Many nonpolitical friends are currently sharing with me their concern that the 2016 presidential election is sinking to a new low.
It’s easy to see where they’re coming from. After all, you can’t sit through five minutes of a Republican debate lately without hearing competing candidates calling each other liars or threatening to bring lawsuits against one another. The fight then bleeds over every day thereafter. Donald Trump’s assessment of Ted Cruz that “[h]e is like a little baby: soft weak, little baby . . . [b]ut for lying he’s the best I’ve ever seen” is just the latest in a string of insults slung during this already heated campaign.
From what I can gather so far, forget the economy and terrorism, lying and being a liar is going to be the number one issue this campaign cycle. Then there is the question of whether or not certain candidates are indeed liars or if they ever intend to lie or promise the American people that they’ll never lie.
Hillary Clinton has spent the past couple of days addressing this very issue. When asked if she’d ever lied or would ever lie to the American people, she gave an answer that every lawyer who has ever prepped a witness for a deposition would be proud. She hemmed and hawed and danced around the question like the pro that she is saying, “I don’t believe I ever have . . . I’m going to do the best I can to level with the American people.”
Clearly, the answer we were all supposed to look for is “no.” Then again, if she’d said “no” about half the population of America would scream “You’re a liar!” anyway so she really couldn’t win there. Given that, she tried the lawyerly response which is to answer without fully committing yourself. It’s a common defensive legal tactic. That way if the DOJ investigators, for example, come back to ask you later, you can honestly say with a straight face that you really didn’t say what they’re trying to say you said.
Here’s an example.
DOJ Investigator: “Did you instruct your employees at the Department of State to intentionally misrepresent the nature of the emails they were handling on your personal server?”
Mrs. Clinton: “I do not recall that. No, I don’t believe I did.”
See how clever this is? Not recalling or believing are the big guns of sworn testimony. Go to any trial or watch enough episodes of Suits and you’ll see the pattern. Under no circumstances do you ever remember or know anything. Period.
When were you born?
You don’t recall (which technically is probably true in a sense. That was a long time ago and you likely don’t remember the actual event).
See how it works.
Everything is nuanced. You “just don’t recall.” Only “to the best of your recollection” do you remember anything (if you really want to crawl that far out on the limb of truth).
The problem for Hillary Clinton is that this isn’t a trial (at least not officially yet), it’s a political campaign and all her words will be scrutinized a little differently.
So while the American Bar Association and her husband (“it depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is) probably applauded her answer the other day, the rest of America wasn’t fooled. Later, Mrs. Clinton tried to correct her mistake by flat out saying “no.”
Naturally, half of us heard that and think she’s lying.
Clearly, she’s not good at it.
Donald Trump would probably tell her to talk to Ted Cruz if she wants some advice on how to do it right.
And so it goes . . .