Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks during a campaign stop, Tuesday, July 28, 2015, in Nashua, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) (AP)

Hillary Clinton delivers the ultimate Keystone dodge: "If it’s undecided when I become president I will answer your question"

The Democratic candidate is refusing to take a stance on some major environmental issues

Lindsay Abrams
July 28, 2015 11:42PM (UTC)

Hillary Clinton's going hard after GOP climate deniers. She's out with an ambitious, if vague, plan to radically boost renewable energy generation in the U.S. She calls climate change “the most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges we face as a nation and a world.”

But the Democratic candidate is refusing to give environmentalists everything they want.


On major issues considered top priorities by many environmental groups -- the Keystone XL pipeline and the Trans-Pacific Partnership -- Clinton's been conspicuously mum. And Tuesday, she made it clear that we're not going to get a "yes" or "no" answer on whether the pipeline should be proved until she's president -- if that happens, and if the issue's still on the table then.

“This is President Obama’s decision," Clinton told said in response to a question about the pipeline at a campaign event in Des Moines. "I want to wait and see what he and Secretary Kerry decide."

“If it’s undecided when I become president," she added, "I will answer your question.”


Clinton argued that, because she oversaw the Keystone review process during her tenure as secretary of state, it'd be inappropriate for her to take a position; she also said that she didn't want to "second-guess" Obama. Hard-liners, however, aren't buying it:

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Presumably, Clinton's hoping that the decision to either approve or deny the pipeline will indeed be Obama's, so as not to become personally embroiled in the controversy. The same logic appears to be driving her treatment of the TPP, the secretive trade agreement for which Congress granted President Obama fast-track negotiating authority, but is opposed by many progressives, included Democratic rivals Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley. Green groups have been particularly outspoken about the TPP, citing a leaked draft which indicates that the administration may be giving up key environmental protections and voicing concerns that it would limit governments' ability to regulate polluting industries.

Negotiators are currently in the final stages of wrapping up that deal -- possibly by the end of this week -- and in this case, as with Keystone, Clinton's avoided taking any definitive position. As secretary of state, she called the TPP "the gold standard in trade agreements" but, as David Graham quipped in the Atlantic, "the politics of trade are weird." Clinton's campaign has been vague on the issue, although she did express concern over a provision that would give "corporations more power to overturn health and environmental and labor rules than consumers have."


Clinton's campaign insists that "she will be watching closely to see what is being done to crack down on currency manipulation, improve labor rights, protect the environment and health, promote transparency and open new opportunities for our small businesses to export overseas." It's not exactly an endorsement -- but then again, President Obama too has paid lip service to the need for environmental protections in the trade agreement, without quite managing to convince greens that he's seeing them through.

Add that to the other environmental issues that Clinton's avoided taking a hardline on -- offshore drilling and fracking, to name two big ones -- and it's hard to say just how green of a candidate she actually is.

Lindsay Abrams

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2016 Elections Hillary Clinton Keystone Xl Pipeline Tpp Trans-pacific Partnership

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