The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Deceit and power work in Hillary Clinton’s favor

Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at Rainier Beach High School in Seattle on Tuesday. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

In politics, it is said that you can fool some of the people all of the time and you can fool all of the people some of the time. In other words, liars have pretty good odds. The smoking guns keep piling up at Hillary Clinton’s feet, but nothing seems to trip her. Yesterday, Judicial Watch released a batch of documents, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, that it says reveals blatant coordination between then-Secretary of State Clinton and the Clinton Foundation. Stunningly, the internal State Department emails expose Clinton’s eagerness to “thank [Clinton Foundation] supporters for their commitments.” Of course, these “commitments” must mean money. It’s incredible.

And, Clinton’s State Department was apparently coordinating meetings for Bill Clinton with foreign heads of state. If any other employee at the State Department had arranged such meetings for their spouse and actively thanked contributors to their spouse’s foundation, they would likely go to jail. No lawyer would even let it go to trial, because the sentencing guidelines would guarantee years behind bars. Another way to think about what was going on is to imagine that another country’s foreign minister’s spouse or family ran a foundation that American companies were caught giving to. Those American companies would certainly be vulnerable to prosecution by the Justice Department under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

It’s only because Hillary’s last name is Clinton and because she is the Democratic front-runner for president that she isn’t already being prosecuted for something or another. For anyone else at the State Department, their conviction and sentencing would produce only a matter-of-fact, back-page reference in The Washington Post.

The double standard doesn’t end there. If any other State Department employee had decided to conduct all of his or her official business on a personal server located in his or her private home, that person would have already been prosecuted. Period. Full stop. And the story of that guilty plea would only have been prominent in the news because of the brazen gall displayed by the officeholder in question.

While it’s not all criminal, Clinton’s record of deceit has become something of an advantage for her campaign. One thing she can count on is that no one trusts her or believes what she says about her current policy positions. She rails against the big banks and the bankers she has always been cozy with, in part as a response to the popularity of Bernie Sanders’s message. But if you ask any bankers how they feel about Hillary Clinton as president, they will tell you they don’t fear a Hillary Clinton presidency. They will tell you that Hillary Clinton knows them and they know her. No one believes her White House would be hostile to the financial services industry. No one assumes she is telling the truth. They all know she is just saying what she has to say on the campaign trail in order to pacify the most gullible among the Democratic voters. The bankers and Wall Street types all count on the idea that whatever Clinton says in the campaign is irrelevant. They are all getting the message; they all see the wink, and they are happy to shrug off today’s rhetoric.

It’s the same thing with the free-trade advocates and the Keystone XL pipeline opponents. There is not one business executive who thinks a President Hillary Clinton would actually block the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade treaty. The anti-Keystone groups will rely more on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau than on Hillary Clinton’s newly minted assertions that the pipeline won’t get built.

Don’t just take it from me. Voters can sense her lack of authenticity and sincerity. In the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, 59 percent of voters said that Hillary Clinton is not honest and trustworthy. The only person who is viewed as being even less trustworthy is the Republican front-runner, Donald Trump. How is it that in a country of approximately 330 million people, there aren’t two well-adjusted, honorable people who are likely to end up being our choices to be president of the United States?

It’s all very discouraging. Election 2016 is taking American politics beyond a new low, entering us into a reality where deceit and deception are assumed.