There is this thing built into humans that lets them know whether the person they are talking to is being honest or not. I have, in the past, called it a bullshit meter. We need spend no more than a few minutes with a person before we decide whether that person is the kind of person we believe, like, trust, etc. It’s not infallible (witness Bernie Madoff and his ilk), but it is fairly accurate.
We are now faced with a presidential campaign unique for the fact that neither of the candidates are much believed or trusted. So we are left to pick through their comments and see which we can believe more, and, assuming we can determine that, which policies we believe the candidate will actually carry out. If, for instance, you were counting on Donald Trump assembling a force to remove eleven million undocumented aliens from the geographic United States, and you are aware that he, or his surrogates, have recently announced that he is not actually going to do that, you are left in a quandary as to which position he holds and also which course of conduct he will pursue if elected president. If, on the other hand, you believed that Hillary Clinton was telling the truth when she said she did not send or receive information marked classified on her private email, and now you learn that she has taken that statement back to some extent, then you are left wondering whether you can believe other statements she has made about which policies she will pursue.
I am supporting the Clinton campaign because the policies she espouses are closest to the policies I espouse — universal health care, greater support for education, reduction of student debt, a living wage, greater taxation on the wealthy. I also believe that she will appoint a Supreme Court justice (or justices) who will be fair and impartial and not committed to the right wing political worldview. I am also supporting her campaign because Donald Trump is a living nightmare, and if he wins I will have to seriously consider moving to another country. That is not the point, however. I will vote, as we should all vote, for policies rather than personalities.
All of that being said, one serious way to determine which side is more to be believed — or perhaps which is less to be disbelieved — is to be on the lookout for rationalizations. Many good and honest conservatives are trying to rationalize how they can support a disaster like Trump while clinging to their basic principles. It is painful to watch good and decent people making arguments to skirt the outrageous statements made by Trump. I cringe as these good people claim that Trump’s comments are being taken out of context or that they are, as Paul Ryan characterized Trump’s suggestion that someone shoot Hillary, “a joke gone bad.” On a recent Anderson Cooper show, it took Cooper 30 minutes of constant questioning to get a Trump supporter to admit that Trump had changed his policy from deporting eleven million people to not deporting eleven million people. There is another word for these rationalizations: lies. When you rationalize, you lie. .
I am not free of this disease as a Clinton supporter. To say about her comments on emails that she “short-circuited” is a rationalization, i.e., a lie. Period. When you say you didn’t use your public office to benefit your charitable foundation and you did, you are lying. Period. I can rationalize those. I can say that, if influence was used, it was not for personal profit but rather for the benefit of a charity that is helping people around the world. I can say that all kinds of people used private emails and that no one was hurt, etc., etc. But rationalizations are lies, and we cannot choose a president of the United States on the basis of lies.
It would be wonderful if two things would happen. First, it would be nice if the candidates would hold themselves to absolute honesty. But second, and more important, and certainly more in my control, it would be nice if we all would smell out the rationalizations, call them what they are, and decide this election on the basis of our own absolute honesty. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Koch brothers would stand up and say, “We want to keep as much of our money as possible, and we will support those candidates who will let us do that”? Wouldn’t it be nice if Paul Ryan would stand up and say, “I want to install a conservative on the Supreme Court, and that is why I am holding my nose and supporting Donald Trump”? And wouldn’t it be nice if I could stand up and say, “Hillary screwed up on the emails and she screwed up on influence peddling for the Clinton Foundation, but she is more likely to put in policies I like than Trump or the down ballot Republicans are, so I am voting for her anyway”?
Oh, wait. I just said that.