Spin, as we usually refer to it, is trying to take facts and present them in a way that is good for one or another candidate. We see this most often when it comes to setting expectations. Candidates try to spin things to set expectations in a given election one way, so that when they meet or break expectations the media writes positive stories about said candidate having "momentum."
Lying, by contrast, is either saying things contrary to the facts, or pretending the facts just don't exist. We saw this most often in the Bush administration's lead-up to the Iraq war, and more recently, in Hillary Clinton pretending that she never supported NAFTA, when, in fact, a decade of public speeches shows she did. Now, Clinton is doing something fairly new: spinning AND lying -- all at the same time.
Here's what ABC News reports that Clinton is now saying:
"We came from so far behind in Indiana. We're still the underdog."
Clinton is trying to set expectations in advance of Tuesday's Indiana primary, with the goal of making it seem as if a victory in Indiana would be "unexpected" and proof that she has "momentum." The spinning part -- the expectations part -- is fine, and no surprise. That's what candidates do, and that's part of politics. What's not fine is the dishonest basis of the storyline. Clinton has been ahead in Indiana from the beginning -- and in, fact, has been ahead in the majority of Democratic primary polls done in the Hoosier state.
As Real Clear Politics shows, Clinton has been ahead or tied with Barack Obama in 12 out of 18 Indiana primary polls. In fact, she's never been behind by more than 5 points -- basically the margin of error in these polls. Put another way, Clinton has been either ahead or right on the cusp of the margin of error in 100% of the polling done in Indiana.
This isn't surprising. Indiana is squarely within the Race Chasm (ie. the group of states whose black populations are above 6% and below 17% of the total population). Clinton has won most of her victories in Race Chasm states. I believe that is, at least in part, because of her deft use and exploitation of racial politics. In other words, Indiana is precisely the kind of state Clinton's scorched earth campaign has proven adept at winning in a Democratic primary -- her being consistently ahead or close is not news because it is to be expected.
But that's not the point here -- and frankly, I don't really care who has been ahead or behind in polls. What's notable -- and disturbing -- is that Hillary Clinton feels the need to lie in very obvious fashion, as if everyone is just too stupid to look up the easily verifiable facts. I'm going to capitalize this and boldface it for emphasis: SHE HAS BEEN EITHER AHEAD OR AT THE MARGIN OF ERROR IN EVERY SINGLE MAJOR POLL* DONE IN INDIANA, YET IS CLAIMING WITH A STRAIGHT FACE THAT "WE CAME FROM SO FAR BEHIND IN INDIANA."
This is not normal human behavior -- not by a long shot. It's actually rather scary, and it gets to a deeper issue -- the issue of trust. Why does Clinton feel the need to lie in the face of verifiable facts? She did it with NAFTA, she did it with Bosnia and now she's doing it with polling numbers. I just don't get this - and I say that not as a "Hillary hater" but as an honest declaration of frustration. Her behavior tells me she's either so arrogant that she's fine with insulting the public's intelligence with such in-your-face lying, or she's a pathological liar that has gotten so used to lying that she doesn't even know she's doing it anymore.
Look, it's one thing to spin -- it's another thing to spin and lie, all at once. It is that penchant for brazenly trampling the truth that troubles so many people about Clinton.
If you can't trust her to at least acknowledge the verifiable facts, how can you trust that she's serious about doing what she says she'll do as president? I mean, really, would anyone be surprised if - seeing this pathological behavior now -- Clinton gets into the White House, and then pretends she never made all the promises she made as a candidate? I think not -- and that trust issue, more than anything, is what polls show makes so many people uncomfortable with her candidacy.
* UPDATE: A commenter pointed out that in a tiny-sample poll way back in February, Obama was up 15 points. This poll was so insignificant as to not be listed even by RCP, and I think it's a huge stretch to say Clinton -- with all the rest of the polling data over the last few months -- isn't deliberately lying to create a storyline about being "an underdog." Nobody -- not a single honest observer of politics, nor anyone who knows even a shred of political data about Indiana -- thinks Hillary Clinton was "an underdog" in Indiana. It's blatantly ridiculous -- and those who rest that claim on one tiny early, wildly outlying poll are showing they are actually willing to accept pathological lying as truth. All of that said, in the interest of getting all of the data out there, I just wanted to flag it now that someone pointed it out to me.
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