Hillary and Trust

05/06/2015 05:36 pm ET | Updated May 06, 2016
Andrew Burton via Getty Images

The 2016 presidential election is 18 months away, yet the race already has become very intense for both political parties. Republican candidates, of whom there are more than a dozen so far, are busy raising money and vying for attention. On the other hand, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the favorite for her party's nomination, is being battered by conservatives on the issue of trust.

It is no wonder Clinton is her party's overwhelming choice. A New York Times/CBS News poll released this week shows the magnitude of Clinton's strength. Of the Democrats asked, 84 percent agreed that Clinton shared "the values that most Americans try to live by." The poll showed that 91 percent of Democrats surveyed believe that she "has strong qualities of leadership." Democrats polled were also asked, "Do you think Hillary Clinton is honest and trustworthy?" The results showed that 82 percent of the Democrats polled said yes. However, the poll finds that only 48 percent of all Americans say Clinton is honest and trustworthy, while 45 percent say she is not honest and trustworthy.

Clinton's trustworthiness is the issue Republicans and conservative media outlets are pounding hardest at. And Clinton has given her opponents some ammunition. She used a personal server for all her emails while serving as Secretary of State, which apparently did not comply with Obama administration policies. Subsequently, she had all her "personal" emails from that period destroyed, more than 55,000 pages of them. Was there a "smoking gun" related to Benghazi, or to some scandalous dealings with a foreign country? For sure, Republicans will ask those questions again, again and again.

In fact, they will also have yet another chance to question Clinton about Benghazi, as she has agreed to appear before the House Select Committee on Benghazi later this month. She insisted that the meeting be open so that she would not have to deal with selective leaks from Republicans. Nonetheless, the Republicans have kept Benghazi alive even though there have already been more than a dozen hearings and millions of taxpayer dollars spent. Their fruitless efforts to turn a great and painful tragedy into a scandal is most unfortunate for the families of those who heroically lost their lives at the diplomatic compound. But that's politics.

Now Republicans are proffering allegations that Secretary of State Clinton did favors for foreign countries while she was in office, in exchange for huge speaking fees and contributions to the Clinton Foundation. A newly released book, Clinton Cash, by conservative author Peter Schweizer, has fueled the attacks. The book does not offer any hard evidence of sweetheart deals, but it does strongly suggest that there is a pattern. The Clinton campaign is now aggressively attacking the book's allegations. Earlier this week former President Bill Clinton, while on a two-week Africa trip, said there was "no evidence" of wrongdoing. The Clinton Foundation has been widely praised for the work it does in the area of public health around the world.

Hillary Clinton has long been a polarizing figure on the American political scene. Those who love her do so with great passion. And those who hate her absolutely detest her. A Pew Research Center poll showed that Clinton's term at State might be her strongest positive. And more older white women, a demographic that usually is heavily Republican, are supporting her. So it's no wonder Republicans are trying to turn her strengths, her service at State and her leadership into negatives.

But can voters trust each of the GOP candidates? After all, they are politicians. For example, Sen. Ted Cruz pandered to his supporters' fears that a U.S. Special Forces exercise was a cover for a plan to impose marshall law in Texas. "My office has reached out to the Pentagon to inquire about this exercise," he said in an interview. Is he kidding? This from the man who led a government shutdown but then denied he was responsible for it.

The Bradenton Herald, a Florida newspaper, last month published a story with this headline: "Senator Marco Rubio claims rated 41 percent honest." USA Today ran this headline in November 2013: "Rand Paul admits his plagiarism 'is my fault.'" Sen. Paul had been caught lifting other people's work for his speeches and his book. Of course, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he didn't know about the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge.

Republicans are out of sync with a majority of Americans on issues like income inequality, how to increase employment, immigration, marriage equality and national security. Attacking Clinton's trustworthiness is their default position. The more each of these flawed Republican candidates goes after Hillary Clinton on the issue of trust, the more their hypocrisy will be exposed to all Americans. And they will give Hillary Clinton the opportunity to talk about solutions and about her ideas for moving the country forward.

Who would you trust?