- The Washington Times - Monday, October 12, 2015

The Hillary Rodham Clinton that enters Tuesday’s kickoff Democratic presidential campaign looks markedly different from the one that ran for president in 2008, as she chases the liberal voters that have come to dominate her party’s nomination process with a leftward drift.

The last time Mrs. Clinton took the stage for a presidential debate, she was against same sex-marriage, a supporter of the Second Amendment, stood behind her Iraq War vote and was opposed to states issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. Flash forward to Tuesday in Las Vegas, and Mrs. Clinton enters as a backer of same-sex couples, a supporter of tighter federal gun control measures, has admitted her vote for the Iraq War was a “mistake” and is an advocate for illegal immigrations.

And on free trade she’s been around the block a couple of times, having entered the 2008 race a supporter, turned opponent during the campaign, then became a supporter again as secretary of state, and now — thanks to a flip late last week — opposes the very Pacific trade deal she championed as the country’s top diplomat.

“This is a classic political decision that you can flip-flop if you flop over to the popular side of an issue,” said David Alexrod, a Democratic strategist who advised President Obama’s bids for the White House, on CNN. “The great risk, though — her great liability in this race so far — has been this sense that she’s been inauthentic. This lurch on this issue opens her up for another charge of inauthenticity.”

Sen. Bernard Sanders, the Vermont independent challenging Mrs. Clinton for Democrats’ presidential nomination, said he’ll make that very case to voters, and trade will be a chief example. He opposed trade deals with Mexico and Canada, Central America and China.

“I think that they have been a disaster for the American worker, allowed corporations to shut down here and move abroad,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday. “So people will have to contrast my consistency and my willingness to stand up to Wall Street and corporations, big corporations, with the secretary.”

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While she’s tried to calibrate her stance on trade depending on the politics, she’s been a little more consistent — though late, compared to other Democrats — in her shift on same-sex marriage.

In the 2008 campaign she openly opposed it, instead offering civil unions as an acceptable compromise of legal protection for same-sex couples denied the ability to marry their partners.

“Well, I prefer to think of it as being very positive about civil unions,” Mrs. Clinton said in a debate sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign and the gay-oriented Logo network. “You know, it’s a personal position. How we get to full equality is the debate we’re having, and I am absolutely in favor of civil unions with full equality of benefits, rights and privileges.”

Only after leaving her position as secretary of state, and as the Supreme Court was considering overturning the Defense of Marriage Act that her husband signed into law, did Mrs. Clinton change her stance.

“LGBT Americans are our colleagues, our teachers, our soldiers, our friends, our loved ones. And they are full and equal citizens, and they deserve the rights of citizenship,” Mrs. Clinton said in a video with the Human Rights Campaign on March 18, 2013, as she was laying the groundwork for her next presidential bid. “That includes marriage. That’s why I support marriage for lesbian and gay couples.”

In the 2008 campaign Mrs. Clinton was steadfast in defending her vote to invade Iraq, a vote Mr. Obama hammered her on and contrasted himself to, saying he would never have authorized the now-unpopular invasion.

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It wasn’t until her 2014 book “Hard Choices” that Mrs. Clinton says she “got it wrong” on Iraq. This year on the campaign trail, she’s gone further, saying her vote was “a mistake.”

On guns, Mrs. Clinton’s moves have been more a matter of what she’s emphasizing.

In 2008 she criticized Mr. Obama’s statement that rural Pennsylvanians “cling to guns or religion” and portrayed herself as an adherent of the gun culture.

“You know, my dad took me out behind the cottage that my grandfather built on a little lake called Lake Winola outside of Scranton and taught me how to shoot when I was a little girl,” she said on the campaign trail, adding, “Some people now continue to teach their children and their grandchildren. It’s part of culture. It’s part of a way of life. People enjoy hunting and shooting because it’s an important part of who they are, not because they are bitter.”

Making a play for rural voters in an effort to overcome Mr. Obama’s young, urban coalition, Mrs. Clinton also said blanket federal rules weren’t the answer.

Last week, however, in the wake of another mass shooting, Mrs. Clinton vowed to go further than Mr. Obama in taking executive action to limit gun ownership.

On immigration, Mrs. Clinton is also revising her previous stance.

Last debate cycle, Mrs. Clinton offered a confusing answer of whether she supported states issuing licenses to illegal immigrants. In the Oct. 2007 debate she was asked whether or not she favored then-New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s plan to provide undocumented with state licenses.

“Do I think this is the right thing for any governor to do? No. But I certainly recognize why Gov. Spitzer is trying to do it,” Mrs. Clinton said during the debate.

After the debate — and after Mr. Spitzer withdrew the proposal because of its unpopularity — Mrs. Clinton made the following statement: “As president, I will not support driver’s licenses for undocumented people and will press for comprehensive immigration reform that deals with all of the issues around illegal immigration, including border security and fixing our broken system.”

But as the power of Hispanic voters increases, Mrs. Clinton has tailored her stance yet again. She now supports states granting driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, her campaign told The Huffington Post.

• Kelly Riddell can be reached at kriddell@washingtontimes.com.

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