Clinton's lies vs. Trump's lies: separate and unequal | Editorial

By Star-Ledger Editorial Board
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on August 03, 2016

 

Hillary Clinton told Fox News Sunday that the FBI Director "said my answers were truthful, and what I've said is consistent with what I have told the American people" about the presence of classified information in her emails.

Uh, no. Not quite.

You can characterize her interpretation of James Comey's summary of the email fiasco any way you want, and you probably will. You can call it a delusional spin, a wink-and-nod for disciples. You could borrow Churchill's phrase and call it a terminological inexactitude. Or you could call it a brazen lie, which is closer to the truth.

Either way, it's part of a broader distrust that will stay in the head of every voter like fragments of a bad radio jingle until Election Day, judging by the negative ratings of both candidates.

And as long as everyone is going to assume the worst from both Clinton and Donald Trump, it helps to place these falsehoods on a scale, to separate the misdemeanor from the felony, the vague distortion from the deceitful manipulation, the lies from the damn lies.

Yes, Clinton is a sketch. She can make millions from cattle futures on insider tips and a millions more giving speeches to Goldman Sachs, which makes her hard to distinguish from the fat cats she denounced last Thursday.       

And when it comes to the l'affaire email, she hears voices that nobody else seems to hear. She has repeatedly said she never sent or received anything marked "classified," which is not how Comey saw it at all, and she repeated this narrative Sunday. He was specific in his July 7 congressional testimony: "There was classified material emailed," Comey said.

He said 113 emails contained classified information at the time they were sent, but only 3 bore markers indicating the presence of classified material. Still, he noted that Clinton "should know that the subject matter is classified (and is) still obligated to protect it."

Bottom line: Comey said no classified emails should have been sent on an unclassified server, which Clinton still has trouble conceding, though it's not always clear whether she intends to make false statements.

That's the critical difference between Clinton and an opponent whose every utterance gives the impression that his skull shelters a cave full of bats.

Consider: Since Sunday morning, Trump has lied about receiving a "phenomenal" draft number in avoiding Vietnam, even as Selective Service records show that a medical deferment issued more than a year earlier kept him out of uniform; he claimed he received a call from the NFL that shared his frustration with the scheduling of two debates, which the NFL claimed is false; and he insisted that he "never met (Vladimir) Putin," even though he has often mentioned their encounters, most recently during the Republican debates.

Somehow, he even found the time to disparage a Gold Star family.

On the Trump Calendar of Whoppers, all this is merely known as "Monday."

His lies are often so recurrent and preposterous, the news cycle cannot keep up. This seems calculated, since he is trying to appeal to voters with the attention span of a moth.

A recent example was the Dallas police assassination: Trump declared that "some people asked for a moment of silence" for the murderer, which never happened. This fantasy - call it Dancing Muslims, the Sequel – is designed to keep his supporters afraid of people he wants them to fear.   

Clinton also tries to manipulate messages, a talent as old as politics itself.

The difference is that Trump is so unencumbered by clue, his grasp of truth is beyond the reach of parody. Gradually, the electorate is catching on to it. But if too many still find it irrelevant, one weeps for the species.

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