After McAuliffe predicts Clinton flip-flop, Schumer blasts free trade deals

Jon Lentz

After McAuliffe predicts Clinton flip-flop, Schumer blasts free trade deals

After McAuliffe predicts Clinton flip-flop, Schumer blasts free trade deals
July 27, 2016

The Democratic Party woke up with a bit of a Terry McAuliffe hangover headache this morning, sending party leaders scrambling to get back on message.

In an interview with Politico after his big speech to the Democratic National Convention Tuesday night, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe suggested that once former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is elected president, she would flip, yet again, on the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“I worry that if we don’t do TPP, at some point China’s going to break the rules – but Hillary understands this,” McAuliffe said after his address. “Once the election’s over, and we sit down on trade, people understand a couple things we want to fix on it but going forward we got to build a global economy.”

Although the Clinton campaign quickly shot down the claim and McAuliffe later reversed himself, Republican nominee Donald Trump took to Twitter to highlight the Virginia governor’s cynical musings as more proof of Clinton duplicity.

The Sanders-Clinton alliance is still in its infancy. And if there is a mortal threat to that freshly minted partnership, TPP may be it. Clinton migrated during the long arc of the primary campaign toward the position held by Sen. Bernie Sanders, her primary rival who had always opposed it.  

During the official proceedings on Monday, Sanders backers provided a rare unscripted convention moment when they started chanting and unfurled a banner calling for “economic justice, climate justice and trade justice.”

Many had long been pushing for an explicitly tough anti-TPP platform plank. “Democrats acknowledge that for millions of Americans, global trade has failed to live up to its promise – with too many countries breaking the rules and too many corporations outsourcing jobs at the expense of American workers and communities,” reads the adopted party platform.

On Wednesday morning it fell to U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer to do some damage control, although he didn’t explicitly mention McAuliffe’s remarks. In his breakfast speech to the delegation from his home state of New York, the state’s senior senator brought up TPP directly and claimed that he has long been “very skeptical of these arguments that free trade is good for America.”

Schumer, who cited his vote against the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993, told the audience that he told a roundtable of America’s top 200 CEOs that he could not support any trade deal that boosts corporate profits if it “reduces the wages and working conditions of American workers.”

“Should I, God willing, become the majority leader, we are going to have an entirely different approach on trade,” Schumer said as the packed audience rose to its feet and applauded him. “We are going to protect the American worker first and then look at the geopolitical benefits, not the other way around.”  

Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, told City & State that she has long opposed TPP, and is confident that the guarantees in the Democratic Party platform as drafted were sufficiently stringent.

“You need to have high labor standards so that Bangledeshi and Chinese children are not working for sweatshop wages and not in a situation that violates our child labor laws,” Weingarten said.

Walt Dixie, a Sanders delegate from Syracuse, credited Schumer with effective damage control.

“No doubt Sen. Schumer cleared the air today when it comes to that misinformation that Terry thinking out loud generated,” Dixie said while seated in the lobby of the Loews Philadelphia’s Hotel, where the New York delegation is staying.

Dixie, who leads the Jubilee Homes of Syracuse, a nonprofit development agency, said that overcoming the legacy of de-industrialization in his city was daunting but doable.

“We had companies like General Electric and Kodak in Central New York, and we lost all those jobs to the global economy and the consequences gave been devastating especially for white middle-aged men,” he said. “We got thousands of those zombie homes and those are just the homes the banks are not taking care of. The party has not done enough of a good job to talk to our people who find themselves in these circumstances.”

Bob Hennelly