Would you want Hillary Clinton as your home-mortgage broker? (This is a serious question, although it has nothing to do with actual mortgages. I don’t think.)
As for Clinton herself, her bandwagon-jumping nature is a big reason why so many people dislike her. But in this instance there was the additional element of dishonesty: she knew that Sanders rather than the editorial board members had it right about what Dodd-Frank provides. She had said so publicly, recently, in a statement in which she also said she had said that before.
I added an addendum to my Thursday post, on a different matter—but it’s really part and parcel of the same one: The New York Times fact check blog had fact checked a recent statement of Clinton’s in which she said she “couldn’t believe” it when she learned that Sanders was opposing the recent Paris climate-change agreement. Her intended implication of course was that Sanders thinks the agreement goes too far. Both the statement itself and the intended implication were false. Sanders supports the agreement as a first step and says much more is needed.
What’s the real story? What’s she leaving out? What intended inference is not true? What connection is she implying that is false? What word is she parsing or cutely redefining? Both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are habitual, maybe pathological, liars, so hopefully it won’t matter that, in Clinton, the Democrats will be nominating someone who campaigns like a used-car-salesman cliché.
— Why did Paul Krugman and the Washington Post editorial board—both of whom know better—misrepresent that it was Sanders rather than the New York Daily News editorial board that was wrong about what Dodd-Frank provides, and about whether it would be Treasury or instead the financial institutions themselves that would determine the method of paring down?, Me, Apr. 10
At the end of that post I said it would be my last on the subject of that New York Daily News executive board interview of Sanders and the punditry’s reaction to it. And it will be. That first paragraph above is about that, but this post is not. It is instead about the matter discussed in the second paragraph above, and about a new comment by Clinton, this one as part of a gun violence panel in New York City on Monday.
They both are illustrative of a weird, routine campaign technique of Clinton’s, one that I’ve noted in several posts since last summer, that I’m pretty sure are playing a fairly large role in Clinton’s inability to shake the widespread impression that she’s not honest, not trustworthy. And her failure to overcome a distaste for her among large swaths of progressives. Her sleight-of-hand misrepresentations about a statement or past or present policy position of Sanders’s, or a fact supposedly related to one, via two sentences, one immediately following the other or separated by another sentence or two, intended to impart a misstatement of fact. She has done this now repeatedly in the last six months or so.
In the one I referenced above about the Paris Climate accord, the NYT Fact Checks of the 2016 Election blog’s Thomas Kaplan wrote:
Discussing climate change on Monday, Mrs. Clinton cited her “very vigorous record” on the subject. Then she proceeded to express bafflement about a stance she said her opponent had taken.
“I couldn’t believe it when Senator Sanders opposed the Paris agreement — the best chance we have to actually reverse climate change and deal with the consequences,” Mrs. Clinton said in an interview on “Capital Tonight,” an upstate New York cable news show.
The Paris agreement, reached in December, commits nearly every nation to take action to combat climate change. Given that Mr. Sanders has made climate change a major issue in his campaign, his supposed opposition would indeed seem odd.
But Mrs. Clinton’s characterization was misleading.
It is true that Mr. Sanders did not warmly embrace the Paris agreement. But his lack of enthusiasm was for the opposite reason that Mrs. Clinton suggested.
“While this is a step forward, it goes nowhere near far enough,” Mr. Sanders said in a statement in December. “The planet is in crisis. We need bold action in the very near future and this does not provide that.”
Clinton’s statement that Sanders opposed the agreement is false. And since her comments clearly were intended to indicate that she is more supportive than Sanders of attempts to address climate change through international agreements (much more, actually), and therefore more supportive of attacking climate change, period, the statement indicated clearly, yet did not expressly say, that Sanders opposes the Paris accord because it is too strong. Sanders, as Kaplan states, both supports the agreement and thinks it doesn’t go far enough, and (presumably) wants further accords.
Taking Clinton at her word in light of Sanders’s actual statement about the accord—as I hope Sanders does at tomorrow’s debate or the next time he discusses the issue of climate change—what Clinton said is that she can’t believe it that Sanders thinks the Paris accord isn’t the end-all-and-be-all of international climate change, and that he hopes there are additional international accords that will strengthen and broaden the Paris one. She couldn’t believe it—her own words—presumably because she herself thinks the Paris accord is sufficient and cannot be improved upon because no improvement is necessary. That’s the only other possible meaning of her statement. Right?
Sanders should pick up that ball and run with it.
The new edition to this log of misrepresentations-by-cutely-placed-irrelevant-fact-plus-skillful-omission-of-a-relevant-one—specifically, her comments at the gun violence panel on Monday—did not include an actual false fact. Instead it featured an irrelevant fact highlighted in a several-sentence statement strongly suggesting that the fact meant something meaningful—a Clinton specialty, perfected to a science based on the recognition that people reflexively presume that the central stated fact is stated and highlighted because it is relevant. Which is proving to be a reflex that should be resisted when listening to Hillary Clinton.
