Recently I got into a discussion with some die hard Hillary haters about Hillary’s honesty. In some ways debating these people reminds me of the days when I debated creationists; their use of cherry picked facts and evidence, the omission of relevant information, the slanting of the evidence, and most especially the overly simplistic and black and white nature of their views. And just like creationists, if you concede a point they often take it and run with it, proclaiming victory is ours.
Which is one of the reasons why I got myself into the mindset of not ceding any ground in this debate about Hillary’s honesty, even at the expense of being completely truthful.
Another reason for why I let myself get into this position is that the truth is often complicated and takes some time to explain fully. It is rarely purely black and white and even more rarely simplistic as the Hillary haters and creationists like.
So, for both of those reasons I overextended myself in my claims and defense of Hillary’s basic honesty. Hence, this long mea culpa post – to more fully explain why, while not perfectly and totally honest, I consider Hillary a basically honest person and politician.
At the time of the aforesaid discussion with the Hillary haters, I had already pointed out that Hillary did not lie when she claimed in her website bio that “After law school, Hillary could have taken a high-paying job in Washington or New York. But instead, she went to work for the Children’s Defense Fund.”
As evidence that this was a lie the Hillary haters cited part of her memoir “Living History’ where she wrote:
“I had taken both the Arkansas and Washington D.C. bar exams during the summer, but my heart was pulling me toward Arkansas. When I learned that I had passed in Arkansas but failed in D.C., I thought that maybe my test scores were telling me something.”
The Hillary haters argued that this showed that her working for the Children’s Defense Fund was not a choice but a necessity since she could not have taken a ‘high-paying job in Washington or New York” since she did not pass the Washington D.C. bar exams.
However, these Hillary haters overlooked some facts in their rush to severe judgment.
First, read the bit from her memoir again. Did you note that she said that her “heart was pulling me towards Arkansas”?
Now, combine that sentence with these two facts.
Fact one, anywhere from 10% to 40%, dependent on where it is being taken, of people fail the bar exam the first time they take it. Many subsequently go on and take the bar exam and pass it a second time. This is not a one time test.
Further note, that she did pass the Arkansas bar exam. I am not sure how many people take two bar exams at the same time, but very few I would imagine since the material covered and needed to be studied would vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. And I would also imagine this would increase the percentage of those who fail at least one of the two.
Fact two, her interest in children and working with them goes at least back to her high school days where she volunteered to baby sit the children of migrant workers. During law school Hillary volunteered at Yale’s Child Study Center to learn about childhood brain development. Further, she also took up cases of child abuse at the New Haven Hospital and provided free legal service to the poor.
In other words, working with children has long been a strong passion for Hillary.
Now, putting this all together, the one sentence and two facts, I would say it would be reasonable to believe that she purposely decided NOT to try for the Washington DC bar exam again. I would also say it would be reasonable to conclude that she chose not to at least partly on the basis of following her heart.
Which means that there is no rational basis to say that Hillary lied on this. Unless, of course, you already have a strong aversion to all things Hillary.
The other area where I felt I successfully defended Hillary’s honesty is, of course, Benghazi. Specifically on the claim about whether Hillary told Patricia Smith, the mother of Sean Smith, one of the victims of Benghazi attack, was the result of a video.
Fact one, while Mrs. Smith and some of the other families did say that Hillary did mention a video as the cause of the attack, several of the other families do not remember her talking about a video. They do, however, remember Hillary crying and being sincere in her sympathy.
Fact two, the family of Ambassador Chris Stevens have come out strongly in support of Hillary on this and on the whole Benghazi issue.
Fact three, after this meeting with the families of the victims Hillary did state:
“This has been a difficult week for the State Department and for our country. We’ve seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.”
Please remember there were attacks on two embassies that day, one in Cairo which most definitely was caused by the video, and the other by terrorists, although at the time she made this statement the idea that the video had a role to play in this attack was still in play.
Fact four, at the time of Hilary’s meeting with the families, the situation surrounding the attack at the compound was still unclear. In fact, according to multiple investigations run by Republicans, the cause of the attack was not totally resolved until the day after Hillary’s meeting with the families.
Yes, but what about Hillary’s e mail to Chelsea stating that the attack was carried out by terrorists. Well, that brings me to fact five. Initially an al Qaeda affiliated group claimed responsibility for the attack. This was the basis of Hillary’s e mail to her daughter. However, this group later retracted their claim.
Fact six, there were several bits of conflicting information in the immediate aftermath of the Benghazi attack. I know, because I was trying to keep up with them in real time. Further, the multiple investigations also showed this conflicting information.
In fact, what is of interest is that Hillary, while believing that Benghazi was a terrorist attack does believe that the video did have a role to play, probably as a motivating factor. A belief several other experts share, probably because of the fact that some of the actual attackers stated that the video was part of their motivation for attacking the compound.
