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Clinton mum on Keystone, trade

Says pipeline answer ‘not appropriate or fair’

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton listens to questions during a campaign stop in Nashua, N.H., on Tuesday. (Associated Press)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton listens to questions during a campaign stop in Nashua, N.H., on Tuesday. (Associated Press)
Lisa Lerer And Ken Thomas Associated Press

NASHUA, N.H. – Hillary Rodham Clinton dodged questions Tuesday about her positions on trade and the Keystone XL pipeline, telling a New Hampshire voter that if the future of the project opposed by environmentalists remains “undecided when I become president, I will answer your question.”

Sensing an opportunity, Clinton’s rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination escalated their critique of the party’s front-runner. “It is hard for me to imagine how you can be serious about climate change and not oppose the Keystone pipeline,” Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders told the Associated Press.

A day after laying out a sweeping plan to foster renewable energy and combat climate change, Clinton stuck with her refusal to say where she stands on the $8 billion pipeline. Environmental groups vigorously oppose the project, which would transport oil from Canada’s tar sands to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico, arguing it would contribute to global warming.

“My assessment is that it is not appropriate or fair for me to prejudge in a public area what Secretary (of State John) Kerry and President (Barack) Obama eventually have to decide,” Clinton said. “I will not do it. I’m sorry if people want me to.”

The former secretary of state also declined during a town hall-style meeting in the early voting state to take a firm position on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, noting her early work to lay the groundwork for the trade deal that labor unions and liberals oppose.

Clinton’s aides argue her work at the State Department is a major asset for her candidacy, even if it prevents her from taking positions on certain topics – such as Keystone and the Pacific trade deal – that are closely watched by the Democratic base.

“Having the experience of being a former Secretary of State distinguishes her and her candidacy, but it comes with responsibilities that at times can limit her,” said Jennifer Palmieri, communications director for the Clinton campaign.

As Clinton told New Hampshire voters in a steamy elementary school auditorium on Tuesday: “I’m in a very different position than any other candidate. I was there.”

But refusal to say definitively where she stands on those two issues has frustrated liberals and fed into Republican attacks on her trustworthiness. The Republican National Committee quickly seized on Clinton’s remarks, blasting out a statement saying her refusal to express a clear view are “making it abundantly clear she’ll say or do anything to get elected.”

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