Media Holding Clinton More Accountable For Her Dishonesty
As it did eight years ago, Hilliary Clinton’s dishonesty has become a campaign issue. While there have been questions as to her honesty throughout the campaign, the media is being more aggressive in addressing the problem. Jeff Greenfield has an article at Politico which asks the question, What’s Wrong With Hillary? It is subtitled, The GOP is fretting about Trump, but the Democrats’ likely standard-bearer could do just as much damage to her own party.
Greenfield discussed how Clinton is not trusted by the voters, including many Democrats. There is also a unique pattern to her shifts in position:
A look at Clinton’s political career provides a tougher explanation. Those younger voters who doubt her trustworthiness likely have no memory, or even casual acquaintance with, a 25-year history that includes cattle-futures trading, law firm billing records, muddled sniper fire recollections and the countless other charges of widely varying credibility aimed at her. They may even have suspended judgment about whether her e-mail use was a matter of bad judgment or worse.
But when you look at the positions she has taken on some of the most significant public policy questions of her time, you cannot escape noticing one key pattern: She has always embraced the politically popular stand—indeed, she has gone out of her way to reinforce that stand—and she has shifted her ground in a way that perfectly correlates with the shifts in public opinion.
For instance: Many Democrats, including all of the major 2008 presidential candidates save for Barack Obama, stood with President George W. Bush and voted for the authorization to use force against Saddam Hussein. What was different about Clinton, however, was that in her October 2002 speech she said this about Saddam: “He has also given aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members, though there is apparently no evidence of his involvement in the terrible events of Sept. 11, 2001.”
This assertion, in the words of reporters Don Van Natta Jr. and Jeff Gerth, was unsupported by the conclusions of the National Intelligence Estimate “and other secret intelligence reports that were available to senators before the vote.” It made for a more muscular talking point; it just happened not to be true.
Or consider her “evolution” on gay marriage. Back in June 2014, Clinton got very testy with “Fresh Air” host Terry Gross, who kept pushing Clinton to explain why this shift was not a matter of political calculation. She repeatedly asked the former secretary of state whether her opinion on gay marriage had changed, or whether the political dynamics had shifted enough that she could express her opinion.
“I’m just trying to clarify so I can understand …” Gross began.
“No, I don’t think you are trying to clarify,” Clinton snapped back. “I think you’re trying to say I used to be opposed and now I’m in favor and I did it for political reasons, and that’s just flat wrong. So let me just state what I feel like you are implying and repudiate it. I have a strong record, I have a great commitment to this issue.”
Well, here’s what Clinton said on the Senate floor, speaking in opposition to a constitutional amendment that would have forbidden gay marriage, while making very clear where she stood on the issue.
“I believe marriage is not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman. … So I take umbrage at anyone who might suggest that those of us who worry about amending the Constitution are less committed to the sanctity of marriage, or to the fundamental bedrock principle that it exists between a man and a woman, going back into the mists of history as one of the founding, foundational institutions of history and humanity and civilization.”
Again, plenty of Democrats were on record as opposing gay marriage in 2004—the year that voters in 11 states voted to ban the practice by significant margins. What’s striking about Clinton’s speech is the intensity of the language, the assertion that it is a “bedrock principle.” You might think that a conviction so strongly held would not be subject to “evolution,” much less shifting political winds. Not so, apparently—any more than a trade deal can be the “gold standard” one year and an unacceptable threat to American workers the next; or that a generation of potential “super predators” requires draconian crime laws one decade, while the next demands an end to such laws.
Clinton’s dishonesty on matters of public policy, especially questions of war or peace, is most troubling, but as we are in the midst of a political campaign, her dishonest attacks on Sanders are the ones which currently stand out. James Hohmann described many of her lies during the debate in Miami, when she tried to make it sound like Sanders simultaneously was aligned with both Castro and the Koch Brothers. He summed up her strategy:
There is a tactic in high school debate called “the spread.” It’s when you throw out so many arguments that your opponent cannot possibly respond to all of them, especially with the limited time they have to speak. It’s especially effective when your arguments are just off the wall enough that the other side has not prepared responses ahead of time. Then, when you get a chance to respond to their refutation, you zero in on whatever they “dropped” and hammer them for it, spinning the judges on why it is crucially important to the broader topic being debated. It felt like Clinton was trying to do just that last night. Alas, this is not a high school debate tournament and the winner is not determined by points or on what competitive debaters refer to as “the flow.”
Clinton was also exposed for what appears to be violating debate rules, as Donald Trump has also done, by meeting with staff during a break in the debates.
It doesn’t even appear to be working for Clinton to lie at the debates. Her false claims about Sanders’ record on the auto bailout backfired, possibly helping him win Michigan. The New York Times, which has endorsed Clinton for the Democratic nomination, chastised her for her dishonesty:
Even with a double-digit lead before the primary, she failed to avoid the type of negative tactics that could damage her in the long haul. A new Washington Post-ABC poll says that nationally, Mrs. Clinton’s margin over Bernie Sanders has shrunk: she polls at 49 percent compared with 42 percent for Mr. Sanders; in January her lead was more than double that. If she hopes to unify Democrats as the nominee, trying to tarnish Mr. Sanders as she did in Michigan this week is not the way to go.
Mrs. Clinton’s falsely parsing Mr. Sanders’s Senate vote on a 2008 recession-related bailout bill as abandoning the auto industry rescue hurt her credibility. As soon as she uttered it in Sunday’s debate, the Democratic strategist David Axelrod registered his dismay, tweeting that the Senate vote wasn’t explicitly a vote about saving the auto industry. Even as reporters challenged her claim, she doubled down in ads across the state. As The Washington Post noted, “it seems like she’s willing to take the gamble that fact-checkers may call her out for her tactic Sunday — but that voters won’t.”
…The Clinton machine should stop trying to tie Mr. Sanders to the National Rifle Association. Though Mr. Sanders has a D-minus from the N.R.A., in Michigan Mrs. Clinton’s operatives took to Twitter touting the N.R.A.’s tweets supporting Mr. Sanders’s statement that making manufacturers liable for gun violence would destroy gun manufacturing in America. On Tuesday, her campaign issued a news release saying that the mothers of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, two African-American shooting victims, “are speaking out about Senator Bernie Sanders’ comments on guns and African-Americans in Sunday’s Democratic primary debate.” Mr. Sanders, like Mrs. Clinton, has spent decades working against racial discrimination, poverty and gun violence. To suggest otherwise is wrong.
The question is whether both the negative impression of Clinton, and the support Sanders has received, will carry through to this today’s primaries. Turn out will again be essential, and with the open primaries in the Midwest, it is essential for Sanders that independents turn out to vote in the Democratic primary as opposed to getting swept up in the Republican circus.
Update from a post at Liberal Values