Democratic politics require a certain amount of transparency.
Voters want to know that their candidates are forthcoming with information, trustworthy and willing to open their pasts to the people. A good candidate realizes they need to show constituents the process of their politics.
Hillary Clinton‘s most recent scandals show her commitment to transparency, but not the popular kind.
The former first lady caused a stink yesterday when she answered a The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review journalist’s question regarding Barack Obama‘s embattled former preacher, Jeremiah Wright, “I just think you have to speak out against that, speaking against what she called hate speech… You certainly have to do that, if not explicitly, then implicitly, by getting up and moving.” Alright, that’s not so scandalous. She’s simply answering a question. The contention, however, came later in the day, when Clinton again addressed the issue, this time offering a more detailed and well-aimed response:
You know, we don’t have a choice when it comes to our relatives. We have a choice when it comes to our pastors and the churches we attend. Everyone will have to decide these matters for themselves. They are obviously very personal matters, but I was asked what I would do if he were my pastor, and I said I think this choice would be clear for me.
While Clinton supporters will defend the Senator by pointing out she was simply clarifying an earlier report, others accuse the former first lady of throwing up a smoke screen. Time’s Joe Klein certainly thinks so, telling Anderson Cooper last night:
…What we saw, I think, is pretty transparent and a very clear sign of desperation. She moved the — you know, the focus of this campaign back to race and hate speech as an issue. Now, that may well be a — you know, a significant issue in this campaign.
But to deny that what she did today was, you know, finally moving that issue into the fore, in order to distract attention from her embarrassment is baloney. You know, I — I think it’s pretty clear what happened today, and it’s a real sign of desperation on the part of the Clinton campaign.
Clinton’s comments came conveniently close to CBS News footage contradicting the Senator’s account of an official trip to Bosnia. She has repeatedly described her landing in the war torn nation as perilous, complete with sniper fire and a rush to safety:
I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead, we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.
Video of her landing, however, clearly shows Clinton yucking it up with American soldiers. None of the parties – including first daughter, Chelsea Clinton – looked harried or, for that matter, hurried. In fact, it looks like quite the leisurely landing.
Clinton’s Bosnia scandal is just one of Clinton’s questionable exaggerations. She once told voters that she played a key role in bringing peace to North Ireland. Former North Ireland minister Lord Trimble of Lisnagarvey later debunked that statement as “silly,” pointing out that Clinton played a largely ceremonial role, while her president husband did the dirty work. Of course, Hillary did get her hand dirties during her time at the White House, as seen in her NAFTA participation.
Clinton, whose husband passed NAFTA in the 90s, said during this campaign that she has always opposed the trade agreement. But tecently released White House schedules – which were only made public after a lawsuit pressed the matter – place Clinton at a number of pro-NAFTA events. Actually, despite what she’s claimed, the schedules place Clinton at no less than five meetings “aimed at helping to win congressional approval of the deal.” Now that the heat’s been turned to high and her exaggerations catch up with her, the usually cool Clinton’s getting flustered.
Consider the Senator’s defensive response to the Bosnia question:
I think that, a minor blip, you know, if I said something that, you know, I say a lot of things – millions of words a day – so if I misspoke it was just a misstatement.
Mrs. Clinton later tried to sweeten her sour with a failed attempt at humor: “I made a mistake. That happens. It proves I’m human, which, you know, for some people is a revelation.”
To err is human, yes, but there’s nothing divine about politically advantageous resume padding, which does not invite public forgiveness. Nor should it.
Clinton’s clearly not prepared to be honest with the American public. The Wright controversy should have been wrapped up last week, when Obama delivered his now seminal speech on race in America. The Senator’s statements were nothing more than a way to distract voters from her phony boasting. And, more distressingly, her most recent remarks give the public an ugly view of just how much she believes in transparency: she doesn’t.
If Hillary Clinton wants to win back voter’s trust, she needs to take positive steps to establish herself as a trustworthy candidate. And if she can’t do that, well, she may want to start planning her Senatorial reelection.