Straight-Up Politics: The Crooked Myths Debunked

Voter Registration Application for presidential election 2016
Voter Registration Application for presidential election 2016

"Yes, the world is watching what we do.
Yes, America's destiny is ours to choose.
So let's be stronger together.
Looking to the future with courage and confidence.
Building a better tomorrow for our beloved children and our beloved country.
When we do, America will be greater than ever."

Hillary Rodham Clinton, the official Democratic nominee for President of the United States, delivered these impassioned words as part of her acceptance speech to an adoring crowd of delegates and avid Democrats numbering far larger than those at the Republican National Convention. In striking contrast with the tone of Donald Trump's grim, fear-imbued closing speech at the RNC, Clinton put forth a vision of a bright future for America brought about by coalitions and people coming together to be "stronger together". By accepting the party's nomination, Clinton became the first woman to be nominated for President by a major political party. 96 years after women earned the right to vote in Seneca Falls, New York, this was a major step forward that many felt was long overdue. Such a monumental moment in history begs the question: why isn't Hillary Clinton the surefire candidate to win the Presidency this November? Why is Clinton so disliked, despite her 40+ years of public service dedicated to fighting for the people? And how is Donald J. Trump a legitimate candidate for the most influential, consequential, and powerful position in the world?

It isn't news that Clinton is a polarizing figure. Despite her lengthy resumé of noteworthy achievements, her reputation and public perception is not something she can really brag about. She has been called many names and slapped with numerous denigrating labels, ranging from "liar" to "untrustworthy." She has been criticized every step of the way, from her days working at the Children's Defense Fund, to her time as First Lady of Arkansas and later, First Lady of the United States. Appraisal of her tenure as an immensely successful Senator from New York are reduced to a single Senate vote. Rather than being remembered for all the diplomatic progress that was made under her leadership, her four groundbreaking years as Secretary of State are boiled down to one tragic incident in Libya that spawned more than eight congressional investigations, all of which yielded nothing and acquitted her of all charges.

Is such below-the-belt critique of Hillary Clinton deserving and legitimate? Like any politician in history and not unlike most of us humans, she has her share of mistakes. However, bulk of her "mistakes" have been incurred as a by-product of her tireless efforts to enact change in the stagnant political environment in Washington. Unlike most of Washington, she has demonstrated guts to actually try making changes. The lack of media attention and advertisement surrounding her achievements does not mean that she is a "status-quo" politician, like many have accused her of being. Perhaps John Quincy Adams, the sixth President of the United States, said it best; "Try and fail, but don't fail to try." Clinton has never failed to try, despite the odds always being stacked against her.

A false question mark on her accomplishments is further compounded with disingenuous labels of being "dishonest" or "liar" hurtled at her; labels that, over time, have grown to become accepted as a given. It is an accusation that is so deep-rooted in years of negative campaigning and smears against her that any attempt to even question it is met with shock. I strongly urge voters, supporters of her or not, to dismiss these incorrect denunciations. For all of those who wish to see evidence, I serve you: PolitiFact. The Pulitzer prize-winning fact checking source has determined that Hillary has been the most truthful candidate from either party in this 2016 election season, and is more honest than most politicians they have tracked over the years. See the figure below:

2016-09-02-1472791008-3736570-Picture1.png

Jill Abramson, former executive editor of The New York Times, has been one of the fiercest critics of the Clinton family, particularly of Hillary. After years of studying Mrs. Clinton and her rise in the American political scene, Abramson came to an insightful conclusion. In a piece for The Guardian, she wrote:

"As an editor, I've launched investigations into her business dealings, her fundraising, her foundation and her marriage. As a reporter, my stories stretch back to Whitewater. I'm not a favorite in Hillaryland. That makes what I want to say next surprising. Hillary Clinton is fundamentally honest and trustworthy."

