Trump only 'talks awful'—Hillary actually 'does awful'
A somewhat lengthy piece in The Observer (the paper owned by Trump's son-in-law) makes the case that while Trump says stupid things Hillary does criminal things. This kind of analysis is always fascinating to The Omnivore: what gets brought up first, second, third? Does the list include the murder of Vince Foster? Is any evidence litigated in the claim--or just talking points?
First: A Note on 'Conspiracy Theory'
The Omnivore holds that Conspiracy-Theory Thinking is one of the most toxic ingredients in the toxic soup of today's partisan, polarized politics. CTT is marked by individuals holding beliefs that (a) are generally verifiable and (b) have been debunked by people on their "own side." The hallmark of CTT is that when trying to defend a particular belief the holder has to resort to what 'they know' or what 'people say'--where "people" are sources that don't acknowledge the facts that both sides agree on.
The Observer is, despite being owned by Trump's son-in-law (and one of the 4 serious newspapers to endorse The Donald), a reasonably sober affair. Is this article a victim of CTT? We'll see.
Charge 1: Lying About Benghazi
The first thing that author Austin Bay gets into is the comparison / charge that while Trump's response to Khan was poor, Clinton's response to the Benghazi parents was far, far worse. She lied to the parents of the slain, blaming a video instead of a planned attack. When asked to comment on the RNC's speaker, one of the mothers of the dead, Clinton, after the boilerplate respect for her son's service, said:
She’s absolutely wrong. I and everybody in the administration, all the people she named, the president, the vice president, Susan Rice, we were scrambling to get information that was changing literally by the hour, and when we had information, we made it public. But then sometimes we had to go back and say we have new information that contradicts it.Emails have shown that Hillary attributed the attack to a planned assault by actual terrorists.
Putting aside the fact that (a) not all Benghazi parents recall hearing the same thing and (b) there was some contradictory evidence about what motivated the attack (one of the Benghazi planners, for example, blamed the video in an interview he gave while still free), let us assume that Clinton did, in fact, tell the parents that a video was responsible instead of a planned strike--which they knew to be the case.
That would be a lie about "why their son(s) were killed."
Why lie? The reasoning is that it was an election year, the attack, if proven to be enabled by negligence on the part of the President (or, later, the Secretary of State who would run for president) would damage their case for re-election. By spinning the story of the attack as an impromptu provocation which no one could have seen coming, they would mitigate the blame.
Were this proven to be the case, it would make Hillary a liar. Liars are morally in the wrong.
Problem 1: Everybody Lies
Anyone who has watched the House TV show knows that everyone--and most of all politicians--lie all the time. Trump changes his story rapidly--sometimes within the same sentence. Bernie Sanders has been fact-checked spinning statements to their, erm, most favorable presentations. Ted Cruz said things about Donald Trump he obviously didn't believe (so did Marco Rubio). If lying is your red-line for supporting a candidate, you're out of luck.
Maybe Gary Johnson. Just don't ask him if he has a reasonable chance to win the presidency: He'll have to lie.
Problem 2: The Benghazi Conspiracies
No, the problem isn't the lying. That's the cover-story for Benghazi. The issue under the "lying" is (a) anger that the administration didn't fall on its sword in an election year and (b) that the group of people who care about Benghazi have been given a whole raft of things to believe that are not so. In the Benghazi constellation of conspiracy:
- Clinton ordered a stand-down on a rescue attempt, condemning the people to die.
- Clinton denied extra-protection that the consulate was begging for.
- Clinton's state department was doing something illicit there (running weapons to what would become ISIS in Syria) and has done lots of illegal things to cover that up.
The problem with these is that there have been at least 8 congressional inquiries into Benghazi and no evidence for these theories has been found. In fact, Kevin McCarthy put the investigation in context with Hillary's chance of winning an election. The theory that the entire persecution of Benghazi is political is overblown--but it actually has more merit than the theories that actually drive it.
Charge 2: Emails
The author points out, correctly, that Hillary lied about what FBI Director Comey said about her emails. She claimed in an interview that he backed her on her story. He didn't. He called her extremely careless with emails and pointed out that several of her claims (no classified intel, use of one device, etc.) were false.
