Clinton has to go further left, or she's not going to make it to White House - Ed Schultz

The race for the White House is nearing its final stage - and it looks like Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are to face each other in the fight for the presidency. However, both candidates are quite unpopular with the American public, tired of overseas wars, the rule of big banks, and divided over issues such as immigration and gun control. In this turbulent environment, is there no alternative to pandering populism and condescending establishment? What sort of a choice does America have to make this time around? We ask progressive commentator, prime-time TV and radio show host, Ed Schultz.

Ed Schultz is the host of News With Ed Schultz on RT America. You can watch it here

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Sophie Shevardnadze: Progressive commentator, prime-time TV and radio show host Ed Schultz, thanks for joining us today - it's really great to have you on my program. So, the latest shock from Britain - the vote for Brexit that no one expected and many aren't happy about. Now we have John Kerry, suggesting the whole thing may be reversed. Why do Americans care so much, is it just about their corporations not wanting to lose out on a big North Atlantic trade deal?

Ed Schultz: That really is what it's all about. It's about business, it's about multinationals on Wall St. and their investments to try to get a big trade deal with Europe. Basically, the U.S. position, the business community's position, is that if Brexit were to take place, this will certainly miss an opportunity for the U.S. to do a big trade deal with Europe. This is the position of President Obama and his trade negotiators. They also fear that Britain will lose its negotiating power when it comes to doing a credible trade deal. So, holding the Union together was paramount for the Obama Administration, all the way to the point for the President to go over and literally ask the British people and the people of the UK to vote to stay in the Union. That is a major deal, that the President would inject himself in a foreign election - almost unheard of! From my reporting over in Great Britain, the people of the UK were offended by that. I think that that hurt the vote as much as anything else, but there's no question that President Obama and David Cameron are very good friends. I do believe there was some type of personal connection there, that President Obama felt a loyalty to Cameron to go over and say what he said. 

SS: Well, Donald Trump doesn't seem to have a personal connection to Cameron - and he's ecstatic about Brexit. What's in it for him?

ES: I think, Donald Trump is a multi-billionaire dealmaker. He wanted to go into the Presidency of the U.S. with a clean slate with the UK. He wanted to go in and cut his own deal, and signature something that would be in his mind “a heck of a lot better" than what something he might inherit. Donald Trump wants to erase everything Barack Obama has been able to accomplish: when it comes to saving the automobile industry, when it comes to healthcare - they want to repeal all that, they want to change trade deals - which of course would enhance the plight of American workers versus outsourcing jobs. So, Trump was anxious to make his own deal. Now, he is striking an accord with working Americans and that's where most of his popularity is coming from right now, and apparently, it seems to be working because he has cut the margin of deficit in the polls - now it's down to a 5-point lead for Hillary Clinton. Just a month ago it was 11 points. So, this issue is resonating with the American people. 

SS: Well, as far as foreign policy goes, Trump's ideas in general seem quite tame to me - I mean, if you take him by his word, right? Things like: "I'll talk to Putin" or "I’ll talk with Kim Jong Un" - that's the same as Obama's "talks without preconditions" idea, right? He seems to make sense on that front to me, what about you? 

ES: Now, I am not a Trump supporter, but I do understand his position or what he's trying to accomplish and he's trying to, certainly, enhance the U.S. position in the world by having a fresh start. It's all hearsay with the American people as to how President Putin and President Obama get along, and a big personality such as Donald Trump injecting into the situation might change that dynamic for the better. Trump is just the kind of guy that would like to have that kind of a challenge. So, this is one of the reasons why Trump really had an upper hand on Obama, saying that he's a negotiator, that he can do a better job, that he's willing to sit down and get a better deal with Putin, and erase all the strained relations and sanctions that have been out there.

SS: His opponent, Hillary Clinton's record on foreign policy, however, worries me a bit. Because, as a Secretary of State, she flew around a lot but didn't really accomplish much. I mean, she pushed through the Libyan war, right, and look at what's done - the country's a mess. Even Obama regrets this now. It's made a mess of the whole region, not only Libya. It feels like if she makes the White House, there'll be more American troops waging wars somewhere in the world, overseas - and that makes me uneasy. What do you think? 

