Franklin Delano Clinton?
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
Of all the vainglory of the Democratic National Convention the most vain is Hillary Clinton’s effort to don the cape of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. She did this by, in a put-down of Donald Trump, quoting FDR’s announcement of his “firm belief” that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” He made that declaration, one of the most famous phrases in all of oratory, in the first paragraph of his first inaugural, delivered in the depths of the Great Depression, and it turns out that it was in a paragraph devoted to honesty.
“This,” the new president said, “is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” He then spoke of the need for a “leadership of frankness.”
Is that the quality of leadership that comes to mind in respect of Mrs. Clinton? It depends on what the meaning of “is” is. The view of millions of Americans seems to be that Mrs. Clinton is exceptionally untrustworthy. Of the “four brutal poll numbers” — to use the Washington Post’s headline phrase — that on the eve of the convention at Philadelphia were turned up in respect of Mrs. Clinton, the most striking was the soaring percentage, recently risen to 68%, that reckon the Democratic nominee isn’t, as CNN’s pollsters put it, “honest and trustworthy.”
Mrs. Clinton, moreover, fares far worse than Donald Trump does on this measure — which is what FDR was talking about in the “fear itself” paragraph. Neither has yet won the confidence of the majority of voters. But among the brutal facts to which the Washington Post was referring is a finding that the percentage of Americans who see Mr. Trump as “honest and trustworthy” is almost 50% higher than Mrs. Clinton. This is the hill up which Mrs. Clinton has to drag every other issue on which she’s running.
Is she really a national security hawk? That’s hard case to make for a state secretary in an administration that pursued a retreat on every front and has been downsizing our military in the middle of a war. She mocks Donald Trump for putting the gloss on President Putin while having sought and flubbed her own reset with Russia. And, mark it well, having supported the articles of appeasement with, in the Iranian ayatollahs, a camarilla far worse than that which runs the Kremlin. So much for what FDR called “the whole truth.”
Mrs. Clinton runs further off the rails with her attempts to paint Mr. Trump as a divider. Even on the question of immigration, which is the harsher policy — the kind of immigration curbs sought by Mr. Trump or the 1.2 percent economic growth that’s just been reported? Nominal unemployment may be down, but job participation rates are shockingly low, amid stagnant wages and disappointing investment and corporate cash being hoarded overseas for fear of taxation. None of the “conditions facing our country today,” as FDR put it, are being honestly faced by Mrs. Clinton.
This is the problem Mrs. Clinton is facing. The orgy of liberal self-congratulation put on at Philadelphia had its inspiring moments, most particularly, in our view, President Obama’s own speech. The proceedings, though, had an air of detachment from the circumstances being experienced by the rest of the nation. Missing was the boldness of the kind of honesty FDR was exhorting his countrymen not to fear. Donald Trump is no FDR (who made his own ghastly policy errors) but at least Mr. Trump has put the national problems in far plainer language than anything we heard from Mrs. Clinton or anyone else at Philadelphia.