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Is Hillary Honest, or Merely Trustworthy?

Political Survivor #52

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Is Hillary honest? Does she lie? That seems an odd issue for the Trump camp to obsess about, considering the painfully obvious lies coming from their hero daily. But accusations from Democrats about Trump seem just as hypocritical. Less than a day after FBI Director James Comey held his “no charges for Hillary, but…” press conference, even MSNBC was playing a compilation of Comey’s rebuttal to her claims of innocence.

This video plays their statements head-to-head with background music that is more suited to cartoons than a serious breach of security. Sigh. She was caught lying to our faces, there’s no doubt. But it hasn’t derailed her candidacy because Trump cannot stop dropping verbal turds that out-stink his own from the day before.

Compared to Trump, Hillary seems a junior-league liar.

Still, some Democrats are keeping their distance from her in ways similar to how some Republicans hold Trump at arm’s length. Watch two Democratic candidates for office awkwardly dance around the honesty question: Senate candidate Maggie Hassan (the current governor of New Hampshire, running against Kelly Ayotte) and Senate candidate Ann Kirkpatrick (running against John McCain).

The question is not, are both candidates liars. Demonstrably, both are. In defense of that, I dare you to find me a politician who has never lied to voters. So this question may be a better measure of their worthiness to hold office: are they trustworthy?

I’m an unrepentant liberal, so my answer to “Is Hillary Clinton trustworthy?”—the question that Hassan and Kirkpatrick stumbled over so painfully—would be a quick and assured “I trust her to make this country a better place.” At least, to try.

The Trump fan’s answer to the same question about him is that he is “authentic.” I find that easy to dispute, but as I admitted in the previous paragraph, I am nowhere near impartial.

I can tell you how Trump lied to state regulators about his use of junk bonds to raise money. Trump can tell you that Hillary lied to the relatives of diplomats murdered in Benghazi… and I would counter that she thought what she said wasthe truth at the time. But I used to scream at the TV whenever Ronald Reagan told lies that he personally believed.

Trump underpaid contractors who worked on his casinos (proven in court), Clinton sold State Department access for donations to the Clinton Foundation (unproven but repeated coincidences seem unlikely). So now we can argue about the quality of their dishonesty: is cheating workers out of their pay somehow equivalent to hitting up the rich for contributions to charity? No damn way. But you know where my sympathies lie, so again I must admit to being an unreliable judge.

But I do like it when their sins, both real and perceived, meet: Trump is himself a documented donor to the Clinton Foundation, for more than a hundred grand. Have yourself some fun watching his campaign manager claim that Trump’s contribution was most certainly not  “pay to play,” while Trump is out on the stump accusing every other donor of exactly that.

And if either of them claim that he gave to the Clinton Foundation because he likes giving money to charities, ask him why he won’t release his tax records to prove it. The Washington Post has spent significant time trying to find evidence of Trump digging into his own pocket for charities and turned up only one less than ten grand contribution that “may be an accounting error.”

Then you can factor in Trump’s claim to an insider understanding of pay to play, under the heading “I know how it works because I’ve been on this side of it.” The main reason he’s running, IMO? He’d like to be on the government side of that corruption for a change.

The genesis of Trump’s lying habit feels easy to explain: pumping up the buyer and hyping the merchandise is at the heart of selling real estate, selling yourself, selling anything. Trump does not have a great track record of building or running businesses (see: multiple bankruptcies), but he is highly skilled at getting seed money from investors.

He ought to brag that he’s the best bullshit artist in the world. That, I would believe in a New York minute.

Hillary’s motivations for deceit sound more complex. Her health care missteps in 1993 began a game of political tag between her and her critics that continues to this day. On second thought, “boxing match” might be a better metaphor than “tag.”

She learned and changed—but not necessarily for the better. She has worked to lose her condescending tone, a good thing. But she has also erected a protective shield that rarely comes down in public. It’s a shame. She had a moment of painful honesty in New Hampshire in early 2008, and it won her the primary there just when she needed it badly. Her steely shield may make her feel safe, but behind it she doesn’t project husband Bill’s signature “I feel your pain.”

In 1993, she didn’t pay proper attention to the politics of dealing with Congress. Her very appointment to head the health care initiative rubbed much of Washington the wrong way. Here was this unelected woman designing legislation that the people’s elected officials would then be expected to approve?

Yet she did nothing to assuage that anger and resentment. Even Ted Kennedy, a dedicated proponent of national health care for decades, had to elbow his way into simply advising her task force. It’s unclear if the reason was arrogance or just ignorance of Washington’s Unwritten Rules.

There’s seems to be no resentment in Arkansas from her time there, or even memory of her. Yet during the Eighties, she helped Arkansas establish new state school standards, an early childhood education program, and its first neonatal intensive care unit. She made improvements and not waves as first lady there, but she remained an outsider.

It would appear that she tries to do good and sometimes succeeds, but often leaves a bad impression despite her good works. That’s unfortunate, but it can be educational…

Obama’s approach to national health care in 2009 paid close attention to Hillary’s failure in 1993-4. The president began by trying to get Congress to draw up and pass the law he wanted. He did eventually do better than Hillary did in 1993. But he and the Democrats had to get tough in the face of total Republican intransigence, and the result was exactly what happened in 1994.

Republicans handed a drubbing to Democrats in the 2010 midterms. In 1994 Newt Gingrich and his fellow Republicans used anger and resentment over Hillarycare to take over both the Senate and the House. In 2010, it was race (OMG, there’s a negro in charge at the White House!) and socialism. My favorite inanity from that time was, “Keep your government hands off my Medicare!”

Henry Louis Gates …yes, the very same Harvard professor who was arrested for breaking into his own house while black a few years ago… wrote a fascinating article on Hillary Clinton for the New Yorker in February 1996. Here’s a passage that has aged not one whit in the ensuing 20 years:

“In the course of a single conversation, I have been assured that Hillary is cunning and manipulative but also crass, clueless, and stunningly impolitic; that she is a hopelessly woolly-headed do-gooder and, at heart, a hardball litigator; that she is a base opportunist and a zealot convinced that God is on her side. What emerges is a cultural inventory of villainy rather than a plausible depiction of an actual person. ”

Reading Gates’ 1996 article with my 2016 point of view, I see something extraordinary: the 2016 candidate who is accused of representing the establishment (and the worst of it, no less) was hated in 1996 for being a change agent! The article details all the apple carts that she was poised to upset with the health care initiative: male supremacy, the expected role of the First Lady, the superiority of Republican populism.

This article doesn’t mention the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, but surely they unleashed their lobbyists as well. Hillarycare was going to prove to the nation the Republican idea of limited government was really not in the interest of the middle class, and that Big Pharma and Big Insurance were capitalists first, second, and third.

And of course there was all that stepping on toes that I talked about earlier. How dare she challenge the status quo? Now, she is criticized for being the status quo. What a difference a couple of decades makes.


Political Survivor #52

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Written by

Steve Schlich writes fiction about software: “easy to use,” “does what you want”—lies like that—for the mortgage money. For his soul, he writes fiction and music. Hobbies include webmaster for www.RodSerling.com. In 2004, he created www.NakedWashington.com, a website chronicling the naughty public art in Washington, D.C. He lives happily with his wife and cats, north of San Francisco, where he’s been a technical writer of in-house software manuals since 1982.

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