Robert Reich: Trustworthy Hillary – OpEd


Hillary Clinton’s 6-point lead over Donald Trump in last month’s CBS News poll has now evaporated. As of mid-July (even before Trump enjoys a predictable post-convention bump in the polls) she is tied with him.  Each garners the support of 40 percent of voters.

This is astounding, given that Trump’s campaign is in shambles while hers is a well-oiled machine; that he’s done almost no advertising while she began the month spending $500,000 a day on ads; and that Republican leaders are deserting him while Democrats are lining up behind her.

The near tie is particularly astonishing given that Trump has no experience and offers no coherent set of policies or practical ideas but only venomous bigotry and mindless xenophobia, while Hillary Clinton has a boatload of experience, a storehouse of carefully-crafted policies, and a deep understanding of what the nation must do in order to come together and lead the world.

What happened? Apparently the FBI’s recent report on Clinton’s email heightened what already were public concerns about her honesty and trustworthiness. Last month, on that same CBS poll, 62 percent of voters said she’s not honest and trustworthy; now 67 percent of voters have that view.

So as the Republican convention prepares to nominate the least qualified and most divisive candidate in American history, the Democrats are about to nominate among the most qualified and yet also most distrusted.

What explains this underlying distrust?

I’ve known Hillary Clinton since she was 19 years old. For twenty-five years I’ve watched as she and her husband became quarries of the media – especially, but not solely, the rightwing media.

I was there in 1992 when she defended her husband against Jennifer Flower’s charges of infidelity. I was in the cabinet when she was accused of fraudulent dealings in Whitewater, and then accused of wrongdoing in the serial rumor mills of “Travelgate” and “Troopergate,” followed by withering criticism of her role as chair of Bill Clinton’s healthcare task force.

I saw her be accused of conspiracy in the tragic suicide of Vince Foster, her friend and former colleague, who, not incidentally, wrote shortly before his death that “here [in Washington] ruining people is considered sport.“

Rush Limbaugh claimed that “Vince Foster was murdered in an apartment owned by Hillary Clinton,” and the New York Post reported that administration officials “frantically scrambled” to remove from Foster’s office safe a previously unreported set of files, some of them related to Whitewater.

I saw Kennth Starr’s Whitewater investigation metastasize into the soap opera of Bill Clinton’s second term, featuring Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones, and Juanita Broaddrick, among others – culminating in Bill Clinton’s impeachment and Hillary’s very public (and, presumably, intensely private) humiliation.

Then, more recently, came the storm over Benghazi, which led to inquiries about her email server, followed by the questions about whether or how the Clinton Foundation charitable work and the Clintons’ own for-profit speeches might have intersected with her work at the State Department.

It is worth noting that despite all the stories, allegations, accusations, insinuations, and investigations spread over a quarter century – there has never been any finding that Hillary Clinton engaged in illegal behavior.

But it’s understandable why someone who has been under such relentless attack for a large portion of her adult life might be reluctant to expose every minor error or misstep that could be blown up into another “scandal,” another media circus, another interminable set of investigations generating half-baked conspiracy theories and seemingly endless implications of wrongdoing.

Given this history, any sane person might reflexively seek to minimize small oversights, play down innocent acts of carelessness, or not fully disclose mistakes of no apparent consequence, for fear of cutting loose the next attack dogs. Such a person might even be reluctant to let their guard down and engage in impromptu news conferences or veer too far off script.

Yet that reflexive impulse can itself generate distrust when such responses eventually come to light, as they often do – as when, for example, Hillary was shown to be less than forthright over her emails. The cumulative effect can create the impression of someone who, at worst, is guilty of serial cover-ups, or, at best, shades the truth.

So while Hillary Clinton’s impulse is understandable, it is also self-defeating, as now evidenced by the growing portion of the public that doesn’t trust her.

It is critically important that she recognizes this, that she fight her understandable impulse to keep potential attackers at bay, and that from here on she makes herself far more open and accessible – and clearly and fearlessly tells all.

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

5 thoughts on “Robert Reich: Trustworthy Hillary – OpEd

  • July 15, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    Doesn’t your whole point here lead to the inescapable conclusion that she has exceptionally poor judgement? With a bias toward leading into conflicts with military action? P.s I have been a fan of yours since the Clinton white house days and thank you for doing what you could to give Bernie a boost. (this from a life long libertarian).

  • July 15, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    I’ve always respected Robert Reich for his raw intelligence, but to call Hillary’s numerous criminal acts “minor errors or missteps” is delusional. He likes her too much – or he’s looking for another cabinet position…

  • July 15, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    Ah, yes. Your avoidance of reality is as overwhelming as your desire to protect your clearly distorted views.

