This fall Americans will decide what sort of liar they want as their president. Do they want a tiresome, hairsplitting, lawyerly liar, or a bold, flamboyant, spontaneous liar—the sort of liar who could keep surprising us even after years in office?
Last week Hillary Clinton gave us a preview of what life would be like with the first kind of prevaricator in chief. It was not fun.
In an interview with Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace, Clinton doubled down on the devious defenses she has been offering since March 2015, when The New York Times revealed her use of an unsecured private email server as secretary of state. Last year, you may recall, she said there was no classified material in her electronic correspondence, or at least none that was classified at the time, or at least none that was marked as classified.
An FBI investigation found none of those statements was true. Yet when Wallace pointed that out, Clinton said FBI Director James Comey had in fact confirmed "my answers were truthful."
Given another chance to correct the record last Friday, Clinton repeated the same fallacious argument that earned her Four Pinocchios from Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler: Because she was not charged with lying to the FBI about her State Department emails, everything she told the public must have been true, even though it demonstrably was not. But Clinton also said she "may have short-circuited" her answer and suggested that "Chris Wallace and I were probably talking past each other."
To recap: After the email story broke, Clinton repeatedly offered assurances that turned out to be false. Then she said the FBI had validated those statements, which was also false. Then she falsely insisted her claim about the FBI was true, even while implying that it resulted from a misunderstanding—which also was not true, as anyone who watches the video or reads the transcript can see.
Untangling Clinton's lies is as tedious and unrewarding as untangling that unused mass of twine at the bottom of the tool drawer. When Donald Trump lies, by contrast, you really know you've been misled, and you have to be impressed by the sheer audacity of his mendacity.
This is a guy who asserts with a straight face that the "real" unemployment rate is not 5 percent but 42 percent and that President Obama plans to admit 200,000 refugees from Syria—20 times the actual number. This is a guy who promises to eliminate the $19 trillion national debt in eight years and to cut annual Medicare spending on prescription drugs, which totals $78 billion, by $300 billion.
This is a guy who repeatedly insists he saw "thousands" of Muslims in New Jersey openly celebrate the destruction of the World Trade Center, despite a complete lack of evidence to support that claim, and denies that he mocked a newspaper reporter's physical disability, despite a video that shows him doing it. This is a guy who claims he always opposed the war in Iraq, despite a recording of him supporting it before the invasion.
"There's never been a presidential candidate like Donald Trump," writes Kessler, the Post fact checker, "someone so cavalier about the facts and so unwilling to ever admit error, even in the face of overwhelming evidence." And Kessler's list of Trump's whoppers does not even include the billionaire reality TV star's claim that he has read the Constitution, which seems quite unlikely given that Trump thinks that document has 12 articles, empowers judges to sign bills, authorizes presidents to rewrite libel law, and bans birthright citizenship.
According to a recent CNN survey, 66 percent of voters consider Clinton dishonest and untrustworthy, while 65 percent say the same of Trump. But those ratings do not capture the huge difference in entertainment value between the candidates. If you want a president who will not only prevaricate but prevaricate with panache, Trump beats Clinton hands down.
© Copyright 2016 by Creators Syndicate Inc.