There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton has a trust deficit with voters. Both her Democratic and Republican opponents have questioned her honesty throughout the primary campaign and the innuendo has stuck. In August 2015 Quinnipiac University as part of their regular political survey asked respondents the first word that came to mind when they thought of each candidate. From the answers they produced word clouds. The most common word for Clinton was “liar.” Other prominent words were untrustworthy, untruthful, deceitful, corrupt, crook, crooked, deceptive, cheat, criminal, thief, sneaky devious, conniving, unethical, phony, dishonest, trash, secretive and even murder and traitor. Other words that made it in there were slimy, bitch, evil, and trouble.
In an ABC/Washington Post poll taken on 3-6 March this year, 59% of respondents answered “No” to the question of whether they considered her honest and trustworthy and only 37% said “Yes.” However, the man who has famously labelled her “Crooked Hillary,” Donald Trump, received an even worse result in the same poll. When asked whether they perceived him as honest and trustworthy, 69% said “No” and 27% said “Yes.”
My contention is that Clinton is no more dishonest than any other politician, and actually more honest than most. The question of her honesty is one that I see as largely manufactured and strongly related to the fact she is a woman. Throughout her life in the public eye, Clinton has been one of the most popular politicians in her country, except when she is running for office. As Sady Doyle describes the situation at the blog Quartz:
Public opinion of Clinton has followed a fixed pattern throughout her career. Her public approval plummets whenever she applies for a new position. Then it soars when she gets the job. The wild difference between the way we talk about Clinton when she campaigns and the way we talk about her when she’s in office can’t be explained as ordinary political mud-slinging. Rather, the predictable swings of public opinion reveal Americans’ continued prejudice against women caught in the act of asking for power.
We beg Clinton to run, and then accuse her of feeling “entitled” to win. Several feminist writers have analyzed the Clinton yo-yo. Melissa McEwan sees a deliberate pattern of humiliation, which involves “building [Clinton] up and pressuring her to take on increasingly prominent public challenges, only to immediately turn on her and unleash breathtaking misogyny against her when she steps up to the plate.”If you find this hypothesis unlikely, there’s Ann Friedman’s explanation: Clinton makes people uncomfortable by succeeding too visibly. Clinton is trapped in “the catch-22 of female ambition,” Friedman writes: “To succeed, she needs to be liked, but to be liked, she needs to temper her success.”
On 22 June Trump said in a speech, “Hillary Clinton may be the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency of the United States.” Fox News’s Hannity opened his show that day with that statement, changed the picture quality to make Clinton look old and haggard, and said, “Donald Trump exposes Hillary Clinton in a major speech.” And whose reaction did they get to analyse the speech? Eric Trump’s. Don’t ask me what happened next – I’d had enough already and changed channels to CNN. However, the “major speech” by Trump referred to by Sean Hannity was chock full of lies and half-truths, as well as a number of absolutely outrageous statements. (For a full transcript, see here.) I’ll come back to it again below.
Politifact famously fact checks statements by the candidates. Take a look at a comparison between Clinton and Trump they did recently:
The results are virtually opposite. Politifact found that Clinton was, in fact, the most honest of all the candidates that ran in the 2016 primaries. (And, yes, that’s including Bernie Sanders, though he did pretty well also – see here for the proof.) Almost as bad as Trump was Ted Cruz. (See here for the results of all the GOP candidates.) Further, Politifact‘s analysis found that not only was Trump the least honest candidate that ran in the primaries, he was the least honest politician they had ever analyzed!
During the current campaign one of the things that has been dogging Clinton is the Benghazi terrorist attack. Since before she even announced her candidacy right-wing news outlets have been bringing up the situation daily trying to blacken her name and blame her for the deaths that occurred. Kevin McCarthy was the Republican majority leader and expected to succeed John Boehner as Speaker of the House until he told the truth about the party strategy against Clinton in relation to Benghazi. On Fox News‘s Hannity on 29 September 2015 he said:
Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought.
