Vote comes down to liar vs. liar
If the delegate forecast holds steady, Americans choosing their next president will pick between two known liars in November.
Donald Trump lies flamboyantly on a wide range of subjects, from his net worth to his business failures to his donations to veterans. He lies so often and so casually that it barely rates a headline anymore.
Hillary Clinton’s style of lying is more calculated and nuanced, but we got a peek last week from the State Department’s inspector general. He issued a blunt, damaging report about her controversial use of private emails while she was secretary of state.
The report didn’t accuse Clinton of recklessly sharing classified information, but she was called out for lying on a key point. Ever since it was revealed that she’d used a private email server and a personal email account for official communications, Clinton has insisted that the State Department had “allowed” or “permitted” her to do that.
Not true, according to Inspector General Steve Linick.
He said Clinton never asked for permission to use a private server, and wouldn’t have received permission if she’d requested it. Diplomats aren’t supposed to email via private servers because of “significant security risks.”
Apparently no one at the State Department instructed Clinton to use the agency’s official email service, which was a bureaucratic bungle, but as secretary of state she surely should have known the rules.
And when the issue was later raised by two officials in the State Department’s record-keeping section, their boss ordered the staff “to never speak of the secretary’s personal email system again.”
Subject closed, Nixon-style.
The report also scorched Clinton for keeping all her emails after she left the job, instead of turning them over under the Federal Records Act. It took her almost two years to surrender about half of the 60,000 emails that had passed through the server.
Clinton says the rest of the emails were personal, and had nothing to do with State Department business. We’ll probably never know. All of this mess could have been avoided if she’d had two internet servers, keeping her private emails separate from the government emails. Was that really too much of an inconvenience?
Clinton’s supporters point out that former Secretary of State Colin Powell also routinely used a personal email account for government business. However, the department’s rules about cyber-communication had become more defined by the time Clinton accepted the post.
The FBI’s ongoing investigation probably won’t result in a criminal indictment, but the email furor will provide potent ammunition for Republican PACs and Trump, Clinton’s opponent in the general election.
For months Clinton has said she’ll cooperate with investigators and answer questions about her emails. Yet this promise is looking more and more like another shaded lie. Which investigators? Which questions?
She refused to be interviewed by the inspector general or his staff while they were working on their report. A number of her top aides also declined to be questioned.
Such uncooperative moves won’t elevate Clinton’s image with the public. Poll after poll shows her chief weakness is that lots of voters in both parties don’t trust her. The only person with worse “unfavorables” is Trump.
It’s almost inconceivable that the candidates will be able to recast themselves as shining paragons of integrity before November. Once the attack ads begin saturating the media, both Clinton and Trump will further wither in stature.
Glum voters will be left to ponder not who is the better of the two candidates, but who can do the least harm to the country.
In the absence of candidates who tell us the truth, we need to pick the one who will tell the smallest, least dangerous lies. That, sadly, is Decision 2016.
Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald.