When Hillary Clinton gave her long awaited first interview with CNN’s Brianna Kielar this week there was one annoying moment (among many) which stuck in my mind. Kielar asked her about Bernie Sanders’ many press appearances where he said that it was high time to raise taxes on the wealthy and wanted to know if Clinton’s own plans would include a similar tax hike. Clinton responded by saying that she would soon be giving a speech outlining her economic plan and then veered back to her continuing theme about how wonderful it was to have competition and the need for a robust debate during the primary. To her credit, Kielar tried again, asking if that plan would include tax hikes, but Clinton shot her down again, flatly refusing to answer the question or even give so much as a hint.
Well, the predicted speech is coming up tomorrow and one of Clinton’s spokesmodels is talking up the highlights we can expect. The Wall Street Journal provides the sneak peek and, as you might expect, there’s still no answer on the T Word.
In a Monday economic speech, the Democratic presidential front-runner will focus on the differences between herself and her Republican foes. She will accuse them of seeking economic growth without regard to whether the middle class thrives, and say that raising incomes for all Americans is “the defining economic challenge of our time,” a campaign aide said.
But the speech in New York City will also draw implicit contrasts with Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is mounting a strong challenge from the left for the Democratic nomination. He is focusing heavily on economic inequality, arguing that the economic pie should be divided more fairly and calling for taxes on the wealthy to pay for initiatives that will boost the middle class.
Mrs. Clinton will put relatively more emphasis on the need to make the pie larger. Her economic policy advisers say she aims to walk a course between a focus on inequality and one on growth.
This is something of a reveal as to what we can expect from Clinton on the trail. While there is much to dislike about Bernie Sanders and his policies, whenever Hillary Clinton or her surrogates open their mouths these days I am forced to at least admire one thing about Bernie; the guy isn’t afraid to put his ideas – crazed and socialist though they may be – out there for examination. Clinton, on the other hand, is playing a game which has been so familiar for so long that it’s become nauseating.
As much as she might claim to enjoy having a competitor like Sanders to sharpen her skills on, Hillary has no interest in giving specifics on serious matters where she might offend someone. In order to not be bulldozed entirely with her base, Clinton has been forced to reinforce her liberal bona fides on social issues, including her ever evolving (read: flip flopping) views on gay marriage, immigration and gun control. But when it comes to domestic policy questions on taxes, the debt and spending where the rubber meets the road, we can expect generalizations. There is zero doubt in any serious observer’s mind that Hillary will be in favor of tax hikes on “the wealthy” while claiming to cut taxes for the poor and working class. It’s the same needle that Barack Obama has tried to thread and she no doubt sees it as a potential path to victory. But if you ask her to attach any numbers to the subject you’ll get vacuous generalities and feel good sound bites.
Will anyone press her for hard answers on these questions? The better question is if anyone will even get the chance. And if they do, they’d better send somebody who is better armed for the task than Brianna Kielar.