Nine (yes, nine!) select committees have spent more time investigating Benghazi than was spent investigating Pearl Harbour, the John F Kennedy assassination, Watergate, or the terrorist attacks on 9/11. This latest committee, led by Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina) finally released its report on 28 June. It completely exonerated both Hillary Clinton and President Obama. Anyone who has watched Fox News over the months the committee has been in process knows they have been desperate for the result to use against Clinton. So what did Gowdy have to say when he failed to deliver the coup mortel (death blow)? That no-one ever “asked me to do anything about presidential politics.” He went on to say, “My job is to report facts. You can draw whatever conclusions you want to draw.”
The report, like the previous ones, blames a military and intelligence failure for the USian deaths. This is exactly what I have been saying since the start – that despite what many USians believe, including many active military in the region, they are not actually capable of being everywhere, anytime. Military leaders couldn’t order personnel to intervene in the situation because they didn’t know enough about what was going on, they weren’t close enough to get there in time, it would mean putting even more USians at risk of their lives, and the political situation was too delicate.
Further, you may remember that when the attack first occurred, the US denied that some of the operatives were actually even officially connected to them. The report states that if the military leaders had acted more quickly in the first place, they may have been able to help. However, they could never have prevented the deaths of the two people murdered in the initial attack – Ambassador Stevens and Information Officer Sean Smith. The other two who were killed, former Navy Seals Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, were both part of the initially disavowed unit. And, though I’m reluctant to mention it because it sounds like blaming ambassador Stevens for his own death, there are major questions over why he travelled to Benghazi in the first place.
The report also clears up the myths that have peddled by Republicans:
1. Darryl Issa (R-Califonia) lied when he stated Clinton issued a stand down order. According to the Washington Post:
Issa famously claimed that Clinton had personally issued a “stand down” order in which a CIA operative allegedly told his troops not to rush to the rescue of those in danger. That narrative repeatedly has been proven to lack any evidence, including by the Washington Post’s Fact Checker, which awarded the claim “Four Pinocchios.”
2. In the speech by Donald Trump referred to above, he said:
Among the victims [of Clinton’s time as Secretary of State] is our late Ambassador, Chris Stevens. He was left helpless to die as Hillary Clinton soundly slept in her bed — that’s right, when the phone rang at 3 o’clock in the morning, she was sleeping.
This is also a lie – the attack began in the afternoon US time and both Clinton and Obama were fully engaged in following the situation at the White House. Obama gave the approval to assist – it was the military who decided not to go ahead with that because of the situation on the ground.
3. It’s been frequently said that Clinton and Obama watched live video of Americans being killed and did nothing. This is a lie – there was no live video available. There was some access to real-time information, but it was limited.
4. Despite claims to the contrary, neither Clinton not Obama was directly involved in any denial of extra security for Libya and had no personal knowledge of any requests for extra security.
It should also be noted that in October 2015, former USAF reserves Major (reserves is NZ equivalent of territorials) Bradley Podliska sued both Gowdy and the committee after being fired from his position as committee investigator. He said he was dismissed because he refused to focus his investigation on Clinton. After negotiations in which the committee tried to dismiss the suit, Podliska eventually changed his suit three months ago by removing mention of Clinton.
As reported in the Washington Post:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which released its own report in 2014, charged that the Benghazi committee’s report was “blatantly political,” “squandered $7 million of taxpayer funds” and “diverted significant Defense Department, State Department and intelligence community resources.”
“And what do we have to show for it?” Feinstein continued. “Yet another report that finds no wrongdoing by Secretary Clinton.”
On the day when the final Benghazi report came out though, Clinton scored an own goal. As Secretary of State she strongly supported the TPP, then back-tracked during the Democratic primary. That move, assuredly focus-group tested, helped her keep votes that Bernie Sanders might have taken from her, but it was never a stance she could honestly maintain. She obviously, unlike Trump but like the majority of both major parties, accepts the benefits of free trade and globalization. She was always going to have to go back to that position, if only to attract disaffected Republican voters. So instead of the focus being on her win in the Benghazi matter, Trump was able to label her a liar (again in the speech referred to above), and if it wasn’t for the tragic events at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, the subject would have dominated the US headlines for days.