Abramson does note, however, that Clinton highly prefers a 'zone of privacy' around her. This lack of transparency, rather than any actual corruption, is perhaps her greatest flaw. Sure, maybe Clinton does not like to share everything with everyone at all times. For someone who has been constantly hounded by every journalist and media outlet imaginable, day-in and day-out, for nearly three decades, Clinton's desire for privacy should come as a surprise to no one. Because of how she has been in the spotlight and public eye for so long, constantly under heavy scrutiny, it is a natural impulse for Clinton to be seek as much privacy as possible.

Furthermore, there seems to be a gender-related double standard that Hillary Clinton is held to. Years of a predominantly patriarchal society has led to the social construct of expecting women to fit into their culturally established roles where they do not wield as much power as men. To this day, many women are still expected to be homemakers, taking on conventionally female duties of childrearing, child care, and managing the household; control of so-called "matters of importance" are often relinquished to men. These traditional and patriarchal values have, evidently, bled into American politics. Rather than being held to the same standards as other male politicians, Clinton is held to one that is impossibly high. When Clinton behaves like a politician, such as changing positions on issues or making demands that make her seem unfeminine and deviant from her expected gender role, she is disproportionately seen as more "dishonest" when compared to male politicians who have acted similarly. As men continue to dominate politics in America, Hillary's mere presence among them seems to somehow automatically make her a dishonest and corrupt politician. Conservatives have created this persona of Hillary that is completely untrue. They have been dismayed with her because of her refusal to "play the part" over the years. She refused to be a traditional First Lady, and a traditional wife of a prominent politician. They hated her because she dared to champion universal health care coverage when her husband, Bill Clinton, was President of the United States. They despised her because after her husband's two terms were up, she refused to sit idly by and keep playing the role of a retired First Lady, and decided to build a political career of her own. All of these negative feelings for Hillary from Conservatives culminated in an essay by the uber-conservative writer William Safire. It seems that this essay, where Safire absolutely blasts her, bred the "Crooked Hillary" nickname that Donald Trump and others use to describe her today. If you haven't read the essay, it may be worthwhile to do so. Although the accusations and details in Mr. Safire's essay were eventually found to be completely false, it tainted Hillary's image and was used heavily by Conservatives to try and bring her down.

It is time to stop believing all the negative commentary directed towards Hillary and take it for what it is - false propaganda being thrown at gullible viewers to defame a lady who dares to enter and succeed in the male-dominated world of politics. Her resume and extensive experience should speak for itself. Just because she stays quiet and humble about them does not mean she is unfit for President. She is one of the most qualified candidates this country has ever seen. This is a politician who genuinely cares about helping people, and could care less about the politics that often goes down in Washington. Senator Bernie Sanders, who ran an inspiring campaign that captured the attention of many people in our nation, proposed some revolutionary proposals that deserved to see the light of day. After Clinton's fierce, heated, and sometimes nasty battle with Sanders in the primaries, one would think that after the usual "congratulations on running a terrific campaign," she would never mention him again and further her own agenda. Instead, she called out some of Sanders' terrific policy proposals at the DNC and vowed to work with him closely to ensure they become a part of her agenda if she were elected President. It is an action that shows her devotion and commitment to serving the American people. As she said in her acceptance speech at the DNC, "[she] live[s] for the service part, but [isn't] so good at the public part." She acknowledged that we may not know who she really is because of her private nature. But such a personality trait does not, and should not, amount to any kind of fodder for relentless critics to bash her or discredit her with. We will see a more personable Hillary Clinton in the coming months, and more of the general electorate will finally get a chance to marvel at her and all of her achievements thus far.

