This election is about voters choosing the least worst candidate. That's where we are in our politics.
— Chris Cillizza (@TheFix) September 4, 2016
That tweet from Chris Cilizza of The Washington Post’s The Fix blog is cleverly framed to be about the voters’ view of this campaign. Both candidates do have high unfavorable ratings among the public (as does the Congress and pretty much every other institution, including the press.) That jaded comment by a member of the media, however, illustrates something important. Some members of the press are not just commenting on a reality; they are pushing the theme of two equally unpalatable candidates and it just isn’t true.
The main problem for Clinton is that people think she is a congenital liar. When asked what it is she lied about, most people can’t point to anything specific; they just know she’s dishonest and corrupt. The fact that she’s been dogged by political enemies and investigated by special prosecutors, the media and Congress with unlimited budgets and every possible means of getting to the truth and has been exonerated doesn’t seem to register. Indeed, the fact-checkers all find her to be more honest than virtually anyone in politics while Donald Trump, by contrast, lies more than he tells the truth.
To understand how this came to be, go back to a column from 1996 in The New York Times by vicious right-wing columnist William Safire who first dubbed her a “congenital liar.” All the crimes that he accused her of committing and lies he insisted that she had told later proved him to be the liar (or badly misinformed), but it didn’t matter. For many reasons, not the least of which was simple sexism, it was set in stone that this feminist, lawyer first lady was devious, calculating and power mad — Madame Defarge and Evita rolled into one. The political press has filtered its coverage of her through that lens ever since. [Continue reading…]