However, while this was a calculated political move, I’m not sure it paints her as any more or less honest than any other politician. They all do things like this, and Trump does them on a daily basis. What’s more important is what is best for the country both Trump and Clinton are applying for the job of running. Free trade is better for both the US and the world, and almost all economists and a majority of voters agree with that position according to the polls.
The Benghazi report was issued in the middle of the Brexit aftermath. The economy is one of the few areas that the US public (who largely don’t understand the difference between macroeconomics, microeconomics, and economic policy) judge Trump more qualified than Clinton to handle, and Brexit should have been an opportunity for him to both shine and take control of the narrative. However, all he did was expose his own self-interest by positively reveling in the plunging British pound because it would increase his personal wealth. While the middle-class had billions wiped from their retirement savings he thought only of himself. As Elizabeth Warren said:
Donald Trump cheered on Britain’s crisis which has sucked billions of dollars out of your retirement accounts, because he said hey, it might bring more rich people to his new golf course.
Trump is still trying to do it. July 3rd saw this tweet, which caused huge controversy as the “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” award star is shaped like the Jewish Star of David. Many called it a dog whistle to the white supremacists who are strongly supporting Trump and he has been slow to disavow. Whether or not that’s true, two hours later it was deleted and replaced with a version with the words in a red circle, which you can see here.
As an aside, the misogyny of the electorate at large was also directed at Elizabeth Warren when she was campaigning for her Massachusetts seat. Sady Doyle again:
This issue is not specific to Clinton. As Slate writer Jamelle Bouie has pointed out on Twitter, even progressive demigod Elizabeth Warren was seen as “unlikable” when she ran for the Massachusetts senate seat. Local outlets published op-eds about how women were being “turned off” by Warren’s “know-it-all style”—a framing that’s indistinguishable from 2016 Clinton coverage. “I’m asking her to be more authentic,” a Democratic analyst for Boston radio station WBUR said of Warren. “I want her to just sound like a human being, not read the script that makes her sound like some angry, hectoring school marm.”
Once Warren made it to the Senate, she was lionized—right down to a Clinton-esque moment in which supporters begged her to run for President. Yet seeing Warren engaged in the actual act of running seems to freak people out.
Back in December 2012, well known pollster Nate Silver analyzed more than 500 high quality polls of Clinton’s popularity, beginning in 1992. What they showed was that she was remarkably popular, except when she was running for office. As Doyle points out:
Campaigning is not succeeding. It’s asking for success, and for power. To campaign is to publicly claim that you are better than the others (usually white men) who want the same job, and that a whole lot of people should work to place you in a more powerful position. In other words, campaigning is a transgressive act for women.
Women often find self-promotion difficult even outside the realm of politics. For example, a 2011 study found that men are four times more likely to ask for raises than their female co-workers. Women are much more likely than men to under-estimate their abilities. When they apply for jobs, they often refuse to even submit a resume unless they’re certain they have 100% of the requisite qualifications. (The qualification threshold for men is only 60%. Think about that the next time you wonder why on Earth Donald Trump thinks he should be president–or, for that matter, when Bernie Sanders insists that his lack of foreign policy experience compared to Clinton’s doesn’t matter, because he has better “judgment.”)
Now that Clinton has been cleared from wrongdoing in the Benghazi terrorist attack, there is still the FBI investigation into her use of a private server for her e-mail while secretary of state. She has finally been interviewed regarding this and the the case is expected to be finalized soon. The spectacularly stupid action of Bill Clinton in meeting with attorney general Loretta Lynch in private recently has cast a shadow over this, and has provided fodder for more Republican conspiracy theories, but it seems that Clinton is likely to be cleared of deliberate misconduct.
