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A Clinton Supports Colombian Trade Deal

By Perry Bacon Jr.
Hillary Clinton has an even closer adviser than Mark Penn who has supported a trade deal with Colombia that she opposes -- and he'll be harder to fire.

Her campaign on Tuesday acknowledged that former president Bill Clinton has also spoken in favor of the proposed bilateral agreement with Colombia, two days after the former first lady demoted Penn after it was revealed that he met with Colombian officials to help them get the deal through Congress.

"Senator Clinton is the candidate for president, and she is a clear and firm opponent of the Colombian free trade agreement," said Jay Carson, a Clinton spokesman, who said the ex-president has spoken in favor of the agreement since 2000. "Like other married couples who disagree on issues from time to time, she disagrees with her husband on this issue."

Former president Clinton has repeatedly spoken in favor of the bilateral agreement, further complicating his wife's efforts to distance herself from it. As trade unions and workers have grown increasingly frustrated with trade agreements, believing they have caused the loss of U.S. jobs, the former first lady has dialed up her anti-trade rhetoric. She has even suggested that she privately opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement her husband advocated during his early years in the White House.

The news about Penn and Clinton could threaten her lead in Pennsylvania, which is already slipping.

Clinton, in appearances on morning talks shows on Tuesday, distanced herself from Penn's stance, and noted she had been a consistent opponent of a trade deal with Colombia. But the controversy could still cause problems similar to those faced by rival Sen. Barack Obama, who was dogged in the days before Ohio voted last month over whether one of his top economic advisers had played down his opposition to NAFTA with Canadian officials.

By Washington Post Editors  |  April 8, 2008; 6:06 PM ET
 
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