He asserts that there is a national security question that the press is letting Hillary skate on.
Problem 1: Everybody Lies
The issue of what Hillary did with her emails is now an after-thought here: what he's really upset about is Hillary lying by asserting that Comey cleared her. While it would make the RNC's job easier if she fell on her sword and exited the race, it's not reasonable to expect her to do so. Was she baldfaced about it? Yes she was. Should that hurt her? It already has: most people think Hillary is pretty elastic with the truth. That's baked in to her numbers.
Problem 2: She WAS Cleared
If sending one classified email to an insecure server was a go-to-jail crime, other secretaries of state would be jailed. It isn't. Hillary did run her own server--something other Sec of States didn't do--but that, by itself, isn't a crime (and, notably, she had something like 113 classified emails out of more than 60k and very few (if any?) had classified markings in the header).
In other words, the actual criminal threshold--any email on any non-governmental system--either does apply to a lot of other people--or is just being applied to Hillary. It turns out? It didn't apply to Colin Powell and it didn't apply to Hillary either.
Comey scolded the hell out of her for her email use--but that was it. He found there wasn't reasonable cause for charges and didn't recommend them. Comey has zero problem speaking truth to power. He was considered a stand-up guy--heroic--by the right--until he did what he felt was best and not what they felt was best.
Problem 3: The Email Conspiracies
Of course if you ask people they will tell you that the reason Hillary had a private server was so that she could do all her illegal shit outside of the prying eyes of the government. In other words, the problem isn't what we--and Comey--saw: it's what we didn't see (because she deleted the emails and then wiped the server down with a cloth). The obvious problem with this is that Comey did investigate and find a bunch of emails. Including recovering deleted emails. The Omnivore remembers the toasting on conservative twitter when this came out: it was expected to make the wheels come off the Hillary campaign.
It didn't--there was no 'there' there. The classified emails we know about were a whole lot of nothing. There were no emails showing illegal operations whatsoever.
Charge 3: A Compliant Liberal Press
After dusting off Benghazi and hitting on Email-Gate, Austin Bay gets to the meat of his complaint: a liberal media that aids and abets Hillary's lying. He points out, correctly, The Omnivore thinks, that most reporters are Democrats. He claims that this is the cause of the media focusing on Khan and not on the Benghazi mom--or giving Hillary a pass on the emails.
This will never be satisfactorily resolved for either side--a case can be made that Hillary has received the most negative coverage--but whatever the (various) facts of the matter, it is certainly true that "The Media" has not been telling the Republican side of the story for a while. Whether this is because the Republican side of the story is bullshit is up to the viewer.
Some Real Talk
Hillary has certainly lied. She has lied a lot. She has lied boldly. She has also told the truth--by some measures more than anyone else in the campaign. For Republicans reading this, it will be hard to remember that before she was a candidate she was broadly popular--a very high both-sides favorability rating and commonly picked as the most admired woman in the world for a record 20 year stretch. That seems impossible to believe now--but it's true. One of those inconvenient facts.
Keep in mind as well that that favorable rating came while Obama was in office--people were familiar with her.
When it was clear that she was running there was actual panic among the GOP. Remember that Kevin McCarthy bragged to Hannity that "Everyone said Hillary was unbeatable"--but then the Benghazi hearings. That was actually true: Hillary wasn't the candidate that anyone could beat. She was a super-candidate that united the party and drew big-money donors.
That changed with her announcement--but her 20 years in politics history hadn't changed--only the realization that she would follow Obama if she won. Those are facts. Here's another: The Clinton Foundation took money from a lot of bad regimes--a lot of bad people--and there are allegations that (a) it stole it and (b) that those people bought influence.
The Omnivore is pretty sure that people tried to buy influence with the money--but that's a hypothesis. It holds less water than the idea that Trump's position on Putin was set by Manafort (who has worked for Putin's regime). Both have connections--neither has absolute tangible proof.
In the end, you believe what you want to believe--but what you can prove? That's a very, very different matter.