Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Clinton and Trust

The 2016 Presidential Election is eighteen months away, yet the race already has become very intense for both political parties.   Republican candidates, of whom there are more than a dozen so far, are busy raising money and vying for attention.  On the other hand, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the favorite for her party's nomination, is being battered by conservatives on the issue of trust.

It is no wonder Clinton is her party's overwhelming choice.  A New York Times/CBS News Poll released this week shows the magnitude of Clinton’s strength.   Of the Democrats asked, 84% agreed that Clinton shared "the values that most Americans try to live by."  The poll showed 91% of Democrats surveyed believe that she "has strong qualities of leadership."   Democrats polled were also asked, "Do you think Hillary Clinton is honest and trustworthy?"  The results showed 82% of the Democrats polled said yes.  However, the poll finds that only 48% of all Americans say Clinton is honest and trustworthy, while 45% say she is not honest and trustworthy.

Clinton's trustworthiness is the issue Republicans and conservative media outlets are pounding hardest at.  And Clinton has given her opponents ammunition.  She used a personal server for all of her emails while serving as Secretary of State, which did not comply with Obama administration policies.  Subsequently, she had all of her "personal" emails from that period destroyed, more than 55,000 pages of them.  Was there a "smoking gun" related to Benghazi, or with some scandalous dealings with a foreign country.  For sure, Republicans will ask that question again, again and again.

In fact, they will also have yet another chance to question Clinton about Benghazi, as she has agreed to appear before the House Select Committee on Benghazi later this month.  She insisted that the meeting be open so she would not have to deal with selective leaks from Republicans.  Nonetheless, the Republicans have kept Benghazi alive through more than a dozen hearings and millions of taxpayer dollars in a so far fruitless effort to turn a great and painful tragedy into a scandal.  That's politics.

Now Republicans are proffering allegations that Secretary of State Clinton did favors for foreign countries while she was in office in exchange for huge speaking fees and contributions to the Clinton Foundation.  A newly released book, "Clinton Cash" by conservative author Peter Schweizer, has fueled the attacks.  The book does not offer any hard evidence of sweetheart deals, but it does strongly suggest there is a pattern.  The Clinton campaign is now aggressively attacking the book's allegations.  Earlier this week, former President Bill Clinton, while on a two-week Africa trip, said there was "no evidence" of wrongdoing.  The Clinton Foundation has been widely praised for the work it does in the area of public health around the world. 

Hillary Clinton has long been a polarizing figure on the American political scene.  Those who love her do so with great passion.  And those who hate her absolutely detest her. A Pew Research Center Poll showed that Clinton's term at State might be her strongest positive.  And more older white women, a demographic that usually is heavily Republican, are supporting her.  So it's no wonder Republicans are trying to turn her strengths, her service at State and her leadership, into negatives.

But can voters trust each of the GOP candidates?  After all, they are politicians.   For example, Senator Ted Cruz pandered to his supporters' fears that a U.S. Special Forces exercise was a cover for a plan to impose Marshall Law in Texas.  “My office has reached out to the Pentagon to inquire about this exercise," he said in an interview.   Is he kidding?  This from the man who led a government shutdown, but then denied he was responsible for it.

The Bradenton Herald, a Florida newspaper, last month published a story with this headline: "Senator Marco Rubio claims rated 41 percent honest."   USA Today ran this story in November 2013:  "Rand Paul admits his plagiarism 'is my fault.'"  Paul had been caught lifting other people's work for his speeches and his book.  Of course, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie didn't know about the lane closure on the George Washington Bridge.  

Republicans are out of sync with a majority of Americans on issues like income inequality, how to increase employment, immigration, marriage equality and national security.  Attacking Clinton's trustworthiness is their default position.  The more each of these flawed Republican candidates goes after Hillary Clinton on the issue of trust, the more their hypocrisy will be exposed to all Americans.   And they will give Hillary Clinton the opportunity to talk solutions and her ideas for moving the country forward.

Who do you trust?

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