There’s No Comparing Clinton’s Untruthfulness to Trump’s

Hillary Clinton will at times obfuscate the truth. Donald Trump doesn’t even know what the truth is anymore.

Hillary Clinton
American secretary of state Hillary Clinton speaks at a summit of Pacific nations in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, July 11, 2012 (State Department/William Ng)

Nicholas Kristof had a good column in this weekend’s The New York Times about the very different relationships Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have with the truth.

Whereas the Democrat will at times obfuscate the truth, the Republican appears to have no shame and tells blatant lies even after he’s been called out on them.

Here is how Kristof puts it:

If Clinton declares that she didn’t chop down a cherry tree, that might mean that she actually used a chain saw to cut it down. Or that she ordered an aide to chop it down. As for Trump, he will insist, “I absolutely did not chop down that cherry tree,” even as he clutches the ax with which he chopped it down moments earlier on Facebook Live.

Yet others in the media treat the two presidential candidates’ distortions as if they were similar.

False equivalence

The Brookings Institution’s Thomas E. Mann warned against such false equivalence earlier this year:

Trump might be the most unqualified and temperamentally unsuited major party presidential nominee in American history, conceivably a threat to the stability of our democracy, but “voters just don’t trust Hillary.” (Conclusion: they are both untrustworthy; the sources and consequences of the public distrust for each candidate are best treated symmetrically.)

Watch this segment from Sunday’s Meet the Press for an example. The presenter, Chuck Todd, acknowledges that Clinton is far ahead of Trump in the opinion polls but cautions that the former secretary of state could be in trouble if voters decide to care more about her perceived untrustworthiness.

The fact that they don’t, and rather care more about experience and temperament, confirms my theory that trust is overrated. It matters, for sure — but a candidate’s competence and voters’ desire for either continuity or change matters more.

Clinton’s campaign knows that. It’s why they’re emphasizing her readiness for the presidency as opposed to Trump’s unfitness.