  • July 15, 2016 at 7:54 pm

    Robert, I have to say that Hillary may win over a vote or two by coming clean, but I don’t think at this stage of the game her trustworthy numbers will not increase by much if at all.

    I mean honestly, she’s doomed if she does and doomed if she doesn’t at this stage and frankly she is the one that doomed herself in so many ways, she never learned and she has literally gotten away with being who she is, making costly mistakes that have in some area’s cost many lives, and there is only so much “I’m Sorry I made a mistake in Judgment” statement you can take before you realize this person simply does not have the best judgment at best and is getting away with things that the average Joe would have been imprisoned.

    Sure, some of the attacks on Hillary over the years were opponents blowing smoke, but at some point one has to realize that when it happens over and over and over and over again over decades, something is up.

    Too many people have just stood by and accepted the fact that the very wealthy and powerful do not get charged with crimes very often, and when they do it is because they messed up in a big way.

    This is basically how it looks to the regular person.

    A poor or working class person gets pulled over for a tail light out, older model car, person is obviously not wealthy, maybe even out of work, so the cop sees something or becomes suspicious that the person might have something to hide, so they look around the car.

    The cop finds an ounce or two of pot, arrests person on possession and away we go.

    Person driving a new BMW, dressed in nice cloths, interior of the car clean and some papers on the seat, clearly work related gets pulled over.

    Cop gives warning and lets person go without doing a search, yet that person has a bag of weed 4 oz in the glove compartment.

    That is the bias of our society and of how people of influence are routinely not held to the same standard as the majority of the countries citizens.

    I mean, Hillary plays the I didn’t know any better and yet she is one of the smartest people around.

    How is this possible?

    Things just don’t line up and it’s very unnerving.

    I could go on, but bottom line…I don’t think she is going to get a pass and it will be a very very close race and if she does win…it will be a bitter sweet victory…even if Elizabeth Warren is VP.

  • July 15, 2016 at 11:48 pm

    Nice try, Bob, but it just won’t fly. In fact, you pretty much made the case yourself. The Dems have about a week to press the eject button on HRC or subject the country to the very real prospect of a Trump presidency. By all rights, with all of the horrible publicity surrounding Trump and his own “failure to launch” a reasonable campaign, the Dem candidate, whoever he/she might be, should be about 15-20 points ahead in this race.  Instead, based on the most recent polls, the race is essentially tied.  Why?  There’s only one reason – the American public are not willing to accept HRC as President; across the board, they think she should have been indicted. The Dems need to face this fact right now.

    The fallout from the e-mail thing showed beyond a shadow of a doubt that HRC is a serial liar and unindicted criminal. The only missing pieces of the puzzle – missing because they were destroyed – is why she went to such extreme lengths to hide electronic files.  I would venture a reasonable speculation – she did so in order to hide business dealings as Secretary of State that essentially involved the selling of her office to bulk up a nine figure net worth.  Why else go to the trouble?  What else would have needed protection?  Isn’t this the subtext that most everyone believes?  How else, except through influence-peddling, does one amass a nine-figure net worth after spending a life in “public service”?   And doesn’t this account for the fact that a majority of people across the political spectrum, find her unacceptable.  Add in BC’s “coincidental” meeting with the AG on the tarmac and her $12,000 Armani jackets, just for good measure, to complete the picture.

    HRC is, of course, better than the unspeakable Trump.  Unfortunately, in this electoral year, full of wild cards and surprises, surmounting that low barrier might not be enough. Radical change (Brexit) is in the air, and elites all over the place are on the ropes. Unfortunately, HRC is Trump’s perfect “elitist” foil and that’s what we’re seeing in the polls. He’s tied with HRC even without running a campaign! 

    By the way, this is not coming from a die-hard Bernieite seeking a last minute resurrection.  Biden, Warren, Bernie or someone else would be acceptable – Jerry Brown would be an interesting choice!  All of these individuals would do very well against Trump.

    The Dems need to nominate someone with integrity – sorry to put it that bluntly. Otherwise, we face a November cliffhanger with a highly uncertain outcome, and the incalculable consequences that could follow:  Trump’s nominees to the Supreme Court, Sarah Palin as Secretary of State and Chris Christie as AG – the dire possibilities are endless.  Unfortunately, unless the Dems see the light, events could be setting up for this outcome. As one columnist recently characterized our dilemma:  President Donald Trump, the accident waiting to happen.


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