Clinton’s actions are often compared to those of former General David Petraeus in the right-wing media with the conclusion that what she did was much worse that what he did. However, Michael Arnovitz offers this analysis:
Compare for example the treatment Hillary is getting due to her private email “scandal” to that of General David Petraeus. Hillary has been accused of hosting a personal email server that “might” have made classified documents less secure, even though the documents in question were not classified as secret at the time she received and/or sent them. (Side note: some government documents receive secret classifications “at birth”, while other can be retroactively classified as secret.) In order for Clinton to have committed a criminal act, she would have had to knowingly and willfully mishandle material that was classified at the time she did so. After months of investigation no one has accused her of doing that, and it doesn’t appear as if anyone will.
General Petraeus on the other hand, while he was Director of the CIA, knowingly gave a writer, who was also his mistress, a series of black books which according to the Justice Department contained, “classified information regarding the identities of covert officers, war strategy, intelligence capabilities and mechanisms, diplomatic discussions quotes and deliberative discussions from high level National Security Council meetings and [Petraeus’] discussions with the president of the United States of America.” Petraeus followed that up by lying to numerous government officials, including FBI agents, about what he had done. And lets not forget that according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, adultery is itself a court-martial offense. And I remind you that none of this is in dispute. Petraeus admitted to all of it.
Petraeus’ violations were significantly more egregious than anything Clinton is even remotely accused of. And yet Republicans and other Hillary foes are howling about her issue, wearing “Hillary for Prison 2016” t-shirts while insisting that this disqualifies her from public office. Meanwhile even after pleading guilty to his crimes Petraeus continued to be the recipient of fawning sentiments from conservatives. Senator John McCain stated that, “All of us in life make mistakes and the situation now, I hope, can be put behind him …” Politico quoted a former military officer who worked with Petraeus as calling the entire situation “silly”. Prominent Republicans have already made it clear that they would call him back to work in the highest levels of government if they win the Presidency. And some are still attempting to convince him to seek the Presidency himself.
Why is Hillary Clinton being held to such an obviously different standard than Petraeus? Is it really only politics?
Clinton is also being slammed for not releasing the text of speeches she made to Wall Street firms for large fees. Bernie Sanders declares he made no paid speeches. Well, I should hope not – it would be illegal for him as a senator to do so! And Trump is in no position to criticize – unlike him, Clinton has released her tax returns back many years along with her health records.
Although it might be interesting to read them, I don’t see any reason why Clinton should release her speeches. It was her job to make those speeches – it’s not really any different than anyone else releasing their trade secrets. And though she received huge amounts of money for making those speeches, apparently the figures aren’t actually unusual on the speaking circuit. Michael Arnovitz again:
[T]he truth is that there is a large, well-established and extremely lucrative industry for speaking and appearance fees. And within that industry many celebrities, sports stars, business leaders and former politicians get paid very well. At her most popular for example, Paris Hilton was being paid as much as $750,000 just to make an appearance. Kylie Jenner was once paid over $100,000 to go to her own birthday party, and to this day Vanilla Ice gets $15,000 simply to show up with his hat turned sideways.
And let’s talk about the more cerebral cousin of the appearance agreement, which is the speaking engagement. Is $200k really that unusual? In fact “All American Speakers”, the agency that represents Clinton, currently represents 135 people whose MINIMUM speaking fee is $200,000. Some of the luminaries that get paid this much include: Guy Fieri, Ang Lee, Cara Delevingne, Chelsea Handler, Elon Musk, Mehmet Oz, Michael Phelps, Nate Berkus, and “Larry the Cable Guy”. And no that last one is not a joke. And if you drop the speaking fee to $100k, the number of people they represent jumps to over 500. At $50,000 the number jumps to over 1,200. And All American Speakers are obviously not the only agency that represents speakers. So there are in fact thousands of people getting paid this kind of money to give a speech. …
Hillary didn’t invent the speaking engagement industry, and she isn’t anywhere near the first person to make a lot of money from it. And while her fees are in the upper range of what speakers make, neither they nor the total amount of money she has made are unusual. It’s just unusual FOR A WOMAN.