ES: I think there's a lot of Americans that feel the same way you do. I don't think there's any question that she has a very hawkish approach when it comes to the Middle East, and, in general, international intervention. Number one, the U.S. has got depleted forces because of our budget. We as a country right now are in the position where we're not in the mood to go fight anybody. I think one of the reasons why the U.S. is fearful of Hillary Clinton in general, and one of the reasons why she has such high 'untrustworthy' numbers - it's 66%, which is almost unprecedented - is because we're not sure exactly how aggressive she would be on the world stage when it comes to injecting our forces into regions to solve conflict. This was the big issue for Bernie Sanders during the campaign. He tried to connect with the American people and make the American people understand that Hillary Clinton is lacking in good judgement, that she was wrong on the Iraq war, that she has been wrong on a number of different issues in the Middle East. She was definitely wrong on Libya and didn't see the unfolding of that country under control of ISIS. She doesn't have a foreign policy of record to run on, and saying that she was wrong about the Iraq vote isn't good enough for a lot of Americans. So, this is her soft underbelly when it comes to the campaign defending her record. She doesn't come across to be a great negotiator. Now, if you listen to the President Obama, you would think that she was the greatest Secretary of State of all time. I think that's going to be a tough sell with a lot of Americans. 

SS: Now, on the home front though, Hillary is trying hard to seem progressive. She can't stop saying that, at least: "I am a progressive who gets things done" - that's become a catchphrase during her campaign. Is she progressive?

ES: Well, I think when you compare Hillary Clinton to the conservative mantra - yes, she is a progressive. But the problem is - is she bought and paid for through the Clinton Foundation? Do the Clintons deliver political favors based on who gives contributions to the Clinton Foundation? Now, Hillary Clinton claims that it's all transparent and she's autonomous from any of that and none of her decision-making would be influenced by the millions upon millions of dollars that have floated into the Clinton Global Initiative from the Middle East. That's hard to accept that when you see the financial connection. Is she a progressive? When it comes to healthcare - I believe that she is. When it comes to public education - I do believe that she is. When it comes to unions - she has been supportive of unions in the past. Now, those are three areas where the conservatives simply don't come anywhere close to Hillary Clinton. But, she's on shaky ground when it comes to trade. She has supported every trade deal that has destroyed American jobs and hurt the American middle class. She has reversed her position on the TPP only because she got competition from Bernie Sanders and had to make that move. The question now is, why isn't Hillary Clinton calling on her colleagues in the Senate to vote down the TPP - she should be taking a leadership role if she's against it. It is a progressive position to kill that trade deal because a lot of middle class families in this country are going to lose their jobs if that deal goes through, which of course, President Obama wants. President Obama has done a one-eighty. He has turned his back on the very people who had put him in office. Had he not had union support out of Ohio and Pennsylvania and Michigan, he would've never beaten John McCain and he would've never beaten Romney. So, Obama is Jekyll and Hyde on trade deals and Hillary Clinton claims she's against it, but she doesn't campaign against it. So, that's not progressive - so it's a mixed bag with Hillary.

SS: And of course, there's Hillary's challenger Bernie Sanders, who's virtually out of the equation, but he sure is leaving a legacy - I mean, the Democratic party platform now includes the progressive proposals on regulating of big banks - something that Sanders was on about for all this time.  As Bernie Sanders put it himself - “the platform that comes out of the Democratic Party Convention will be by far the most progressive platform in the history of the party”. But it isn’t like anyone has to actually abide by this platform. Is this just bait for Sanders’ supporters to vote Hillary? 

ES: This is the big question. There's enough support out there for Bernie Sanders that could sour this entire deal for Hillary Clinton. Sander's isn't so much concerned at this point about the nomination as he is about keeping the movement going forward and recognizing what has to happen. So, I do believe that there's still plenty of time for Hillary Clinton to convince Sanders' supporters that she would be a lot better than Donald Trump, but I do believe that if Hillary Clinton were going up against anybody else other than Donald Trump, maybe a more moderate Republican, if you can find one, if they could get one out of their Convention or someone who's not as radical as Donald Trump, there's a real chance that a Republican could win the White House. There's a real chance that Hillary Clinton could be defeated and I think that that is really their big concern right now. I should point out that the Clinton campaign wants Bernie Sanders completely out of the picture. They fear him, they fear that his injected politics is going to screw up a long-term plan that the Clinton people have had to make her a President of the U.S. This is one of the reasons why they have tried to take the torch away from Bernie Sanders and put it into the hand of Elizabeth Warren and make her the face of the progressive movement in America - because they fear what Bernie Sanders could really do. 

