But has Clinton really become a fair trader? Or is she modulating her language to adapt to the populist vapors of the Democratic base? A case can be made for the latter -- and in this case, it's instructive to compare the Republican elite's view of immigration to the Democratic elite's view of trade. [...]
In the same vein, Clinton (and Barack Obama) face a reality that the Democratic base lives elsewhere. The rhetoric changes and carrots are offered: Periodically reviewing trade agreements, as Clinton wants to do, isn't the same thing as cancelling them; a temporary pause is not the same thing as a permanent moratorium until labor standards can be brought up to snuff; adding oversight to enforce current law is...adding oversight. Proponents of this view note that she supports expanding NAFTA to include Peru...as did Obama. At the core of this critique is the idea that Clinton remains a captive of the corporate interests who pushed NAFTA and who have funded the Clinton political machine for decades.
I listened to Nancy Pelosi make the fair trader case for the Peru deal earlier this morning, and I have to say that it sounded pretty convincing to me. Then again, I'm not much of a fair trader so I'm probably not the best person to judge whether or not fair traders should find the fair trade case for the Peru deal convincing. I can say that fair traders almost certainly shouldn't take Hillary Clinton's conversion to NAFTA-skepticism seriously. Saying bad things about a trade deal you supported at the time and don't propose rescinding is the ultimate in cheap talk.
More to the point, the way you can tell you shouldn't take the idea of Clinton changing her stripes on this is that you're not hearing any of the plugged-in free-trade Dems complaining about her apostasy. If Bob Rubin's not worried, then I doubt there's no reason for Rubin's detractors to be excited.