DETROIT -- In a bid to gain advantage ahead of next week’s Michigan Democratic presidential primary, Bernie Sanders’s campaign is planning to widely distribute a video Friday showing Hillary Clinton on television in India in 2012 saying there are “pluses and minuses” to outsourcing U.S. jobs.
Appearing on Indian station NDTV during her tenure as secretary of state, Clinton was asked during a town hall-style public affairs program for her thoughts on outsourcing from the United States to India.
“Well, you know, it’s been going on for many years now,” Clinton said on the program, “and it’s part of our economic relationship with India, and I think there are advantages with it that have certainly benefited many parts of our country, and there are disadvantages that go to the need to, you know, improve the job skills of our own people and create a better economic environment, so it’s, like anything, it’s, you know, got pluses and minuses.”
The two Democratic campaigns offer very different interpretations of her comments and their broader significance.
Sanders’s camp is prepared to argue that Clinton’s words, spoken abroad, show an insensitivity to the plight of U.S. workers, including those in trade-battered Michigan, which has shed far more than its share of manufacturing jobs.
Clinton’s team, meanwhile, says that there’s really nothing to see here: that what Clinton said is consistent with her view that trade can be a mixed bag and the president needs to work to maximize its advantages for the United States.
Sanders’s campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, said he’s convinced Clinton’s comments will not play well in Michigan “when so many communities like Detroit and Flint have been hurt so badly by outsourcing.”
“Secretary Clinton should explain to the people of Michigan how they have benefited from outsourcing of their manufacturing jobs,” Weaver said.
Clinton’s aides argue that during the campaign she has demonstrated a much deeper commitment than Sanders to rebuilding the U.S. manufacturing sector.
“Hillary Clinton is the only candidate in this race with a comprehensive agenda to create jobs, revitalize manufacturing communities and break down barriers for small businesses to start and grow,” said Clinton spokesman Jesse Ferguson. “Rather than attacks on the past, Senator Sanders should tell Michigan voters how he will create manufacturing jobs and grow our economy."
Reviving an earlier theme from the campaign, Ferguson also suggested that Sanders is taking aim at President Obama by attacking Clinton.
"It's no longer a surprise, but it’s still disappointing, that Bernie Sanders’s campaign would attack President Obama's policies, and attack Hillary Clinton for defending his agenda as secretary of state,” he said.
The planned distribution of the video comes as Sanders has been aggressively highlighting his differences with Clinton over trade policy in hopes of getting traction in Michigan and other industrial states in the Midwest.
At a news conference in Lansing earlier this week, Sanders made the case that he has consistently opposed “disastrous” trade deals, starting with the North American Free Trade Agreement in the 1990s, that Clinton supported during her tenures as first lady, a senator from New York and secretary of state.
Sanders has also been critical of the length of time it took for Clinton to reach her current opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership, a pending pact championed by President Obama that Sanders opposed from the outset.
Sanders needs a strong showing in Tuesday’s primary in Michigan to slow the momentum Clinton gained by winning seven of 11 states on Super Tuesday. Her campaign has opened a sizable lead in the delegate count for the nomination.
Weaver also argued that Clinton’s comments in India differed from what she has said about outsourcing during appearances in the United States. The campaign pointed to a 2004 statement during his Senate tenure in which she says: “I do not think outsourcing American Jobs is a new kind of trade . . . and I certainly do not believe it is a good thing.”
In the video, Clinton is also asked about a political ad that President Obama was airing during his 2012 re-election campaign against Republican Mitt Romney that was critical of Romney’s outsourcing of jobs as a businessman.
The hosts told Clinton that the ad is causing “a lot of heartburn” in India.
“Well, it’s an election year,” Clinton responded, adding: “It’s an obligation in an election campaign … to talk about what’s on people’s minds.”
She said that Americans who have lost manufacturing jobs are fearful because they “don’t feel like they have any other job possibilities.”