This campaign season is unorthodox. That is an understatement. But we have also let fester an insidious and dangerous layer of false equivalence and normalization of hate that has settled upon how the campaigns are covered, talked about and perceived. For the good of the voters, it has to stop.
What is this false equivalence and how do we prevent it from giving voters the impression that both campaigns are on equal footing?
By pointing it out at every turn. So let me start with just a few examples.
Overall, it is important to point out that Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE has been the least transparent presidential candidate we have had in modern history, and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump defends indicted GOP congressman GOP lawmaker says he expects to be indicted over FBI investigation Why it's time for conservatives to accept the 2020 election results and move on MORE has been one of the most transparent. We know more about her and her life than we do about practically anyone in politics today.
Yet the campaign’s lack of immediate disclosure about her pneumonia diagnosis has been described as yet another failure of transparency from a campaign that has been dogged by a penchant for secrecy.
But let’s be very clear. Even on health issues, we know far more about the Secretary’s health than we know about Trump, who is two years older than Clinton, does not exercise regularly and famously boasts about frequently eating junk food.
We have a genuine letter from Clinton’s long-time doctor who has actually examined her, where we get information about Hillary’s past health issues, concussion, allergies, her thyroid, etc. We know about her EKG, her heart rate, her respiratory rate, her cholesterol level, and the medications she takes and for what.
We know nothing in any of these areas about Donald Trump. His doctor’s “letter” was a farce. A joke. Voters deserve better. Trump has promised more detailed health information in an appearance on “The Dr. Oz Show” later in the week.
But he promised to release his tax returns as well.
Speaking of which, Secretary Clinton has released almost 30 years’ worth of her tax returns. We know what effective tax rate she pays, how much she has donated to charity, how much she is worth, and what investments she has made in the last 40 years.
We know nothing in any of these areas about Trump. Except for we do know he did not pay ANY taxes in the late 70s, the only years for which we have seen his tax returns because of an application for a casino license that required those returns.
Other than that? Zilch.
Which could be exactly what he has paid since then as well.
Thanks to the great reporting of the New York Times however, we also know that Trump owes millions to banks in China and in Germany. And other reports prove Trump and his close advisers have ties to businesses in Russia. Perhaps that is why he is so infatuated with Russia’s autocratic leader Vladimir Putin.
A man vying for the presidency of the United States, who would influence policy over Russia, China, Germany and any other nations that do business with Trump enterprises, is a man who needs to disclose exactly what those ties are and what sort of influence these countries will have over the potential next President.
That is the definition of a conflict of interest. Voters deserve better.
We also know more about the Clinton Foundation, its donors, its mission, how much money it raises and how much of that money goes to its mission (89%). While the Trump campaign has tried obsessively to tie the foundation to illegal behavior (without success), what needs to be emphasized is the incredibly good and life-saving work of the Clinton Foundation.
What do we know about the Trump Foundation and Trump’s philanthropy? A recent Washington Post story uncovers how Trump’s foundation was great at giving away other people’s money. Almost none it Trump’s.
And thanks to the Associated Press, we know that the Trump foundation, actually engaged in real, pay-to-play schemes when the Foundation made an illegal donation to the Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who then turned around and dropped a pending investigation into fraudulent activity at Trump University.
In another example of false equivalency, Secretary Clinton recently said that half of Trump’s supporters could be categorized as a “basket of deplorables.” While she should have said “some” instead of “half,” her point is not wrong. Trump has normalized trafficking in hate, racism, xenophobia and sexism.
This is deplorable. https://t.co/OoYoePI5Ik— Maria Cardona (@MariaTCardona) September 11, 2016
And many of his supporters hold these views. His current campaign manager had previously called Trump’s supporters “skeezy” and “downright nasty.”
Trump has already tried to use this against Clinton saying she has insulted all of his supporters. That is a lie. In fact, she specifically said empathy should be given to most of Trump’s supporters who have felt left behind.
And the irony of this faux outrage coming from a candidate who has insulted whole swaths of voters from the day he announced his campaign, is too rich even for Trump.
Voters also know more about how Secretary Clinton did her job because of the release of her work emails than we know about Trump and his business dealings. But what we do know about his work ethic, should scare us all. More than 3,500 lawsuits against Donald Trump show fraud at Trump University, demonstrate how Trump refuses to pay his workers and sub-contractors, and show how he has hired undocumented workers and models to work for him illegally.
And about Secretary Clinton’s emails, to quote the Washington Post: “Imagine how history would judge today’s Americans if, looking back at this election, the record showed that voters empowered a dangerous man because of . . . a minor email scandal. There is no equivalence between Ms. Clinton’s wrongs and Mr. Trump’s manifest unfitness for office.”
Exactly. There is no equivalence on any of these issues or between these candidates.
Trump is by far the least transparent, most dishonest, most divisive candidate in recent history who uses hate, blame and vitriol and props up leaders who do the same.
Secretary Clinton is far from perfect. But her experience, temperament, knowledge and steely, steady resolve, puts her heads and shoulders above Trump who has proven to be temperamentally, dangerously unfit, uniquely unqualified and wholly unprepared to be our Commander in Chief.
Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.
The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.