And yes, I’m back on that, because I feel compelled to point out that before he ran for President in 2007, Rudy Giuliani was making about $700,000 a month in speaking fees with an average of $270k per speech. It’s estimated that in the 5 years before his run he earned as much as $40 million in speaking fees. Nobody cared, no accusations of impropriety were made, and there was almost no media interest. So why did Giuliani get a pass, while Hillary stands accused of inherent corruption for making less money doing the same thing?
And speaking of corruption, after leaving the Florida governor’s office Jeb Bush made millions of dollars in paid speeches. This includes large sums he collected from a South Korean metals company that reaped over a BILLION dollars in contracts from his brother’s presidential administration. Speaking to an Indian newspaper about this type of thing Bush said, “This is the life of being the brother of the president.” Do you remember reading all about that while Jeb was running for President? I didn’t think so. Jeb got a pass too.
So if this discussion is really about money in politics that’s fine. But I’m going to need someone to explain to me why we only seem to focus on it when the person making the money has a vagina.
Arnovitz goes on to point out that despite what is being said by her opponents, the majority of Clinton’s fees aren’t coming from Wall Street. She apparently gave almost one hundred paid speeches, only eight of which were to Wall Street banks. Also, only one of those eight made it into the top twenty in terms of how much she was paid. And while she is getting criticized for making speeches of US$225,000, Trump is getting US$1.5 million and no one is complaining about that. In addition, Trump made millions via so-called Trump University which the New York attorney general called a “straight-up fraud,” it looks like he may have bribed attorneys general in other states not to prosecute him over Trump University, and he gets to label Clinton “Crooked Hillary?”
There’s a lot to agree with in Arnovitz’s piece, so I’m going to use his words to conclude.
What the actual fuck is going on here? What’s going on is what we all know, but mostly don’t want to admit: presidential campaigns favor men, and the men who campaign in them are rewarded for those traits perceived as being “manly” — physical size, charisma, forceful personality, assertiveness, boldness and volume. Women who evince those same traits however are usually punished rather than rewarded, and a lot of the negativity aimed at Hillary over the years, especially when she is seeking office, has been due to these underlying biases. There is simply no question that Hillary has for years been on the business end of an unrelenting double standard. And her battle with societal sexism isn’t going to stop because of her success anymore than Obama’s battle with racism stopped once he was elected. These are generational issues, and we are who we are. …
Hillary is nobody’s idea of perfect. Fine. But in my view if a man with her qualifications were running in the Democratic primary, Bernie would have been done before he even started. And if a man with her qualifications had been running for the Republicans, they’d be anointing him the next Reagan while trying to sneak his face onto Mount Rushmore. …
Yes she will disappoint us all on occasion. Who doesn’t? But I think she’s also going to surprise a lot of people. She will fear neither consensus when possible nor ass-kicking when necessary. She will safeguard us from the damage a right-wing Supreme Court would inflict on the nation. She will stand for the rights of women, LGBT Americans, and minorities. She will maintain critical global relationships, and she will react to dangerous situations with the temperament of a seasoned and experienced professional. And in a nation that didn’t even allow women to vote until 1920, she will make history by shattering the very highest glass ceiling, and in doing so forever change the way a generation of young women view their place in our Republic.
She’s going to be a fine President.
Update 1: From CNN – ‘FBI director: Hillary Clinton ‘extremely careless’ but no charges recommended‘
Update 2: I was prepared to give Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt that the anti-Clinton Star of David tweet was carelessness and not anti-Semitism – until I read this: ‘Donald Trump’s “Star of David” Hillary Clinton Meme Was Created by White Supremacists‘.
Thanks to Merilee for the Arnovitz article.
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