Before The Next Debate, Do Your Hillary Homework! (Or Else, Study These Cliff Notes):

The White House in Washington, D.C. is seen after sunset as darkness falls. It is the home of the first family of the preside
The White House in Washington, D.C. is seen after sunset as darkness falls. It is the home of the first family of the president of the United States of America.

Bone up on the facts, before Trump recites these tired falsehoods at the closing debates.

When "Hillary doubters" are asked to point to specific things that raise concern about her trustworthiness or integrity, they mention the so-called "email scandal" or the supposed "Clinton Foundation transgressions"-- or even to purported failures in Libya and Iraq. But they are never able to point to factual, real-life wrongdoings on Hillary's part.

There is a simple reason for this: no wrongdoing has actually taken place. Rather, these invented incidents are the product of an overly active imagination by dystopic Trumpians, the alt-right underworld, and the seemingly ever-present cadre of dedicated Hillary naysayers. The press shares the blame by perpetuating dubious myths in the interest of eyeballs, advertising dollars and the promotion of a Presidential race made to seem closer than it should really be.

At the upcoming debates, Trump promises to hit Hillary "harder." Don't let his own fabrications deceive you:

Falsehood #1. Have you heard the one about Hillary being caught in a lie because she claimed that no classified emails crossed her unclassified server? Trump will undoubtedly bring this up--and given all of the press palaver, you may have missed that FBI Director Comey actually exonerated her on this point. How so? Well, in brief, what makes a sensitive document a genuinely classified document is the way it is marked--as in with a heading "Top Secret," "Secret," or "Confidential." Guess how many documents crossing Hillary's unclassified server during her time in office bore one of these required headings? What if you were told the answer was zero, zilch, nada? (Well--that is the fact of the matter.)

In the absence of such classified markings or labeling, the decision as to which of Hillary's emails contained classified material is an entirely subjective one: one classification expert might deem a nugget of information or expression "classified," while another may not. Hillary naturally relied on the hundreds of diplomats and other highly experienced State Department employees she communicated with to keep her within the bounds of "non-classification" when she communicated over unencrypted servers.

Meanwhile, from everything you've been hearing or reading, you would think all of Hillary's communications traveled over unsecured servers--but this could not be further from the truth. Rather, when Hillary needed to communicate, or receive information about, really sensitive and genuinely classified information, she did so via a whole separate, highly encrypted, system that connects the State Department to Embassies and consulates around the world

Want to go a little deeper on this topic? Well then, Homework assignment #1 is to read this: This Must Stop: The Three Big Fictions (And One Hidden Truth) About Hillary's Emails

Oh, and one more thing: about those 33,000 emails Hillary supposedly wrongfully deleted? Well, here are the operating facts: when leaving public service, all Government employees are allowed to take their personal emails with them--and preserve or delete them, as he or she sees fit. At a time well before Hillary's handling of emails became a public issue, she instructed her lawyers (all with proper security clearances of their own) to review her tens of thousands of emails and to dispose of those that were personal. As reported by the FBI, Hillary did not personally review or second-guess the work of these highly capable lawyers who, again, followed this procedure long before the email issue became a lightning rod for trumped up Republican charges. As with the other falsehoods about Hillary's emails, there is absolutely no wrongdoing to be found on this point--and the Republican FBI Director specifically came to the same conclusion.

Falsehood #2. Trump has declared the Clinton Foundation to be "the most corrupt organization in history." Ignoring for a moment the smoking guns of corruption unearthed in recent weeks about Trump's own foundation, let's consider Senator Tim Kaine's words describing the Clinton Foundation--a pithy and accurate description he provided at the Vice Presidential debate on Tuesday night:

I am glad to talk about the foundation. It is one of the highest rated charities in the world. It provides AIDS drugs to about 11.5 million people. It helps America deal with opioid overdoses and it gets higher rankings for its charity than the American Red Cross does. It does a lot of good work. Hillary Clinton as secretary of state took no action to benefit the Foundation. The State Department did an investigation and concluded that everything Hillary Clinton did as Secretary of State was in the interest of the United States. So, the foundation does good work and Hillary Clinton as secretary of state acted in the interest of the United States.

In particular, every single Trump charge of "trading favors" or "pay to play" has been debunked by the many analysts who have looked at the Clinton Foundation--and notably, no U.S. investigative agency has chosen to go after it. It is especially telling that, given the worldwide friends and contacts Bill and Hillary have developed over 40 years in public life, they have nevertheless succeeded in respecting the punctilio of "no special favors" for foundation donors--a foundation which exclusively supports the poorest of the poor around the world.

