I follow politics fairly closely, although in a way that is perhaps different than most of you. I don’t watch cable “news,” I listen to NPR occasionally and the only talk radio I listen to currently is the Stephanie Miller Show, although I do check out a few politically-oriented podcasts, as well. Most of the news I get comes from specific places and, these days, I carefully check every news story for veracity. Okay, I occasionally slip up, but for the most part I don’t say anything until I have checked to make sure that what I’m saying is pretty much true. I’ve been burned a few times and I really try to stick to facts.
So, imagine my amusement when the Washington Post ran a “story” on Sunday, asking if Hillary Clinton can “Overcome her trust problem?” (Source) This is how it starts:
Hillary Clinton’s weekend interview with the FBI stands as a perfect symbol of what is probably her biggest liability heading into the fall election: A lot of people say they don’t trust her.
Clinton sat for an interview of more than three hours as part of a Justice Department investigation into the privately owned email system she operated off the books when she was secretary of state. The timing — less than three weeks before she will claim the Democratic presidential nomination — is an attempt to make the best of a situation that would look bad for any candidate but is particularly damaging for Clinton.
(Side note: perhaps ironically, as I am writing this, I am being bombarded with “Breaking News” alerts telling me that the FBI has recommended no charges be brought against Hillary Cinton. Therefore, now that we have context, it is likely that is the reason the FBI spoke with her on Saturday.)
Most telling was the number of people all over social media and elsewhere, essentially agreeing that, yes indeed, Hillary Clinton does have a trust problem, by golly. Among them were a bunch of Bernie Stans, of course, and one Robert Reich, who, despite his lineage as a Clintonite from the very beginning, holds “messiah-in-waiting” status on the far left these days. His Facebook post started by declaring that Hillary has trust issues as if it was a stone cold fact, which is ridiculous. I mean, when she was First Lady, she was consistently among the most admired women in the world. She won her New York Senate seat twice by a wide margin. She has run for President twice; the first time, she barely lost the nomination to a transcendent candidate and the second time, she won the nomination in a walk against a candidate seen by the far left as a messiah-like figure. She got 57% of the votes in primaries where people actually voted and she pretty much had it locked up by March 1, when the Democratic base – People of Color, immigrants and women – voted for her in such overwhelming numbers that Sanders had no chance. Is that not a demonstration of trust? I mean, the people in our society with the most at stake in this election voted for her overwhelmingly; why would they vote for someone they don’t trust, at least on some level, in such great numbers? They had several choices, including Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, both of whom are trustworthy; if they didn’t trust Hillary, they didn’t have to vote for her.
When any media outlet claims anything negative about any candidate for political office, take it with a grain of salt. Every news outlet and every editor has a vested interest in a close race, so they will say anything they can to make it closer than it is. That will be especially true this year, as the race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be between someone who is eminently qualified for the presidency against someone who is barely qualified to breathe air. They will have to try to tear her down. But to do it will require significant double-talk. For example, look at this section from the Post article, in which the writer, Anne Gearan, tries to justify her assertion that Clinton has a trust problem. Read it closely:
In an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll in late June, 69 percent of respondents said they were concerned that Clinton has a record or reputation as untrustworthy. A CBS News poll in June found 62 percent saying Clinton is not honest and trustworthy, while 33 percent said she is. Her ratings on this were similar to Trump’s (63 percent not honest, 32 percent honest). But on a separate measure of being forthcoming, 33 percent of registered voters said Clinton says what she believes while 62 percent said she does not. By contrast, 56 percent said Trump says what he believes.
People are far more likely to say Clinton is well prepared for the job, while rating Trump as unsuited for the White House, said pollster Peter D. Hart, who oversaw the latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll. Where she falls down is on the more nuanced question of character and trust, he said.
This is somewhat familiar territory for Clinton, who overcame discomfort over her hands-on role as first lady in the 1990s and mistrust of her motives in the 2000 Senate campaign.
“When she won election to the Senate, she had to overcome skepticism in the minds of some voters in certain parts in New York,” campaign press secretary Brian Fallon said in an interview. “She went on to impress everyone with her work ethic and her ability to reach across the aisle, and then managed to win reelection by an even wider margin in 2006. So we know that while the political season brings out all kinds of personal attacks and unfair questioning of her motives, the reality is, once in the job, she never fails to work her heart out and earn respect from even her critics.”
Again, read that carefully. Compare the first two paragraphs with the next two. On the one hand, she cites polls about one version of “trust.” Then she does a 180 and pivots to a different version of “trust.” First of all, POLLS? Who the hell trusts (there’s that word again!) a poll enough to declare who the public trusts, as if it was somehow fact? That’s like all of the stupid polls about Obamacare; yes, most people didn’t like it, but their reasons for not liking it varied greatly. Many people hated Obamacare because they were Republican and had no choice; they hated anything he did. Others hated it because they felt it didn’t go far enough. Of course, you’re always going to end up with a majority on a yes or no question without context.
On a poll asking a question like, “Do you trust Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump – the only two people in the race with 100% name recognition, by the way – you are going to have at least 25-30% of respondents who will be compelled to say they don’t trust one or the other, no matter what. This year, you have the added feature of “Never Trump” and “Bernie or Bust” people, so of course those negative numbers will be high. Therefore, you will need a lot more than polls to support a claim that Hillary Clinton has a trust problem as a declarative sentence. We’re not electing a pastor or choosing a spouse or best friend. We are choosing the next President of theUnited States.
So, look at the last two paragraphs above. Every candidate in the history of politics has faced a certain level of distrust. It is natural for voters to distrust politicians; they have to earn it. But it’s a different kind of trust. Put it this way; I wouldn’t trust the Bill Clinton of 20 years ago with a good looking female relative, but if he wants to help Hillary with economic policy, I’d trust him completely. Who wouldn’t, except a Bernie Stan? See the problem? “Do you trust (Candidate)?” is a ridiculous poll question because it doesn’t provide context to the trust in question. No, I probably wouldn’t trust Hillary Clinton to bake cookies for a church bake sale. But to run the country? Sure. And since the race is between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and I wouldn’t trust Donald Trump to run the country on my worst day, the answer is obvious.
People do trust Hillary Clinton. If they didn’t trust her, they wouldn’t vote for her. I mean, DUH.