Fact-checking the June 14 news shows

Hillary Clinton's position on trade has dogged her, but her campaign chairman says her position is clear. (AP)
Hillary Clinton's position on trade has dogged her, but her campaign chairman says her position is clear. (AP)

Hillary Clinton is being dogged by Republicans, Democrats and members of the media who say the 2016 presidential candidate won’t take a stance on a controversial trade agreement that has divided her own party.

But to hear Clinton’s campaign chairman tell it Sunday, the Democratic frontrunner has been quite straightforward. "She’s been very clear where she stands on trade," Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

Podesta’s claim struck us at PunditFact and PolitiFact as contrary to the beliefs of many -- from Democrat Bernie Sanders, to Republicans such as Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to a number of prominent journalists. So is Podesta right?

Not really. His claim rates Mostly False.

Clinton has avoided saying whether she definitively supports the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement and the fast-track trade authority many believe is necessary to make the deal happen.

President Barack Obama has asked for fast-track trade authority to complete the Asian trade agreement, only to be rebuked by members of his own party.

On Sunday, Clinton discussed the trade agreements, but only in general terms. Speaking in Iowa, Clinton said that Obama should "work with his allies in Congress" to ensure better protection for workers and "to make sure we get the best, strongest deal possible." Even though she urged Congress and Obama to make some changes to the deal, she didn’t specify the exact changes, nor did explicitly express overall support or disapproval.

On other occasions, Clinton has said that any trade agreement must increase jobs and be good for national security.

"I've been for trade agreements, I've been against trade agreements, voted for some, voted against others, so I want to judge this when I see exactly what exactly is in it and whether or not I think it meets my standards," she said in May.

Given the context of the current debate in Congress, it’s hard for a neutral observer to call Clinton’s position clear.

Also on Sunday, pundits previewed Monday’s long-awaited announcement that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush would be running for president. George Will was asked on Fox News Sunday to address criticism that Bush is too moderate and shares too many positions with Democrats, particularly on immigration and education policy.

Will said the criticism was mainly nonsense, saying that Bush was "measurably more conservative" than Ronald Reagan during Bush’s two terms as governor.

On immigration, Bush "happens to be where a majority of Republicans are," Will said, in support of a pathway to legal status people living in the United States illegally.

That rates Mostly True.

For the record, Bush’s position on immigration has been complicated as he has flip-flopped on legal status over the years. But Bush’s most recent comments suggest a pathway to legal status, so we think Will’s point is fair.

With that in mind, the latest report from the Pew Research Center bolsters Will’s claim. Pew’s survey found that 56 percent of Republicans favor a path to legal status, not to be confused with citizenship. Legal status would allow undocumented adults to work and pay taxes, but they would not be able to vote.

However, George Hawley, a political scientist at the University of Houston, cautions that the Pew survey also shows a complicated set of attitudes.

"A majority of Republicans also felt that giving people who came to the United States illegally a way to gain legal status is like rewarding them for doing something wrong," Hawley said.

Stephen Nuno, a political scientist at Northern Arizona University, said that Republicans "see mass deportation to be unrealistic," and that when Republicans feel better about the economy, they tend to take a more pragmatic view on undocumented immigrants.