Mickey Kantor has been at the center of both Democratic Party politics and free trade for decades. As campaign manager, Kantor ran the legendary 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign, and then served in the administration as United States Trade Representative, where he negotiated NAFTA, and as Secretary of Commerce. In an exclusive interview with The Octavian Report, Kantor offers his predictions about the midterm and next Presidential election, his views of the current major pending free trade agreements and his thoughts on the Asian diplomatic and economic landscape.
The Race for the Presidency. Mickey Kantor
The Octavian Report: Let's start with politics. Looking ahead to 2016, how do you see the Republican presidential field?
Mickey Kantor: Well, not many Republicans call me to give me information as to where the Republican Party is going. From afar, as an outsider, you look at Jeb Bush and you say he’d be their strongest candidate. There’s no doubt about it. Jeb Bush is very slightly right of center in what he believes. He is very balanced and thoughtful. He has a good sense of humor. He connects with people as he moves around the country. He’d be their best candidate.
Whether he can win a Republican nomination is quite another question. They are so controlled in some ways by the right that it’s been very difficult for him. Rand Paul or others might be more in keeping with the primary electorate for the Republican Party, especially in Iowa, New Hampshire, et cetera, but we’ll see.
I’m not sure Jeb Bush is going to run. It’s interesting. He continues to step up to the line, go around the country, and then he steps back. And so I’m confused as to what he wants to do. But again, he’d be their best candidate. And if he can get the nomination, it will be a very difficult race for whomever the Democrats nominate, Hillary Clinton or, if she doesn’t run, someone else.
OR: What do you think of Hillary Clinton’s chances?
Kantor: You’d have to make her the odds on favorite right now, no matter who she runs against in the Democratic primaries or, of course, in the general election. Now again we don’t know where we’re going to be at that point and what the issues are going to be. But on today’s facts, the American people trust her on foreign policy and on domestic policy she’s a Clinton. She’s right where she should be in terms of strong on fiscal integrity, as her husband was, moving towards a balanced budget. He reached a balanced budget, the only one in our memory who ever reached a balanced budget. She would have the same policies. And I think in terms of social issues, she is right where the American public is.
So she’s going to be tough to beat if she decides to run. That’s, I think, a serious question. She’s now a grandmother. You know, I’m a grandfather. It changes your vision of life and what’s important. So we’ll see. But Republicans have to fear her. She’ll be very tough. [Her chances are] very good if she decides to run. Now, you know, no one knows whether she will run or not.
Let me say something about Hillary, maybe it’s relevant, maybe it’s not. If you look at what’s happening today, everyone worries, “What is Putin going to do?” If she were president, Putin would have to worry what she’s going to do. I think she is viewed both by foreign leaders and by American voters as very tough, very direct, and able to deal with these issues and can’t be pushed around.
OR: Who do you think might run if she doesn’t?
Kantor: If Hillary does not run, of course, there’ll be a vacuum. I think a number of people will jump into the fray. And I’m guessing, of course, we all are at this point. Governor Cuomo of New York, very bright, able, energetic, a great speaker, would be quite formidable. I think the Governor of Maryland, [Martin] O’Malley, would also look at this very seriously and might jump in. What will Rahm Emanuel do in Chicago? I think you’ve got to look at that. He’s been a very, very committed, organized, thoughtful, and tough mayor. He’s taken on some very tough problems like education. He’s taken on some difficult problems with his unions, and he’s been very forthright. I think he’d be an interesting candidate. Now whether it’s too early for him and he wouldn’t see it as something he should do, I don’t know, but he’d be an interesting person to look at.
Joe Biden, I think Joe will run if Hillary doesn’t and Joe is very experienced, obviously. You know, no one has more experience than Joe other than Hillary, and his strength will be that. But his weakness is going to be how this administration is viewed when they come out. Now, maybe this administration will strengthen, they’ll be more popular than it looks today. I’m a Democrat, hopefully, it is. But if it’s not, then it’d be difficult for Joe.
So you have a number of people, maybe four or five other people, who might run, who are formidable in a Democratic primary situation. But it will be a free-for-all. I would bet seven, eight people will run for president if Hillary doesn’t. Elizabeth Warren, I would mention, in Massachusetts, might run if Hillary doesn’t.
The 2014 Elections
OR: How do you see the 2014 mid-term elections playing out and do you see the Republicans taking the Senate?
Kantor: Well, it’s hard to tell right now, except the Republicans seem to have an advantage in every poll that you see. [Editor’s Note: this interview took place in summer 2014]. The Democrats have at least seven seats which are vulnerable at this point.
Politics changes. Disraeli said once that in politics, a week is a long time. And we have seen so many incredible events happen, it’s hard to predict. Except the Democrats are looking at a Congress that’s not getting anything done and the party in power gets the blame for that. The Congress is too big to get the blame, so the President gets the blame for that. And so when he gets the blame, he’s a Democrat and it affects these Senate races. Many of them are in states that you call red states now or at least purple, not blue states, not Democratic states.
Mickey Kantor served as the United States Trade Representative and as Commerce Secretary in the Clinton Administration.