President Barack Obama appeared irritated Friday when he was asked about Hillary Rodham Clinton’s opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership — declining to comment on her flip-flop on an agreement she praised as his secretary of State.
“With respect to the trade and how Hillary views trade, I would have you direct questions to her,” Obama said at a joint press conference with South Korean President Park Geun-hye
in the East Room of the White House. “I mean, here is a general proposition, guys. During the course of what will be a long campaign, I probably won’t be commenting on every single utterance or decision that the various candidates make, because I think that it is natural and proper for candidates to run on their own vision and their own platform,” he said. During Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas, Clinton said regarding the deal, “I did say, when I was secretary of State, three years ago, that I hoped it would be the gold standard. It was just finally negotiated last week, and in looking at it, it didn’t meet my standards. … And I want to make sure that I can look into the eyes of any middle-class American and say, ‘This will help raise your wages.’ And I concluded I could not.”
Instead of addressing those comments, Obama sought to accentuate what the candidates agreed upon.
“What is encouraging is the fact that I think everybody on that stage at the debate affirmed what I have said in the past, which is we agree on 95 percent of stuff, and on the basic vision of a country that is building out our middle class; is making sure that everybody who works hard gets a shot; that believes immigration strengthens us rather than weakens us; that believes that, you know, people should be treated fairly and equally.”
But Obama made clear the TPP should be an easy sell.
“I’m pretty confident I’ll be able to persuade a lot of people, once they see the outlines of the deal, that it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
He also noted, as did the South Korean president, “there’s a geopolitical reason for us doing it as well” and praised it as beneficial to businesses, labor and the environment.
Obama also took a pass on commenting on the possibility that Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. might run for president.
“I am not going to comment on what Joe is doing or not doing. I think you can direct those questions to my very able vice president,” he said.