CONCORD, New Hampshire – Hillary Clinton would not take an up-or-down position on Trade Promotion Authority when asked whether Congress should grant President Obama “fast-track” authorization for trade deals at a press conference here Monday.
It was the former secretary of state’s first real news conference of her second presidential campaign. After weeks of criticism for avoiding reporters’ questions, Clinton fielded nine questions from reporters for about 20 minutes following her first big event in the Granite State after kicking off her full-fledged campaign over the weekend.
Asked twice about the Trade Promotion Authority bill facing another vote in the House Tuesday after it failed Friday, Clinton said she didn’t want to weigh in on a “process issue” and would let Congress sort out the issue itself.
Instead, she reiterated her position that Obama should use the bill’s failure last week at the hands of liberal Democrats to get a better Trans Pacific Partnership, the massive trade deal still being negotiated with a dozen countries.
“If he wants to get fast track authority, then he’s going to have to try to figure out how to use the vote on Friday as the leverage to get some changes to get fast track authority,” Clinton said of Obama. At another point in her press conference, she added, “I am proud of my progressive credentials.”
Clinton’s Democratic primary rivals, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, have criticized Clinton’s refusal to take a more clear stand on the issue, and O’Malley’s campaign wasted no time in hitting her again on Monday.
"For the thousands of American workers whose jobs are on the line with TPP, fast track is not a 'process' issue, it's a straightforward vote on their future and their livelihood. The facts are clear,” said Deputy Campaign Manager Lis Smith. “Now is a time for leadership, not political dodges."
After a similar event Sunday in Iowa, Monday’s stop at Carter Hill Orchard here was the first chance New Hampshire Democrats had to see Clinton without an invitation. The event was moved indoors due to rain, but about 500 people braved the weather and packed into a barn-like room to hear Clinton give a version of her new stump speech.
A dozen supporters – and a few protesters – stood in the sopping grass at the bottom of the driveway to welcome attendees, ink bleeding off their signs.
Clinton visited the same orchard in winter of 2007 with her daughter, Chelsea, and her mother, Dorothy, who has become a key part of Clinton’s rationale for her second presidential run.
The former secretary of state paid special attention to Madeline Aldridge, a 100-year-old woman whose lifelong dream was to meet Hillary Clinton. “I want to meet as many of you as I possibly can, but the first person I’m going to take a picture with is her!” Clinton said.
Meanwhile, even as Clinton took questions from the press, her campaign’s attempt to improve relations with reporters ran into trouble when they banned a print pool reporter from covering two events.
For events too small to accommodate the entire traveling press corps, news outlets rely on a rotating representative to send a report, which all the outlets can then use to inform their reporting. But when Daily Mail U.S. editor David Martosko showed up at the first pooled event this morning, he was told by Secret Service agents and the campaign that he would not be allowed inside. He was barred from a second event Monday evening.
The campaign told Martosko, a former Daily Caller editor known for his brash style at the conservative British tabloid, that there was an issue with his publication not being in the White House pool rotation.
In response, the 14 print news outlets that make up the pool rotation released a statement Monday evening calling the banning of their reporter inappropriate.
"We would like to see all campaign events open to the public and the full press corps, but when that is not possible we have agreed to pool coverage. We haven't yet had a clear explanation about why the pool reporter for today's events was denied access But any attempt by the campaign to dictate who is in the pool is unacceptable,” the publications, which includes The New York Times and The Washington Post, said in a statement.
NBC News is part of a separate television pool, comprised of the national TV networks. Wire services like the Associated Press are always included in press pools.