Op-ed: The Clinton blame subterfuge

  • By Bob Franken
  • Tuesday, September 6, 2016 3:39pm
  • Opinion

OK, supporters of Hillary — and for that matter, Hillary herself — it is YOUR job to convince the voters of the United States not to elect a maniacal, hateful con man to be president. That’s your responsibility. It’s not up to us to take him on and make your case.

By “us,” I refer to those in the media, who cling to the ideal that journalists are supposed to be skeptics, and follow the story wherever it leads “without fear or favor,” as The New York Times publisher wrote back in 1896. That is our tradition. That “favor” part is the key. If you can’t sell yourselves, if Donald Trump becomes president, if his regressive constituency is empowered to drag us back into the Dark Ages, that’s on you.

Any candidate other than such a flawed one should have made mincemeat out of him and them. Instead, the race is uncomfortably close. That is the case for one gigantic reason: To put it bluntly, Hillary Clinton, you are widely perceived to be a habitual liar. It is not an image that was concocted by any “vast right-wing conspiracy,” although the right-wingers have been shameless in their attacks against you. It is, in reality, a result of how you’ve responded to their onslaughts, how you continue to respond.

I’ve covered you for 25 years now, a sizable chunk of my career. In that entire time, you have greeted each and every controversy with the same tired, deceptive tactics. By now, they have become clumsily transparent. First you circle the wagons and belittle the unwelcome story. If that doesn’t work, you try to intimidate the bearer of bad news, the reporter. When that is counterproductive, you dissemble, play lawyerly word games and go into your secrecy mode. You speak of a “zone of privacy.” I have news for you: Public officials, particularly presidents of the United States, or even secretaries of state, have a really tiny zone of privacy. In fact, it’s almost nonexistent, no matter how you’ve tried to create one over the decades.

You’re still at it (and still doing serious damage to yourself), even though it never works. A case in point is the just-released partial case file of the FBI’s investigation into the narrow question of whether you violated the law, mishandling classified material as secretary of state, when you insisted on doing all your communication on a private server. It is true that the Feds decided that they couldn’t accumulate enough evidence to prosecute you. But your answers to their interrogation, to the effect that you left such matters as handling national secrets up to subordinates and you weren’t aware of the rules, might leave the impression you were feckless or raise suspicions among those who will cast their ballots. For those who have followed your career, it looks like more of the same Clinton games.

How can you rescue your campaign? It won’t work if you continue to hide from the media, as you have been for many months. Blaming us for focusing on triviality and ignoring all that makes Donald Trump an abomination just won’t cut it. Let us not forget that it’s not for nothing that Trump despises those who report on him even more than you do. He had gotten used to sycophantic coverage over the years, but now that we’re doing our job, making him accountable and exposing his demagogic horror, he’s going ballistic occasionally inciting his hordes perilously close to the point of violence against those in the press pen. You haven’t resorted to that, but your tactics are definitely not trivialities. Even if you survive the election, your evasions will seriously undermine your presidency. Americans still believe in a transparent government, even if that’s a subterfuge. Because of your reputation, you have very little slack. And you might not get the chance. If you don’t change your ways and embrace openness, it could well be President Donald Trump, heaven help us. And you’ll have only yourself to blame.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

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