The statement of fact by Hillary Clinton was fact-checked by Washington Post Fact Checker blogger Michelle Ye Hee Lee fact-checked. This what Lee fact-checked:
“[Sanders] frequently says, ‘We’re a small, rural state, we have no gun laws.’ Here’s what I want you to know. Most of the guns that are used in crimes and violence and killings in New York come from out of state. And the state that has the highest per capita number of those guns that end up committing crimes in New York come from Vermont. So this is not, ‘Oh I live in a rural state we don’t have any of these problems.’ This is, you know what, it’s easy to cross borders. Criminals, domestic abusers, traffickers, people who are dangerously ill, they cross borders too. And sometimes they do it to get the guns they use.”
— Hillary Clinton, panel on gun violence, April 11, 2016
Lee’s post is lengthy, but here are the last several paragraphs:
We don’t dispute that there are guns tied to crime in New York that originated from Vermont. Every state had at least some dozen traced guns originating from it in 2014. But it’s important to keep these numbers in context.
In 2014, guns from 10 states comprised 56 percent of all traced guns, ATF data show. The top 10 source states, in order from highest to lowest, were: California, Florida, Texas, Georgia, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Arizona and Indiana.
Vermont ranked 49th behind Hawaii in raw figures among all source states in 2014, ATF data show. As a percentage of population, Vermont ranked 40th among all source states, at 31 guns per 100,000 people.
The Pinocchio Test
Vermont does provide the highest per capita number of guns tied to crimes in New York. This point resonated with audience members, who gasped when she told them this factoid. But as much as the Clinton campaign may want to blame Sanders or his home state for the guns in New York, this is a misleading data point.
The per capita calculation is skewed by Vermont’s small population (55 guns out of 626,562 people, or 8.78 guns per 100,000 people). When it comes to gun trafficking between states, the raw numbers indicate the actual volume of guns flowing out of a state, and the prevalence of dealers who may be selling guns that are tied to crime. If you take out the 55 Vermont-originated guns from all crime guns that came from outside of New York, the number of crime guns in 2014 would decrease to 2,556 from 2,611. That’s how much impact the flow of crime guns from Vermont has on the volume of crime guns in New York.
The number of crime guns in New York from Vermont is so small that it could even be attributed to one or two bad actors. Using the per capita measure of trafficked guns originating from Vermont is as pointless as counting guns trafficked per 100,000 head of cattle.
We wavered between Two and Three Pinocchios. Clinton has carefully crafted her talking point to find the particular government data that support her point, which gives a wildly different view than how trafficking flows are tracked. We do not find the per capita measure as a fair assessment of gun flows from Vermont into New York. The difference between this point using per capita calculation and the raw number (1 percent of crime guns with source states identified in 2014 came from Vermont) is so stark that it creates a significantly misleading impression to the public. Those factors tip to Three Pinocchios.
Elsewhere in that article or in another one I read, it is noted that the comment drew gasps from the audience, indicating Clinton’s success at suggesting that the statistic she was citing matters. Meaning almost certainly that most audience members thought, as she surely intended, that as a percentage of population, Vermont ranked 1st among all source states as the source of all traced guns involved in crimes in New York state. But it was not first; it was 40th, according to Lee.
It’s asinine. And in any event it sure would be interesting to ask some members of that audience whether they understood what statistic Clinton actually was talking about: 55 guns originating in Vermont and used in crimes in New York State in 2014, without which there would have been 2,556 rather than 2,611 guns originating from out-of-state that were used in crimes in New York state that year.
Quoting myself in the Comments thread to my Apr. 7 post about Clinton’s parroting of the punditry’s take on the part of that editorial board’s interview of Sanders concerning the breadth of Dodd-Frank vis-à-vis ‘systemically important’ financial institutions notwithstanding her statements directly to the contrary during the February debate and earlier in the campaign, I wrote in my Aug. 10 post, the one from which I excerpted the opening paragraphs of this post:
Clinton did her usual thing: Someone fed her a line and she parroted it. I hope that at the debate on Thursday Sanders hangs this one around her neck. and tightens the noose until she gets that she needs to stop that tactic–even if she needs methadone to help her break the habit.
That applies as well to her irrelevant-fact-plus-skillful-omission-of-a-relevant-one method of misrepresentation of fact, but I doubt that methadone or anything else will help her quit, because she apparently thinks it’s effective. Which it is; these statements gain media attention, are fact checked, and shown to be deliberately implicit misrepresentations, cutting yet deeper into her credibility for voters.
No one wants to feel like they’re dealing with a slippery car salesperson or a pre-Crash mortgage broker. No one wants to always have to presume that if she’s talking about her opponent she’s as likely to be misleading in her statements as not.
Since credibility is not the forte of Trump, Cruz, Paul Ryan or anyone else the Republicans plausibly will nominate, either, this won’t be the problem that it would otherwise be. But really, what’s the purpose? Maybe it really is like heroin for her.