Former secretary of State Hillary Clinton's address Thursday night accepting the nomination of the Democratic Party for president was one of numerous effective speeches over the four days of the Democratic National Convention.
While trying to give some perspective on what has motivated her to be a public servant — most specifically a concern over many decades for the welfare of children — Ms. Clinton did not directly address the reasons why a large number of Americans find her untrustworthy.
Post-conventions, this seems a good time to examine carefully why Ms. Clinton is considered so untrustworthy and whether some of this attitude is just encrusted conventional wisdom and group think that has developed since her husband's administration in the 1990s.
Part of this evaluation of Ms. Clinton's trustworthiness must consider her relative honesty and openness in comparison to her Republican opponent Donald Trump.
First, we wonder how much Ms. Clinton's reputation for trustworthiness suffers because of her husband, former President Bill Clinton. After all, in many quarters he was nicknamed "slick Willie." During the scandal involving White House intern Monica Lewinsky, he famously pounded a podium, red-faced and falsely declared, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."
Of course, in many cases the accusations against Mr. Clinton, and his wife, turned out to be groundless and even terribly malicious — such as the accusations that they murdered their friend, the lawyer Vince Foster, who committed suicide. This led Hillary Clinton to say at the time that there was " vast right-wing conspiracy" out to get her husband.
While there was some truth in what she said, this remark also betrayed a defensiveness which has not served Ms. Clinton well. For, as she noted in Thursday's speech, she is more interested in the "service" part of public service, than the "public" part. She does not have her husband's oratorical and persuasive people skills and has a tendency to hunker down in defensiveness.
Hence, the email scandal. Many prominent politicians set up their own email servers for privacy reasons — for instance 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney used a personal email account while governor of Massachusetts to conduct some state business, as the Associated Press reported in 2015. However, doing so as U.S. Secretary of State, as did Ms. Clinton, is more problematic, given the sensitive and classified national security information routinely dealt with in this top post.
Yet, does this justify the vilification she receives? Part of this over-the-top portrayal of Ms. Clinton comes from supporters of Trump, who lies more often and vilifies more groups than any presidential candidate in American history. In attempts to justify him as a legitimate candidate, his supporters vilify Ms. Clinton into a grotesque, criminal caricature, chanting "lock her up" and suggesting even worse punishment.
But the portrayal of Ms. Clinton on parts of the left has been almost as bad. Though her defeated primary opponent, Vermont's Sen. Bernie Sanders, has nobly and for the good of the nation gotten behind Ms. Clinton's candidacy, many of this supporters out of bitterness still seem to accept a false equivalency between the Democrat and the Republican.
For instance, on Thursday, the Sanders campaign operation posted this on its Facebook page: "What we are dealing with now is quite honestly, the worst Republican candidate in the modern history of the United States of America." The following response, typical of many, got nearly 6,500 likes: "And the worst Democratic candidate in modern history."
Such false equivalency between Clinton and Trump is dangerous. There is no comparison between a mainstream politician who has served honorably as a senator and secretary of state and a con-man real estate developer and reality TV star who preaches fear and exclusion.
Voters should question the received conventional wisdom about Hillary Clinton and reject any false equivalency between her and her opponent. Whatever her faults, Hillary Clinton does not "wing it" and does the homework needed to be effective; moreover, she treats people with respect and is able to control herself and make considered decisions in times of crisis. Most importantly, unlike her opponent, she is not a threat to our democracy and our American ideals.