SS:  So, Hillary and Wall St. - can you really trust Hillary to be tough on Wall St., to continue where Obama left off, when there's the Goldman Sachs speeches and we know that Hillary and Bill have earned at least $7.7 mn giving speeches to big banks, not to mention Bill's pro-banks laws from when he was President.

ES: Well, I think this is very troubling to a lot of Americans, that Hillary Clinton has not had full disclosure on what she actually said in the speeches that she gave to the Wall St. crowd behind closed doors. The fact is that there's a real level of mistrust amongst many Americans and Hillary Clinton when it comes to her connection on  Wall St. She claims that her program is going to be much stronger than Glass-Steagall but she's not really giving us a true blueprint of how she would reel in Wall St. and the money is very influential and she takes a lot of Wall St. money.

SS: Also, during the Democratic debate on CNN, Hillary described herself as going to Wall St. and saying "Cut it out! Quite foreclosing on homes, quit engaging in these kinds of speculative behaviours!" - I mean, what are we, in kindergarten? Is that how she'll take on big finance? Does that sound tough enough to you?

ES: No. And most progressives do not feel like she will reel in the big banks. The fact is that she has no plan to regulate the banking industry when it comes to what they do with the resources they get from the American people when it comes to investing in homes and investing in property and investing in businesses, and it will shake the foundation of the finances of the country and that's what people are really concerned about.

SS: So there's a portion of those who back Bernie Sanders who will vote for Hillary, but it's Bernie-or-Bust for almost half of his supporters. Now, a Bloomberg poll of likely general-election voters says 22% of Bernie backers will vote for Trump and 18% of the voters will go with the Libertarian party candidate. What convincing case can Bernie make in favor of Hillary's presidency - and do you think he will?

ES: I think he's going to wait and see what the platform's all about. He's going to wait and see what the position is on the TPP, how far Hillary Clinton is willing to go on the platform at the Convention when it comes  to medicare for all and getting big money out of politics and the reversal of Citizens United. So, there are some big issues that need to be addressed before Bernie Sanders is going to be convinced that Hillary Clinton isn't going to threaten the movement of the progressives in this country. She's going to have to move further to  the left if that 22% of Bernie-or-Bust people are going to come her way and that's just a fact. You have the Bernie-or-Bust people and then you have the high negatives that Hillary Clinton carries, which, as I mentioned previously, is historic, it's just as historic for this party to possibly nominate Hillary Clinton as it is for her to be the first woman President of the U.S. No party has ever nominated someone with these high negatives. That is the, for lack of a better term, the trump card that the Republicans are trying to play. 

SS: Now, with Bernie it is clear what he stands for. You know, it's stopping big money from corrupting the system. With Hillary, it seems to me she's running on, you know, "more of the same, but with me now". Is that a good thing to run on? 

ES: Hillary's platform is going to be, number one - "She's better than Trump". Her next platform is going to be "she'll do more for the middle class and working families than Donald Trump", and she'll cite minimum wage, she'll cite healthcare, she'll cite public education, affirmative action, equal pay for women, college debt - all of the things that the Republicans are on shaky ground with with the American people. So, that's going to be her platform. Now, does it go far enough? That is the question for Bernie Sanders and that is the question for the Bernie-or-Bust people. So I don't know if that answers your question, but basically, it is where this all is going to come down.

SS: Because the platform isn't clear yet and as of now, Trump's "everything's' wrecked and you need me to fix it" sounds more focused to me... or, maybe, even, more exciting.

ES: Basically, right now Donald Trump is running against Barack Obama's record, and he's saying that he will erase the executive orders, he will change the trade agreements, he will get rid of the healthcare and start over, he will invest in infrastructure and he will cut taxes for the wealthy and change the corporate tax rate. Now those are all the things Trump's going to run on whether it's Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. He's going to run against what Obama stood for. This is one of the reasons why Obama is so engaged - he's trying to save his legacy. He's trying to save his accomplishments. It is true that he does think the world of Hillary Clinton and he admires her work as Secretary of State and has a lot of faith in her, says that she's "smart and prepared" - but the fact is, this is just as much about saving Obama's legacy as it is anything else, because if Trump is President, he'll get rid of everything Obama accomplished. 