If this isn't enough, critics will always bring up "Benghazi" or her "emails". For those of you who are living under a rock, or have not seen the movie 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, the entire Bengahzi "scandal" is about a terrorist attack on the United States outpost in Benghazi, Libya that left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens. It occurred on September 11th, 2012, when Hillary was Secretary of State. She is continuously heckled about this in the press and by the opposition because of her potential role in the attack or a possible failure to do anything about it. However, these accusations are far-fetched, and the attack on the Embassy was not Clinton's fault. A Senate Intelligence Committee Report published in January 2014 regarding this terrorist attack found that the intelligence community was at fault for failing to prevent this attack. There was only one specific reference to Clinton in the entire report, and it was in the section where the conservative Republicans on the committee weighed in. Coincidence? I think not. It is yet another example of the repeated attempt by conservatives to destroy Hillary Clinton. The report goes on to state that Ambassador Stevens recognized the need for more security, but turned down available U.S. military resources, including a special operations site security team. The Secretary of State does not make decisions about individual consular security arrangements; that is the job of the Ambassador. Secretary Clinton could only have gotten involved after the attack happened, and she did. She acted in the best way possible, given the circumstances. So does she deserve the criticism she continuously gets about the Benghazi incident? No. Four groundbreaking years, where she visited 112 countries and repaired a badly damaged U.S. reputation, should not be remembered for an incident that cannot be clearly linked to her. They should be remembered for what they truly were; a success. Orchestrating a cease fire between Israel and Hamas, successfully creating a climate change agreement among countries at the Copenhagen Summit, and triumphantly pursuing Osama Bin Laden are just a few moments in the four years of her successful tenure as Secretary of State. Clinton is a global rock star, highly respected by the world's top officials for her strong diplomacy skills.

Then there is the whole email "scandal." Essentially, out of convenience, Hillary chose to use her own personal email address while she was Secretary of State that was housed on private servers in her New York home. Why has she been criticized for this? When the House Select Committee was creating their Benghazi Report in 2014, they asked to see her emails. She turned over 30,000 work-related emails to the State Department and deleted the rest, which were about personal matters. However, some classified information ended up on her unclassified private server, which posed a potential threat. When the FBI launched an investigation into the issue, they found that this was careless on Clinton's part, but was not an intentional mishandling of classified information. In other words, she did nothing illegal. Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush did the same exact thing during his days as the Governor of Florida. In fact, most of the 2016 field of candidates - Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, and Chris Christie - have all done the same thing as well. Additionally, in February of this year, the State Department found that past secretaries of state, including Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, have also handled classified information on unclassified email systems. And this same issue extends to numerous other government officials throughout the years. So this is NOT unheard of, and does not mean that Hillary cannot be trusted. But if she is innocent and this is a common occurrence, why is she the only one being condemned for it? The answer lies in a common theme we are seeing throughout this article; conservative Republicans. They have been unsuccessfully trying to tarnish her for years now, and they think this may be their lucky break. Republicans pretty much controlled the committee in charge of investigating her emails, and since she had announced her 2016 presidential bid by that time, they jumped on the opportunity to make a big fuss out of nothing in hopes that it would end her quest for the democratic nomination. And since they portrayed it as a "scandal," the media jumped on it; we all know how much the media loves scandals, even if these "scandals" are completely overblown. I'm sure Hillary has learned from this, and we won't be seeing any email issues with her in the future.

In recent years, the Republican Party has been unable to produce candidates worthy of the presidency. So when the 2016 election season approached, conservatives were excited to have another shot at taking back the White House after eight "miserable" and "failed" years under a President who "isn't even a citizen of this country" (LOL). Little did anyone, conservative or not, know that the infamous Donald J. Trump would become the Republican nominee for President, especially when there were 16 other more logical and experienced choices. He claims that his business acumen and personal wealth are more than enough proof that he'll make a great President. Let's take a look at his record then, shall we?! His companies have declared bankruptcy more than four times. According to CNN Money, no major U.S. company has filed more Chapter 11 bankruptcies than Trump's empire in the last 30 years. What happened to Trump Steaks? And Trump Airlines? And Trump Vodka? And Trump Mortgage? FAILURES. And let's not forget what he did to the United States Football League (USFL), which was another football league that provided fans with spring football once the NFL season was over. It was doing really well until Trump got involved and bought a team, the New Jersey Generals. He convinced the owners to change the USFL's season to the Fall, forcing it to directly compete with the NFL. That led to the destruction of the USFL, and Trump unsuccessfully sued the NFL, losing $22 million. Trump claims that his net worth is over $10 billion; however, Forbes estimates it to be $4.5 billion. He claims to have an income of $557 million, but Fortune Finance has found that he has close to $1 billion in debt that is growing. So who seems to be the "lying" and "untrustworthy" candidate now? How can he claim that his business acumen and personal wealth qualify him to run our country when these things reek of bankruptcy and debt? He said dealing with our country's $18 trillion debt will be easy; he would probably just ignore it, like he ignores his own debt. And what about his tax returns? Why has he failed to release those? What is he hiding? Well, exactly what has been mentioned. Those tax returns may show what a terrible liar he really is, and may debunk the heart of his campaign - his business acumen. With no foreign policy experience and his hateful rhetoric, the world is watching in fear. A Trump presidency has the potential to end our alliances with numerous countries, and put us on the cusp of a dictatorship. In a democracy, we do not trust one man to solve all of our problems. We trust the entire government, which was made by the people, for the people. But Trump continues to say that he alone will solve all of our problems. It's hard to believe that, since he can't seem to solve any of his own.

