Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday since 1997.
The “just-say-anything” approach to political dialogue has only intensified since Hillary Clinton claimed without evidence over the weekend that ISIS uses videos of Donald Trump’s utterances to draw members.
Clinton said during Saturday’s Democratic debate that “we need to make sure” Trump’s “really discriminatory messages” will not “fall on receptive ears.”
“He is becoming ISIS’s best recruiter. They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.”
The impartial website PolitiFact called her statement false. Its verdict in the aftermath: “The Clinton campaign did not provide any evidence that this is already happening — only that it could be happening or that it may in the future.” The “could” was based on some terrorism analysts’ statements that Trump’s pronouncements play into ISIS’ game plan.
This Clinton-Trump flash point appears to stand out as more than just the usual he-said, she-said.
The Queens-raised GOP front-runner, who’s proving himself a serial dissembler, laid the groundwork for this latest seminar in comparative fiction.
Trump spoke of throngs of 9/11 celebrants in Jersey City that nobody else seems to have seen. He talked of terrorists sending relatives out of town before the deed, also without citing facts.
Trump demanded Clinton apologize for lying; she stuck to her story. Now Trump has escalated it with a remark about her “disgusting” bathroom break during the debate, and use of a sexual vulgarity in putting down her 2008 campaign.
Clinton campaign manager John Podesta this week seemed glad to fan the billionaire’s histrionics.
Clinton’s core fans and other Democrats might well see it as the former New York senator giving the first-time presidential candidate a taste of his own mendacious medicine.
Maybe Clinton got carried away at the New Hampshire debate. Maybe it was her tactical goal to feed a one-on-one with Trump that talked past other candidates. Maybe her camp figured it was just time to push Trump’s buttons.
Polls have turned up negative data on both candidates’ credibility.
Clinton, as former secretary of state, tries to bank on her image as the seasoned foreign-affairs expert. In a campaign like this, it would take very little imagination for a critic to compare her invisible ISIS recruiting videos with President George W. Bush’s never-discovered weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
And as noted before, Trump is a blustering pro-wrestling act without the physical labor.
Last month, a Quinnipiac poll of 1,144 registered voters nationwide reported answers to the question of whether Clinton is honest and trustworthy or not. Thirty-six percent said “yes,” and 60 percent “no.” For Trump, 38 percent answered “yes,” and 58 percent “no.” That’s virtually the same, given the poll’s 2.9 percent margin of error.
Yet 62 percent of Republicans called Trump trustworthy. And 68 percent of Democrats said the same of Clinton.
Which proves truth is relative — even if fiction sometimes passes as fact.