My friend and colleague, Nikoli Sokol, just wrote a passionate and articulate piece on some of his problems with our Presidential candidates this election cycle. We’ve had plenty of spirited debates on the topic, and I think that kind of engagement is important. Just because you disagree on who should be elected President doesn’t mean you can’t still be friends. Isn’t that the American ideal?
What matters to me is not that Nikoli (or anyone else) agrees with me. What’s important to me is that any criticism be fair. And there are some criticisms of Secretary Hillary Clinton made in your piece that simply aren’t fair. I’ll be honest, I’m a pretty enthusiastic supporter of Secretary Clinton.
But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t be moved by a good argument or by new evidence. I just don’t find most of the common criticisms of Hillary Clinton all that moving (especially in the context of her matchup against Donald J. Trump).
What if She’s Not Trustworthy?
The most often criticism I hear about Hillary Clinton is that you just can’t trust her. The reasoning for this is that she “lies so often.” I understand where this comes from. Secretary Clinton has a long history of being secretive, of playing things close to the vest. I’m not going to spend my time parsing every supposed lie she said. That wouldn’t really serve anybody’s interest. (Besides, Politifact already did that for me, comparing how honest she is to how honest Mr. Trump is)
I think the better question is: have we ever had a President that we consider completely “trustworthy?” Probably not. Republicans don’t trust Barack Obama (remember the “You lie!” moment from his State of the Union address?), Democrats didn’t trust George W. Bush—the list could go on forever.
I can’t really gage the trustworthiness of another human being, especially one I’ve never actually met. What’s more important is accountability, I think. And Hillary Clinton has shown that she is willing to be held accountable by the system. She shows up for House hearings, she releases her e. mails when ordered to by a judge, she submits herself for review by the justice department, and so on.
Now, she advocates for herself through these processes (she has a right to do that, as do we all), and these processes have indeed mostly exonerated her. But what’s important to me is that she has shown herself willing to be held accountable to the system. You can argue with the results that system produces, but not with Secretary Clinton’s willingness to be held accountable by that system.
What if Hillary Clinton isn’t trustworthy? I’m okay with that, as long as she is accountable to the system.
But Hillary Clinton is Corrupt, Right?
There have been a slew of “corruption” related charges and accusations made against Hillary Clinton. Among those are the following:
- She deleted 30,000 e. mails from her private server after she was subpoenaed (this is mostly not true, by the way—the e. mails were ordered deleted before the subpoena was issued)
- She engaged in pay-for-play while at the State Department (there are some suggestions that her aids might have given more access to those who donated to the Clinton Foundation… but there’s really no evidence those people would not have had access anyway. In other words, there’s no evidence that proves pay for play)
- She used the Clinton Foundation to line her pockets (this isn’t true—the Clinton Foundation spends 90 cents of every dollar it receives on the charitable work it does; Clinton uses Wall Street to line her pockets)
- She influenced the FBI’s recommendation not to prosecute her (there’s absolutely no evidence of this; even if you accept that Bill Clinton was trying to influence Attorney General Loretta Lynch, he wouldn’t have needed to. The FBI was making a recommendation to Lynch, and she had said she would honor whatever that recommendation was)
There are more… you could spend all day on Snopes looking them up. There’s absolutely no evidence that Secretary Clinton rigged any part of the system. There is evidence that she knows the system, however.
Nikoli points to how prosperous the Clintons have been since leaving the White House. Because they’ve released their tax returns, we actually know where their personal wealth comes from: paid speeches, book deals, and hard work. If the Clintons were running on the Republican ticket, they’d be lauded for their entrepreneurial sense and their unrelenting work ethic. They left the White House in 2000 as celebrities and capitalized on that celebrity to give themselves comfortable lives.
I’m not really sure there’s anything un-American or suspect about that.
Look, Hillary Clinton has been under more scrutiny for the past twenty years than any living person on the planet. If she was truly corrupt they would have found something by now. There’s just no objective evidence to support this notion of corruption.
I’m not naive enough to say that Secretary Clinton is perfect, without any scandal or blemish on her record. There are fair arguments you can make about her decision-making. There are fair arguments you can make about her voting record, about the legislation she pushed (while First Lady) in 1990s and so on.
But to simply dismiss her as some kind of James Bond-style comic book villain is, I think, unfair. If you can’t look at the work she’s done for women and children over the past three decades and see some at least a kernel of kindness, empathy, and commitment to the common good, there’s nothing I can say that will convince you.