So how did he get so popular among the electorate? His most common supporters are poor white males usually lacking a college education. His racist and hateful remarks are welcomed by his supporters, who tend to feel the same way about immigrants or minorities. Usually, these people are extremely patriotic and are frustrated with their circumstances. They blame the rest of the world for their problems, so Trump's "America First" platform that disregards the rest of the world and looks down upon people of other races and ethnicities appeals to them. His politically incorrect tone is welcome among people sick of the same political correctness in American politics. And the top 1% see him as a gullible man who will protect their interests because he is one of them. However, these people refuse to recognize how dangerous Trump will be for this country if he is somehow elected. They cannot keep blindly believing what Fox News spews.

Reluctant to embrace Trump as their nominee, Republicans have been hoping that he would clean up his act, professionalize his campaign, and start making broader appeals rather than continuing to focus on the people that already support him. However, he has done the exact opposite. He has accused Ted Cruz's father of being involved in JFK's assassination. He has stated that the U.S. should not honor its NATO commitments. He even went so far as to attack Khizr Khan, father of the late Captain Humayun Khan, and his wife in a racist and irresponsible manner. We are now starting to see Republicans cross party lines and endorse Hillary for President, starting with Republican Congress member Richard Hanna and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman. So how will other Republicans respond? If Trump continues to lose support of key Republican officials, his campaign will be derailed. You can't blame them; supporting Trump is like supporting a Vladimir Putin wanna-be on steroids. Hillary said it best; he is temperamentally unfit for the Presidency. In fact, the respected research firm, the Economist Intelligence Unit, ranked a Trump presidency as a top 10 risk facing our world today. We cannot afford to put Trump in the White House for four years.

Less than 70 days remain before America elects its next Commander in Chief. After eight great years under President Obama, where our country saw immense improvement after the Bush Administration's blunders, we cannot allow ourselves to take steps backwards. We must continue to progress forward. There is only one candidate in this election who can ensure a brighter future for our country. This candidate has spent her entire life fighting for the American people, no matter what obstacle has been thrown in her way. She has been repeatedly brought down, but has only emerged stronger and more resilient. Some of her best work has been when the odds were widely stacked against her. This is the first presidential election that I can vote in, and I am proud to be voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton. I'm not voting for her just because she would be the first female President in our country's history. I'm voting for her because I respect her, and because I trust her with the most powerful job in the world. If there is anybody who can get the job done, it's Hillary. And after closely working with President Obama, she will continue to make our country stronger. She will continue the revolution started by Bernie Sanders. And she will continue to fight for you and I every single day. As she said during the DNC in what was her greatest speech to date, "there are no guarantees: It truly is up to us. We have to decide whether we will all work together so we can all rise together." So let's rise together, America. Let's give Donald Trump a taste of his own medicine and let him know that he's fired. Let's be #StrongerTogether and elect Hillary Clinton as the 45th President of the United States.

*Special thanks to Andy Zhang for his input and guidance while I wrote this piece.