Want to go a little deeper on this topic? Well then, Homework assignment #2 is to read this: How the Press is Making the Clinton Foundation into the New Benghazi

Falsehood #3. Trump will undoubtedly assert, yet again, that he was against the Iraq war before it began--and then he will pivot and say that Hillary supported the war, even voted "for" it in 2002. While Hillary has long since taken ownership for that vote (as was both responsible and politically astute), what if you were to learn that Senator Clinton was joined in her Iraq vote by liberal lions Tom Harkin, John Kerry and Joe Biden? Notably, this vote took place just over a year after 9/11 and at a time when the only war George Bush had prosecuted to that point was a highly popular and successful one, to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban.

More importantly, what if you learned Hillary's "yes" vote on the 2002 Iraq resolution was actually one that aimed to restrain the President's power to wage an unjustified war on Iraq? You see, lawyer Hillary, a junior New York Senator at the time, voted aye on a resolution that required that sanctions or diplomacy be fully employed before force was used--i.e. force was to be used "only as "necessary and appropriate in order to defend the national security of the United State" and only upon the President certifying to Congress that "diplomatic or other peaceful means" would be insufficient to defang Saddam.

So when Hillary later apologized for that vote, many of us understood this not as apologizing for the side she took on that vote, but rather for trusting a man, then in only the second year of his Presidency, to abide by the requirement that he exhaust weapons inspections and other diplomatic means before going to war.

What Hillary said at the time she cast that vote also belies any notion that she was a war-monger, either then or now:

My vote is not a vote for any new doctrine of preemption or for unilateralism or for the arrogance of American power or purpose, all of which carry grave dangers for our Nation, the rule of international law, and the peace and security of people throughout the world.

Yes, these are Hillary's actual words on the day of her vote in October 2002. And these words presaged the collaboration-seeking "Smart Power" doctrine she later advanced as Secretary of State.

Want to know more about this topic? Well then, Homework assignment #3 is to read this: Re-Examining Iraq: Is Hillary Really a Hawk?

Falsehood #4. Trump will also undoubtedly repeat his assertion that he opposed our country's Libya intervention in 2011, which took place under Hillary Clinton's watch. (He didn't--he supported it.) But Trump doubles this particular lie when he says Libya is now a lost cause, or that ISIS has taken over the entire country. (On ISIS: their Libyan leadership has recently been decapitated, and they are on the verge of being completely ousted from their principal stronghold in the town of Sirte.)

The genesis of our country's effort to support Libyan democracy was the March 2011 attempt by the late dictator Muammar Ghaddafi to commit a mass atrocity in Libya's second city of Benghazi. The United States, with much involvement by Secretary Clinton, chose to support our European and Arab allies in stopping a column of warriors, personally directed by Ghaddafi, from marching on Benghazi--with the very real prospect, just hours away, that its residents would be slaughtered. A very unpleasant internal revolution against Qaddafi and subsequent civil war did take place in 2011, which led to the welcome overthrow (and gruesome death) of Qaddafi himself--but which also gave rise, in that war's aftermath, to the formation or strengthening of many local militias and the breakdown of governance, generally.

Despite all the instability that ensued in Libya, relatively well-run elections were held, a moderate was elected to head the country, Qaddafi's old stockpile of chemical weapons was safely removed, and a Western-supported effort to stabilize and democratize institutions have all taken place since the end of the civil war. Development experts the world over will tell you that the work of standing up a democratic nation state on the ashes of an old, tyrannical one can take generations, and European and U.S. efforts to assist like-minded Libyans to create a new Constitution, strengthen civil society groups and expand citizen participation and the building of peaceful institutions are ongoing to this very day.

Guess who put these efforts into place? None other than Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The eventual success of U.S. efforts to rebuild a constitutional democratic structure in Libya will be part of Hillary's long-term legacy, and part of the hard development work she has undertaken more broadly in the Middle East and elsewhere around the world. In the meantime, saving hundreds of thousands of lives and keeping chemical weapons out of the hands of militias and terrorists are wins all by themselves. And news of Libya's ultimate demise as a nation-state is premature, at best.

Want to go a little deeper on this topic? Well then, Homework assignment #4 is to read this: Debunked: Bernie's Second Big Myth About Hillary's Foreign Policy Record

There are many other fabrications that will come out of Trump's mouth on Sunday and over the next month. Please take these in with the skepticism and doubt they deserve--or else this author will gladly debunk them, as well, in a follow-up blog or two.