The Relative Honesty of Clinton and Trump

Why am do I expect you to waste your time reading a post with such a silly title. Obviously, while opinions on Clinton’s honesty differ, everyone knows that Donald Trump is a pathological liar and a crook.

Oh Mr straw blog reader “everyone” eh ? Let’s ask Quinnipiac

“American likely voters say 53 – 42 percent that Trump is not honest. By a huge 66 – 29 percent margin, voters say Clinton is not honest.”

This is the same group of people among whom Clinton had a huge lead in voting intentions “In the battle of the unloved presidential candidates, Democrat Hillary Clinton tops the magical 50 percent mark among American likely voters, leading Republican Donald Trump 51 – 41 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University National poll released today. ”

Arithmetic says there is someone who thinks Donald Trump is honest (already appalling) that Clinton is not honest, and, yet for other reasons (too numerous to count) plans to vote for Clinton.

This poll suggests that a whole lot of people think Clinton is less honest than Trump but should be president because she isn’t an ignorant, spoiled, thin skinned, intellectually lazy, irresponsible, reactionary, racist, selfish, incompetent ….

Sorry to run on, I meant to type “Who plan to vote for her anyway.”

On the other hand Politifact begs to differ .

For a bit more detail, go to Robert [non Wald] Mann at


Trump is rated by the Politifact Mann colaberation as the most dishonest and Clinton as second most honest after Obama. Now I know that Mormon’s are notoriously lefty, but the figure has been clipped and posted and tweeted and (I guess) facebooked by many people more prominent than I.

So why do the people polled by Quinnipiac seem to have such a different view ? Why don’t we look at the sober essay “You Failed Chumps” by Josh Marshall, who shows that there is the doublest of double standards here. Trying to understand he wrote

Many reporters and editors simply take it as a given that Trump’s a crook. So stories about Trump’s corruption amount to what journalists call dog bites man stories – not really news because it’s the norm and wholly expected. The second related point is that many reporters and editors at a basic level don’t take Trump seriously as a real candidate.

I’m absolutely sure he is right. Reporters and editors don’t bother proving Trump is dishonest, because they think to themselves “everyone knows Trump is a lying crook”. But not everyone knows that. What they mean is that anyone who doesn’t know that is so far beneath me that I can’t even see that far. Which is distasteful, but wouldn’t bother me so much if I were confident that the people whom they consider beneath their notice won’t elect Donald Trump (they could go over to the upshot to check if their dismissal of Trump as a candidate is based on solid data (and over at the NY Times they are much more sanguine than fivethiryeight or the f*king Daily Kos for Chrissakes.

Trump may be absurd, but he is not a joke (who else was laughed at but turned out to be important ?).

OK so why is the political press doing such a terrible job of reporting on the relative honesty of Clinton and Trump ? I speculate after the jump

1) As you saw if you clicked the link damnit, Marshall notes that part of the explanation of the colossal failure of the New York Times is that they hate Clintons. This is true of the political press more generally. I think there are various aspects to this mental pathology
a) They are Ahabs: They have tried and tried and failed and failed to harpoon a Clinton. Bill is their great white whale. Hillary will do in a pinch. Every time they claimed they had nailed him and he got away, they lost a bit of their credibility and their dignity. This is spectacularly true of the New York Times which had an excellent reputation way back in 1992 when they started hunting Clintons (kids believe me — it was considered a fine newspaper).
b) They know Hillary Clinton hates, despises and contemns them, that she thinks they are worthless parasites who have betrayed the honorable calling of journalism to be pathetic followers of Matt Drudge and David Bossie who also despise them and laugh at their servile gullibility …

Ran on again. Part of the problem is that Hillary Clinton might agree with me on some issues.

(explanations 2 and 3 are described above the jump)

To Marshalls 3 explanations I add some more.

4) Ballance (TM). Again two aspects of the pathology
a) editors feel they have a duty to be fair and balanced. When it is impossible to be both, because the facts have a clear liberal bias, they are fair and unbalanced. They consider equal treatment of Clinton and Trump to be equally many column inches to Clinton and Trump scandals and not to an equal standard for deciding if an allegation is worth investigating and reporting.
b) they fear the appearance of liberal bias. The tireless (and probably partly sincere) ref workers on the right still terrify MSM editors. Applying and equal standard to Clinton and Trump would expose them to the accusation of reporting that implies Clinton is a better candidate President.
c) Also it is boring. If it is entirely predictable that today’s paper will give another reason to vote for Clinton, why bother reading it ? Relatedly, political reporters need a horse race. If Clinton wins by 20 lengths they will spend months on page A24.

5) (my favorite) there is a Clinton vs the political press test of wills. Clinton didn’t hold a press conference for months, then she added insult to injury by holding a Black and Hispanic Journalists press conference. I am absolutely certain that some political reporters (and I suspect some editors) are trying to send her the message that she will regret not giving them that access to which they feel entitled.

Part of the reason I like explanation 5 is that it explains absolutely absurd articles casting aspersions on Hillary Clinton because Bill Clinton went to North Korea to save two journalists and diplomatic passports. This article by the contemptible Eric Lichtblau has earned the despicable Lichtblau the everlasting contempt of every decent person. Thus Lichtblau took one for the team. His willingness to sacrifice all dignity and credibility to send Clinton the message that she had better mollify the press will be appreciated by all mainstream political reporters. Exactly because his article is costly to him, it will be appreciated as a self sacrificing contribution to the Cause of access.

Consider the view, which seems universal among journalists, that Clinton is secretive. She has published detailed policy proposals reporting hard choices which must displease some. Political strategy would suggest strategic vagueness, that is promising all things to all people. As I have noted, the Clinton Foundation is the focus of many more pseudo scandal stories than Clinton speaking fees exactly because it is so transparent.

There is an odd choice of words in “The Clintons are secretive” as there is in “Donald Trump isn’t afraid to tell the truth”. In this context, “secretive” just doesn’t mean keeping lots of things secret. I think I know what reporters mean. I think they mean that the Clintons don’t tell them anything which they don’t tell the general public. A published policy program doesn’t show non “secretive”ness because, if it’s published there’s no point in knowing it and who has time to read it and who cares about policy.

The bread and butter of access journalists is information that only they have. If it is announced it is no big deal (no problem if polls show most people don’t know it, hell political journalists probably don’t know it). I think what political reporters mean when they say Hillary Clinton is secretive is that she doesn’t tell them anything she doesn’t tell the general public (and orders her staff to do the same). So secretiveness doesn’t mean not having secrets, it means not sharing the secrets with me me me.

Personally, I have no doubt that some reporters and some editors have decided to teach Clinton a lesson, that they have decided to make her life miserable until she gives them an exclusive inside scoop. I have even less doubt that many more sincerely believe they are fighting for openness and transparency and against paranoid secretiveness and that they will therefore make her life miserable until she gives them an exclusive inside scoop.