SAN DIEGO – What’s the matter with the major parties’ presidential candidates?
No, seriously. I’m starting to think that these two aren’t wired right. Either they don’t have good advisers, or they’re not listening to whatever advice they’re getting. The mistakes they make are obvious, yet they can’t stop making them. And neither candidate is willing to acknowledge the errors, let alone apologize for them.
Up to now, it’s been easy to think that the reason that so many Americans are unhappy with having to choose between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is that the rough and tumble of the primary campaign left each of them a little beat up. If Clinton hadn’t had such a difficult time putting an end to Bernie Sanders’ challenge, or if Trump hadn’t found Ted Cruz to be such a tenacious opponent, the argument goes, there would be far fewer voters who are uncomfortable with the choice. In fact, it’s widely accepted in political circles that, in November, the best get-out-the-vote effort for both parties will be to scare voters to the polls – not to vote for their candidate but to vote against the other.
Trump and Clinton jab at one another every day on the stump, with Trump criticizing the honesty of “Crooked Hillary” and Clinton insisting that Trump doesn’t have the temperament or preparation to be president. To listen to Trump, Clinton is untrustworthy. To hear Clinton tell it, Trump is unstable.
Yet neither candidate has been able to draw blood from the other. And when they do take a hit, or garner public criticism, it’s usually because of self-inflicted wounds.
Trump repeatedly hurts his own cause by saying outrageous things, insulting people, and pretending to be more knowledgeable than he really is in policy areas like foreign affairs. Add to that the fact that his social skills are often atrocious. At every turn, Trump exudes the arrogance of the stereotypical rich guy who feels entitled to anything he wants. The Clinton camp has reportedly started calling it the “jerk” factor, emphasizing that many Americans see Trump as obnoxious and unlikable.
In one recent particularly cringeworthy episode, Trump proudly accepted the Purple Heart of a military veteran, saying that he “always wanted to get the Purple Heart” and joking that getting it this way was “much easier.” Before long, a powerful video surfaced from the Union Veterans’ Council of the AFL-CIO. In it, Iraq War veteran Will Fischer, a former Marine, scolded Trump and explained that, since a soldier only gets the medal if injured or killed, “nobody with one, ever wanted it.”
Clinton’s problem is that she can’t stop lying. Whether she’s winning or losing, up against the wall or in the clear, she can’t help herself. She always stretches the truth. And even when she gets called on it, she refuses to acknowledge it. Consider her recent claims that FBI Director James Comey informed the House Select Committee on Benghazi that she had told the American people the truth about whether she sent classified or top secret emails from a private server. It’s not enough that Comey refused to recommend charges against Clinton for her careless handling of sensitive material. The Democratic nominee has to insist she did nothing wrong and never told a single lie during the whole affair.
Clinton now says that she may have “short-circuited” her answer to a question about the email server. When, during an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” host Chris Wallace pointed out that Comey had acknowledged that a number of things that Clinton told the American people were simply not true, Clinton denied it. So Wallace played a video of Rep. Trey Gowdy, chair of the committee, asking Comey if what Clinton said was true when she claimed that “there was nothing marked classified on her emails either sent or received.” Comey responded: “That’s not true.”
For her double-talk, Clinton earned four “Pinocchios” from the fact-checker at the Washington Post – the worst grade possible for telling whoppers.
These are our major choices, America. Dreadful, aren’t they? No wonder so many Americans support “none of the above,” or are seriously considering a vote for the Green Party or Libertarian ticket.
Maybe the consumer understands that both of the major products are defective, and that – no matter which one they choose – we’re probably looking at four years’ worth of embarrassment, spin and disappointment.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.