As the Republican convention opens this week, expect to hear a lot from Democrats about how terrible Donald Trump is. What you won’t hear is that almost all the same criticism also applies to Bill and Hillary Clinton.
You’ll hear Trump called divisive. That’s pretty rich, coming from Mrs. Clinton, who is busy demonizing Republicans, Wall Street, wealthy Americans, “greedy” drug companies, and oil companies.
You’ll hear Trump accused of advocating tax cuts that would add to the national debt. Yet Clinton’s spending plans — on “infrastructure,” health care and subsidized education — would also add to the debt.
You’ll hear accusations that Trump is anti-immigrant. Unsaid is that of the past 90 years, the four years in which there were the largest number of “aliens removed or returned” from the United States, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, were all during Bill Clinton’s presidency. Also unsaid is that Sen. Clinton served eight years without enacting meaningful immigration reform legislation.
You’ll hear, as in a Clinton campaign commercial released last week, that Trump sets a bad example for our children. “Our children are watching. What example will we set for them?” the commercial asks. Try explaining to children the headlines about the stain on Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress, or about Bill, Monica and a cigar.
What example did Mrs. Clinton’s set with her mysterious $100,000, 10-month profit from cattle futures trading, or by collecting $675,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs?
The Clinton campaign faults Donald Trump for anti-Semitism on the basis of his tweet of a staff-selected graphic that featured a six-pointed star and a background of cash. But if we’re debating which candidate is worse for the Jews, what about Hillary Clinton’s support for the deal that gives Iran — a country that holds an annual Holocaust denial cartoon contest and that funds Hezbollah and Hamas terrorist missiles and rockets aimed at Israeli Jews — $150 billion in sanctions relief? Trump opposed that deal.
At a recent Clinton campaign event, a Democratic senator, Jeanne Shaheen, assailed Trump: “He’s praised Vladimir Putin. He’s praised Saddam Hussein.” Yet Hillary Clinton herself praised Saddam in a 2004 speech to the Brookings Institution, going on about how in Saddam’s Iraq “women had rights; they went to school; they participated in the professions; they participated in government; and business.” As for Russia, Secretary of State Clinton’s genius contribution was to hand Putin’s foreign minister a button with a Russian word that she thought meant “reset” but actually meant “overcharge.”
You’ll hear complaints from students who were dissatisfied with Trump University. But Bill Clinton earned $16.5 million as “honorary chancellor” of his own for-profit college, Laureate University, which faced its own lawsuit. You’ll hear claims that Trump disregards the First Amendment by favoring a temporary freeze on Muslim immigration. Yet Sen, Clinton voted for the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that the Supreme Court ruled violated the First Amendment protections on freedom of speech. She openly promises to trample the First Amendment’s free speech protections by supporting a reversal of the Citizens United decision.
You’ll hear Trump accused of favoring nuclear proliferation. Yet it was during the Clinton presidency that Pakistan first openly tested an atomic bomb. Some might object that it is unfair to blame Hillary Clinton for things Bill Clinton did. Perhaps. But Mrs. Clinton often brags about the job creation and deficit reduction of her husband’s presidency. It seems inconsistent for her to claim credit for those positives without accepting any burden of the negatives.
None of this is to suggest that Trump is perfect, or even close to perfect. But it is to suggest that many criticisms of him have nothing to do with principle or substance.
When these attacks are leveled against Trump but Clinton gets a pass, the hypocrisy and double standards are clear evidence of partisan political mudslinging.
Ira Stoll is editor of FutureOfCapitalism.com and author of “JFK: Conservative.” His column appears Sunday.