In 1988, George H.W. Bush infamously said “read my lips, no new taxes.” We read his lips, and yet his administration ended up raising taxes anyway.
To Bush’s credit, all politicians flip-flop at some point in their careers. Candidates often make promises on the campaign trail that they have no intention of keeping. And even when politicians have good intentions, sometimes circumstances change and stances have to follow in kind.
Of course, some politicians flip-flop more than others. Hillary Clinton stands out as one such politician. Over her career, she’s switched positions on many issues. Here’s a look at a few of them.
“I am, you know, adamantly against illegal immigrants … people have to stop hiring illegal immigrants,” Clinton said on the John Gambling Radio Show in 2003.
Clinton went from being “adamantly against illegal immigrants” a decade ago to pushing for a “path to full and equal citizenship” for almost all of the nation’s illegal immigrants today. During a debate with Bernie Sanders in Miami, Clinton promised to not deport a single person who doesn’t have a criminal background. “I will not deport children,” Clinton said. “I would not deport children,” she repeated.
Maybe Clinton only meant Mexican children, because she seems okay with deporting Honduran children.
According to a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report, Honduras has by far the highest homicide rate in the world. Towns are terrorized by local gangs and international cartels. Thousands of children have fled north, hoping to escape the violence and find a better life in the United States.
“Just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay,” Clinton said of these pint-sized refugees. “We don’t want to send a message that’s contrary to our laws or will encourage more children to make that dangerous journey.”
2. Gay marriage
“I believe marriage is not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman,” Clinton said in 2004.
She used to believe that, but she doesn’t anymore. In 2013, Clinton announced her support for same-sex marriage. Obama pulled the same trick in 2012, when, after years of supporting civil unions and nothing more, he announced that he approved of same-sex marriage.
It’s possible that both Clinton and Obama have supported gay marriage privately much longer than they have publicly. They may have feared the possible political consequences of standing up for gay marriage when it wasn’t a popular position to take, as the majority of Americans didn’t favor gay marriage until 2011.
3. Gun control
As a first lady and senator, Clinton supported strict gun control measures. After the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, Clinton proposed raising the legal age required to buy a gun from 18 to 21. In 2000, during her first race for a New York senate seat, she endorsed an initiative to make a national registry that would track all U.S. gun sales.
But in 2008, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton ran to the right of Obama on guns. “I disagree with Senator Obama’s assertion that people in our country cling to guns and have certain attitudes about trade and immigration simply out of frustration,” she said at a town hall meeting in Indiana. “You know, my dad took me out behind the cottage that my grandfather built on a little lake called Lake Winola outside of Scranton and taught me how to shoot when I was a little girl.”
She also said that she no longer supports a federal firearms registry.
Her campaign even sent out fliers before the Indiana primary that attacked Obama’s record of supporting strict gun control measures, hoping that this would bring some rural voters to her side.
“She is running around talking about how this is an insult to sportsman, how she values the Second Amendment. She’s talking like she’s Annie Oakley,” Obama joked at the time.
In 2016, Clinton is back to being tough on guns. She frequently criticized Sanders’s record on guns as being too weak during the primaries, and in this race she hasn’t once mentioned her grandfather-built cabin on Lake Winola.
4. The Trans-Pacific Partnership
As secretary of state, Clinton championed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an international trade deal that involves the United States, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia, and several other countries located along the Pacific Rim.
“This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field,” Clinton said in 2012.
Perhaps to better position herself in a presidential race where both her primary opponent and the presumptive Republican nominee were fiercely opposed to the TPP, Clinton changed her mind about it being the “the gold standard.” In October of last year, Clinton announced that she is now against the TPP.
Clinton has since tried to explain her changed stance, saying, “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. My standards for more new, good jobs for Americans, for raising wages for Americans.”
But Clinton didn’t bother to mention what exactly her standards are or why the TPP didn’t meet those standards, and both her vice presidential pick, Tim Kaine and the head of her transition team, Ken Salazar are pro-TPP. So who knows where she really stands.