So, I believe that Hillary sincerely believes she did not say anything about the video being the cause of the Benghazi attack. However, in this emotional moment with the tears and the sorrow and the seeking of answers, Hillary may have mentioned the video without saying it was the reason for the attack. Or, this could have been woven into the memory of those families who remember the video being stated as the causes through other sources, possibly even Hillary’s comments after the meeting that I quoted above.
Memory is not a fixed thing. Our brains do not faithfully record events as they happen. This is especially true when there are strong emotions involved. Mistakes are made and remembered as true when they are not.
In this regard, it is important to note that someone can be mistaken and still not be a liar. In fact, that is what Hillary has said of those families who remember her blaming the attack on the video, that they made a mistake due to the confusing and conflicting amount of information going around at a time of strong emotions.
Perhaps a simple example would help. This is something that happened many years ago to my father. He and a friend were walking in a city park (I cannot remember which) when they saw from across the park a car hit another car and then drive away. When giving their statements to the police they both said they clearly remembered the color of the car that did the hit and run. My father said one color, his friend said a completely different color.
Now, do I believe that one of them was lying? No. One of them had made a mistake, something quite common with memory. In fact, it is quite possible that both of them are wrong.
The take away from this is that one can be wrong, but still not be a liar. That applies to my father and his friend, to those families who remember Hillary stating that a video was the cause of the attack, and to Hillary who states she did not say that. For that matter, it applies to all of us.
Bottom line on this, I do not believe that either Hillary or the mother, Mrs. Smith, are lying.
Now, we come to my mea culpa. The point at which I defended that which I should not have. A lie of Hillary’s. This lie involves her statements about not sending confidential e mails on an unsecure server.
Part of what makes this an interesting question is the Hillary haters have been using it to say that Hillary lied and perjured herself in testimony before Congress. My answer was and continues to be that she probably did not.
What? I can hear you say. This is the bit where you are supposed to be writing about Hillary lying. And so I will, because I do believe that she is lying now in regards to not sending confidential e mails. The reason for this distinction lies in FBI Director James Comey’s statements regarding Hillary’s e mail system, both his initial statement on the findings of the investigation and his subsequent testimony before Congress.
What is of most relevance here is that in his statement about the investigation and in later Congressional testimony is that only a few of these confidential e mails were marked as classified. Further, the way they were marked is with a small “c” beside the classified material rather than a header proclaiming it classified.
In his Congressional testimony Comey further testified that if someone is not familiar with the rules regarding the handling of classified information, it is entirely possible that they may not have known what the “c” stood for and assumed that if it did not have Classified at the top that it was not.
As he said, this was sloppy and careless. However, it does mean that Hillary may have honestly testified before Congress that she did not send any classified e mail. At that time, she believed she had not.
An aside here – there are some Hillary haters that take being sloppy on security means being sloppy in all areas, a generalization that is not justified. Especially since Comer in his report and the internal audit done by the State Department showed that the State Department had been rather lax about classified material. This includes the time period before Hillary became the head of the State Department. This would have also contributed to her belief that she was not sending classified material.
However, this was at the Congressional Hearings which were held before Comey released his findings and recommendations. And this is where we now get into the bit where Hillary is lying.
She is still saying that she did not lie and was absolved. Not quite. And with Comey’s statement before her she knows it. So, today she is lying.
And this is what I tried to defend. I included it with my arguments about the Congressional testimony when I should not have.
So yes, Hillary is lying today when she talks about not sending classified material.
Now, what makes this instructive and interesting is the light it sheds on certain political truths. This sort of lying is called spin and all politicians engage in it. The only real difference is in how they engage in it and how often.
Hillary has taken note of part of Comey’s report while ignoring other parts to provide a narrative more favorable to her. As I said, this is something every politician does and that every politician in a democracy has to do to a greater or lesser extent.
In fact, in my next blog I plan to argue that in any democracy – no matter the country, no matter the time – politicians have to lie. It is an integral part of being a politician in a democratic system. I will only put this out there for your consideration here and wait for my blog to develop the argument for this claim.
However, that means that the divider between politicians is not between whether one is totally honest and the other lies, but, instead, between how often they lie and about what subjects.
As I have discussed above, on two out of three items in which Hillary haters have claimed she lied, she actually hasn’t. On the third one, she probably was speaking truthfully at the Congressional hearings, or at least there is enough information from Comey to raise a reasonable doubt in any impartial jury looking at criminal charges for her for perjury. But, she is not now when discussing these e mails.
Using that criteria, how often Hillary lies, Hillary is actually one of our more honest politicians. According to Politifact, of all the Presidential candidates both Republican and Democrat, Hillary was the most honest (although both Bernie Sanders and John Kasich came very close to being as honest).
And that is part of why I believe Hillary to be a basically honest person. I also believe this throws some light on something most have overlooked about our political system. Namely that dishonesty is a basic part of the process and has always been so and will probably always be so. But more on that in a later blog.