As we eagerly anticipate the DNC conference next week, Dennis Sullivan, former Editor of MSNBC, reminds us that Hillary will continue to tell the truth, while Trump will continue to lie

Of more than 50 statements made by Donald Trump during his madcap run for the American presidency, 63% of those analyzed by The Washington Post, have been given Four Pinocchios. That means the most lying marionettes the paper can award. The other famous truth checking outfit, Politifact, gives Dissembling Don almost 80% for his mostly false statements, 20% of them getting the rarely assigned rank of Pants on Fire.


Of course there are things about Dangerous Don that are far more worrying than the obvious fact that he makes things up. But what worries me about his lying is that the media feels compelled to call Hillary dishonest every chance it gets, just to keep things even. Paul Krugman calls it "twosidedness," which I find a felicitous term. It's an old standby of straight journalism of the kind I studied at Columbia Journalism School years ago. Actually it's a perversion of the ancient ideal of objectivity, warped into a wrongheaded notion that's been cleverly exploited by the disgraced Roger Ailes at Fox News Channel. "Fair and Balanced" may have become a punch line, but the original nostrum has also become poisonous.

I think this false balance, more than any set of actual facts, accounts for the endless repetition of the notion that these are the most disliked candidates in the last (pick your number) 40 years. Twosidededness also goes a long way toward explaining the embedded meme that Hillary Clinton is neither honest nor trustworthy despite Trump's verifiable falseness and by now almost legendary and very scarily erratic behavior. After a while, it doesn't seem to matter how loony Trump is, because everyone "knows" Hillary is dishonest and untrustworthy.

It's true that she is often defensive, but she certainly has a right to be. (There really is a vast Right Wing conspiracy after all. ) And besides, has there ever been a politician who was NOT defensive? What about Himself, The Donald? He lash-tweets at every slight and every perceived slight. Not only is Trump untrustworthy, he has proved many times over that he doesn't care about trust. And by the way, the Trump Family attempt to portray Dad as Mr Wholesome has not erased from my mind the memory of his hinting that he would screw Ivanka if she weren't his daughter. And to those who say that Trump says horrible things only to be provocative, I say that you are rationalizing.

Now it's true that HRC gets her fair share of Pinocchios too. A large percentage of those bad marks have to do with her "damn emails." Not everything Hillary said about those mails has turned out to be true. But in no way does that mean she was lying. If you listened to James Comey in his testimony before the House Oversight Committee, he said she was careless, that she seemed to be technically inept, that she was somewhat cavalier. But he explicitly concluded that there was no evidence that she lied, and he repeated that in the face of persistent hectoring from the Republican members.

The Republicans get away with hanging the mendacity label on Hillary largely because the press keeps making this connection every time they mention her name. It happens so many times that every once in a while I'm almost tempted to buy it myself.

Whitewater, Benghazi, the server, none of it actually amounts to a row of beans. On the other hand, the Wall, the Muslim ban, the suspension of libel laws, the undermining of our allies in NATO, these are real threats. And they're a big deal.

The inestimable Margaret Sullivan (no relation), formerly Public Editor of the New York Times and now Media Columnist at the Washington Post, took Lesley Stahl to the woodshed for not challenging, on 60 Minutes, Trump's frequent and demonstrably false assertion that he opposed the invasion of Iraq "from the beginning." Sully (Twitter handle,@sullyview) goes on to say: "As journalists continue reporting on the Great Dissembler, they need to be.. skilled and persistent at what they do. They should not let Trump, or any candidate, get away with lying to citizens." Even that "or any candidate" is a concession to twosidedess, yet as a critique of the willy nilly kid glove treatment of Trumpian outrageousness, it's spot on.

Unfortunately, most of this stuff is baked into the cake of obfuscation and outright propaganda. So what can Hillary do about this phony albatross around her neck? Well, the most straightforward answer is probably also the best. Tell the truth. Or as I would put it, continue to tell the truth. Then, pick a running mate with a perfect record for honesty. And call out every single Trumpian prevarication. Be sure you're right. Apologize when necessary, not excessively, always clearly. And although I get why you don't, I think it would be wise to hold the occasional news conference.

Clearing this meretricious character issue is probably not essential to winning but it has taken on a life of its own, and it will continue to grow like Topsy if it's not taken on squarely. Or so I believe. Honestly.


July 21, 2016

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