SS: But, getting back to Trump and Hillary: what strikes me about the two is how different they are, also, on the personal level. Hillary's long been the target of jokes about her stiffness, closed personality. She’s a technocrat machine, all business, comes off as kind of heartless sometimes even. When she does play the "friend of the people" it appears almost forced, a little creepy sometimes, to be honest. Now, you have Trump, who's very natural, he's unapologetic, simple, straight-to-the-point, kind of like George Bush, but smarter and cockier - what do you make of that contrast? Surely, that's going to make a difference as well?

ES: Well, I think the contrast you're talking about is a new wave of getting people to support you, which is the social media, and the counter-punching of any media report that is not favorable to the candidate - on which Donald Trump has written a whole new chapter in American politics on how to run a campaign: take on the media, take on the establishment, take on his own party, and take on people and ignite the silent majority in America. That's what Donald Trump has been able to do. He's done it with a lot of bravado, he's done it with a lot of personality. He's made his share of mistakes, but his unvarnished opinion has been a real appealing factor in his popularity, because people, number one, know that he can't be bought. He's a billionaire, you can’t buy him - he's willing to support his campaign, he's not going to take any lobbying money, and no one's going to tell him how to run the country and he's going to lay it out for the American people, and he's basically telling the middle class of America that "I am your guy", that "I am the guy that's going to defend your jobs against these bad trade agreements" and we, quote, "Will make America great again!". That's what he has done and it's caught fire with a lot of low-information voters that have never liked Hillary Clinton and all the scandals in her career that have surrounded her. Now, as far as Hillary is concerned, she's got a wonderful personality when you meet her face-to-face, but is goes a little bit cold on the campaign trails, very interesting dynamic.

SS: So, Trump, right. Apart from crazy statements from time to time that he makes, he also seems to just be saying whatever's in at the moment, whatever bandwagon he needs to jump on, like his Muslim ban idea. Now he's backtracking from it, obviously. Or, check this one out - he used to say that the "system is rigged" and his answer to that now:

“But here's the way I look at it. I won, so I don't care anymore, right? We don't care anymore, I don't care. It's rigged! Let somebody else worry about it.”

So, how does a man even command voter respect? Does half of the country not even care about the issues at all? They're ready to back someone who just ignores them? 

ES: Well, there are a lot of people in this country that are, number one, do not vote, there are a lot of low-information voters, there are a lot of people that don't pay attention to the issues, but what does get their attention is personality, and Trump is a big personality. Let me tell you how I think what Trump is saying about it being a "rigged system" - they've handed him the ammunition with this emails scandal. It is amazing that the FBI can do an investigation for a year and release its findings after the primaries and before the convention, and then Trump says the whole system is rigged because the Democrats are protecting her. There's a lot of Americans who are going to believe what Donald Trump is saying! They've played right into his hands and right into his rhetoric. So, I view this as a real opportunity for Trump to level the playing field in the polls in the wake of this email scandal. He's an opportunistic person, he seems to have a  unique and uncanny ability to understand what's going to move the American people. And let me say one more thing about the issue of deleted tweets: this is how Trump plays the media. If you tweet and then you delete it, the media is going to be talking about what was deleted, which is going to bring more attention to the tweet. So, I think that this is a technique that Trump is using. He'll tweet something, and if he doesn't like that kind of attention it gets, he'll delete it so the media will talk about it. I think it's.... He knows exactly what he's doing and he's playing the media in that regard.

SS: I think it's genius. But here's what I see - coming into the summer party conventions, both Hillary and Trump are extraordinarily unpopular. How did it come to this? Is this election going to be decided by whom you hate less?

ES: That's pretty much the way it comes down to, right now, and that's why Bernie Sanders is such a big factor for Hillary Clinton. That's why Bernie Sanders is going to have to have his people to get engaged to pretty much save Clinton. Clinton cannot win the White House with these high negatives and not have Bernie Sanders' supporters. This is going to be a very interesting dynamic, and this is where President Obama is going to come into play in a big way. She needs Obama, she needs his enthusiasm, she needs his support, his infrastructure, and she needs Bernie Sanders.

SS: Ed, thank you so much for this talk. We were talking to one of America's most respected progressive commentators, Ed Schultz, discussing the run-up to the American Presidential vote and who's got the bigger chance of making it to the White House this fall. That's it for this edition of Sophie&Co, I will see you next time.