Lack of trust remains issue for Clinton despite FBI ruling
Democrat candidate found in most polls to be less trustworthy than Donald Trump
Hillary Clinton: Trust is her most vulnerable front and Donald Trump has attacked it repeatedly. Photograph: Reuters
The FBI exonerated Hillary Clinton from criminal behaviour for a second time on Sunday over her use of a private email server but that, predictably, did not stop Donald Trump from raising doubts about his opponent.
“You can’t review 650,000 new emails in eight days,” Trump told supporters at a rally on Sunday night in a Detroit suburb, referring to the emails found on the laptop of disgraced former New York congressman Anthony Weiner, estranged husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin, that led to the FBI look-back on Clinton’s case.
“You can’t do it, folks. Hillary Clinton is guilty. She knows it. The FBI knows it. The people know it.”
Trust is Clinton’s most vulnerable front and the Republican presidential nominee has attacked it repeatedly in this brutal campaign, nicknaming her “Crooked Hillary”.
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It is remarkable that even running against a man who lies repeatedly, Clinton is found in most polls to be less honest and trustworthy than her rival. A Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted after the FBI revived the investigation into her emails found 46 per cent said Trump was more honest and deserving of trust, compared with 38 per cent for Clinton.
The same poll put Clinton and Trump neck-and-neck, on 46 per cent each, in overall voter preferences. In other words, remarkably, some people were voting for her, even though they did not trust her. Clinton’s supporters have put the attacks on her trustworthiness down to her time in office, to “being in the arena” for so long, as president Barack Obama puts it. This avoids reflection by Democrats when it comes to understanding why she is so unpopular and why this race is so much closer than it should be.
One revealing anecdote about the former first lady, US senator and secretary of state circulated during the Democrats primary election that explains why so many Americans have come to distrust her. Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, the darling of the left that swung so heavily for Clinton’s primary challenger Bernie Sanders, tells the story about how in 1998, as a then law professor at Harvard, she visited Clinton at the White House to lobby about a bankruptcy Bill before Congress.
Hamburgers and chips
In 2001, when Bill was out of office and Clinton had won a seat in the US senate in a campaign funded by contributions from the banking industry, the same Bill came up again and the then senator Clinton voted against it. She later explained that she “held my nose” about certain provisions in the Bill in an agreement that it could be later improved and pressed Democrats and Republicans to include protections for women. Yet, in 2005, when the Bill that would not go away came before Congress again, without those protections, Clinton abstained from a vote, although she issued a statement saying she opposed it. The anecdote, recounted in the current edition of the brilliant This American Life podcast, has become a political parable to understand the faces of Clinton, the compassionate public figure looking out for the most vulnerable and the Machiavellian political opportunist beholden to her wealthiest donors. Her refusal to release transcripts of her $225,000 speeches to Goldman Sachs and her use of a private email server as secretary of state show a propensity to conceal. When the recent Wikileaks email dump revealed that she told investment bankers during a closed-doors session that it was important to have “both a public and a private” negotiating position, it gave people another reason, along with Clintonian obfuscation, to doubt her. She has shown political dexterity on other pivots.
“I am not in favour of what I have learned about it,” was her carefully crafted new position on the trade deal.
After months of denying she ever sent material marked classified through her personal email server in the basement of her New York home, FBI director James Comey not only contradicted her but said she had been “extremely careless” in her handling of sensitive information. That damning conclusion still stands, despite the FBI clearing of her any criminal wrongdoing.
She may be elected today but that lack of public trust held by many will not end if she steps into the White House.