control. However, she has done nothing to oppose the interests of her major campaign donors, no matter how contrary they are to those label-groups.  (A more recent version of that, is my “Hillary Veers Left, to Head Off Sanders.” And a link there will bring you directly to today’s campaign-finance results.) Those support-groups can intelligently rely upon her to favor their positions on their specific issues, in practice, and not merely in words. In turn, those liberal actions by her will antagonize Republicans, so that her Presidency, if she wins, will be very much like Obama’s has been, no matter how far to the right she (like Obama himself) actually rules. The “center” will just keep moving farther to the right (no matter whether the American public keep moving toward the left). The same trends that have been clear ever since George W. Bush came into office will continue, in the same directions. Hillary’s husband started some of these trends himself, such as when he introduced NAFTA and when he ended FDR’s Glass-Steagall Act and deregulated derivatives.


For a candidate such as Hillary Clinton, a rational voter will ignore her merely-stated positions, and will instead examine, and rely solely upon, her actual record. There are a few successful politicians who are honest with the public, and not merely with donors; but, unfortunately, she isn’t one of them. Consequently, all of the pundits’ talk about such things as “Bernie moving her to the left” is only about her pretense, not at all about her reality. Her reality is what will be in the Oval Office, if she wins.

Reality is only what a politician does in office, not about mere rhetoric. Even when rhetoric is great, such as it was with Abraham Lincoln, it has relied upon honesty in order to be able to be so. Lying rhetoric tends simply to be forgotten by historians. It shouldn’t be, even if this requires us to remember some very bad rhetoric. Lies can be very important, no matter how bad the rhetoric might happen to be. History should deal with what’s important. So should voters.


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.