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Clinton’s Curious Campaign Etiquette

protesters holding anti-Keystone XL Pipeline signs
Anti-Keystone XL Pipeline protesters in January 2015. Photo by Peter Bowden.

Six years after her State Department started reviewing the Keystone XL pipeline, Hillary Clinton has no opinion on the project.

Or maybe she does. Either way, it’s none of our business.

Clinton has repeatedly refused to take any public stance on Keystone XL. We already have a president, she astutely observes, and she wouldn’t want to appear to second-guess him by discussing a high-profile issue of vital concern to our closest neighbor and NATO ally, because she was actually responsible for it. She has said, “I was involved in this process and my assessment is it is not appropriate nor fair for me to prejudge in a public arena what Secretary Kerry and President Obama eventually have to decide.”

Unless, of course, they don’t decide at all, which seems likely. Considering that Obama seems determined to leave Keystone XL on the next president’s plate, voters have good reason to want to know where candidates stand. Democrats, especially, walk a fine line between two key sections of their party’s voter base: organized labor and environmentalists. Primary voters are understandably interested to see which side of the fence Democratic candidates choose.

But in Clinton’s case, they will have to guess.

“If it’s undecided when I become president, then I will answer your question,” she said of Keystone XL at a campaign stop. But then why bother to campaign? Just wait until you are elected and it will be clear to everyone what your positions are.

It is the presidential campaign equivalent of Nancy Pelosi’s famous (or infamous) comment in 2010 that “we have to pass the [health care] bill so that you can find out what’s in it.”

So during the campaign, don’t talk to Clinton about Keystone XL. Or, for that matter, about anything related to foreign affairs during the time in which she was the top cabinet officer responsible for foreign affairs. And especially not about any foreign affair whose name includes Benghazi. If you want to know what Clinton would do as president, you’re just going to have to make her president to find out.

Well, except the Iran nuclear deal. She may have helped foster it, but that has not stopped Clinton from saying she would “vigorously” adhere to its provisions as president, according to The Washington Post, despite the fact it hasn’t been approved by Congress yet.

And except for whatever else she wants to tell you, such as what she wants to do about capital gains taxes. She wasn’t responsible for tax policy in the Obama administration, or ever, so she is perfectly comfortable talking about tax policy. She can always change her mind once she is actually responsible for something.

It’s classic Clinton. In the end, she takes responsibility for nothing that occurred on her watch, and anyone who says she should is obviously just grinding a political axe. That includes voters. She will tell you everything you want to know, as long as it is something she wants to talk about. This approach is nothing new, but it is going to make for a long and grueling campaign for any voters who would like some idea of what a candidate thinks prior to Election Day. Restricting questions to the subjects Clinton wants to discuss is likely to leave voters frustrated as they run into more and more walls.

If you want to know any more than what she’s willing to give, then don’t ask her to talk at all. Just give her what she wants and watch what she does with it. You aren’t entitled to any more.

Larry M. Elkin is the founder and president of Palisades Hudson, and is based out of Palisades Hudson’s Fort Lauderdale, Florida headquarters. He wrote several of the chapters in the firm’s book, Looking Ahead: Life, Family, Wealth and Business After 55. His contributions include Chapter 1, “Looking Ahead When Youth Is Behind Us” and Chapter 4, “The Family Business."

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One Response to "Clinton’s Curious Campaign Etiquette"

  • Peter Braunwart
    August 3, 2015 - 9:53 am

    Good Post. Really enjoy the stuff you put out.