I wanted to write about fairness this morning, in part because a troll that I ended up banning yesterday kept insisting that the ethical value of fairness was about “feelings.” (Have you visited, by the way, the excellent website, listed among the links here, fairness.com? You should!) That’s nonsense, but it is certainly true that fairness is often a controversial concept, and opinions of what constitutes fairness can diverge widely.
In the process of the mainstream media trying to ram Hillary Clinton down our throats as the next oppressed group President who couldn’t be impeached no matter what she did—and how entertaining it is watching Chris Cuomo grimace, roll his eyes and bite his tongue as his female CNN colleagues shift into “Yay Hillary!” mode every morning—, the pro-Hillary journalists are increasingly becoming full-fledged campaign flacks, which is disgraceful. Watch this interview with Sen. Ted Cruz, for example, in which CNN’s Erin Burnett plays the role of a Clinton defender on Benghazi without any hint of objectivity at all. They are also, however, having to cope with the uncomfortable facts of Clinton’s career, and if they intend to keep defending her—and they do—the hypocrisy will become overwhelming.
The Melinda Henneberger of the Washington Post, for example, notes that “an unpublished interview” has surfaced in which Clinton expresses glee at the acquittal of an accused child rapist she was defending. The documents from the case show that Clinton, who was defending the man pro bono as a young lawyer, offered the kind of defense that feminists condemn, questioning the conduct and the propriety of the victim. Henneberger pre-empts criticism by properly explaining the lawyer’s duty of zealous representation before she even describes what Clinton did. Would she have handled such a story the same way if the young lawyer had been “War on Women” monger Mitt Romney? I doubt it very much. Similarly, Jennifer Rubin in the same paper wonders if the media will use Clinton’s wealth, employment of tax reduction strategies and presumed greed against her, as it did Mitt. Good question, though the answer is pretty obvious, I think.
The fact that the media was unfair to Mitt does not require them to be similarly unfair to Hillary. They will harm their own cause, however, if they try to present her as someone she is not, particularly since she will almost certainly will be doing that herself. Clinton, like her husband, and like Mitt Romney, is not a true ideologue, but a practical, expedient politician who will bend with the political and popular winds, as well as unpleasant realities, to get things done. Such leaders can have a peculiar kind of integrity, if they have the courage to own this tendency, and not pretend to be something else. Unfortunately, Clinton, also like her husband, is a habitual liar, as her now thoroughly debunked and ridiculed claim in her book that she and Bill left the White House as paupers. The media needs to call her on that, and the public needs to understand it, because it implicates her trustworthiness and honesty. The fact that she is not really wedded to any ideology, however, should not be misrepresented as a flaw. That describes Franklin Roosevelt to a T, for example, as well as other talented leaders. It sure looks attractive right now.
What will be fair to Hillary, and the public, is to make sure the public sees her for what she is, despite her own inevitable efforts to deceive them. Some of what she’s hiding isn’t as bad as it seems.