Another transparency issue for Clinton

The Observer editorial board

Clinton AP

In a campaign speech Wednesday in Texas, Donald Trump made the case against Hillary Clinton that Republicans badly want voters to hear. Clinton, he said, puts personal gain over the public good, and she goes to great lengths to hide that from Americans.

As it happens, the speech itself was riddled with Trump’s customary exaggerations and falsehoods, negating the impact it might have had.

Such is the good fortune Clinton enjoys so far in this 2016 election. Her flawed opponent is disliked more than any presidential candidate in history, which is helping Clinton to an early lead even as she keeps giving voters reasons to distrust her.

Here’s one more, courtesy of the Associated Press on Friday: In her four-year term as Secretary of State, Clinton had at least 75 meetings that were either not recorded on her official calendar or had identifying details scrubbed.

Those get-togethers weren’t just with random folks. The meetings included political donors, Wall Street executives, Clinton Foundation donors and other corporate and outside interests.

The AP found the omissions by comparing her official calendar – a 1,500 page document – with separate planning schedules her aides provided her each day. The AP might find even more discrepancies; the State Department has turned over about one-third of the planners so far.

The revelations come just a month after a damning report from the State Department’s inspector general detailing how Clinton forged ahead with the use of a private email server despite restrictions and warnings against doing so.

We know what comes next. Clinton supporters will emphasize, as they have with the email server, that no laws were broken with the calendar omissions. Already, Clinton spokesperson Nick Merrill dismissed the AP report as simply one set of records being more detailed than the other.

That less-detailed record, however, just happens to be the official chronology of the Secretary of State’s activities.

Merrill insisted Thursday that Clinton “has always made an effort to be transparent since entering public life.” As polls continue to show, Americans are just not buying that, with good reason. From Whitewater misstatements to a troubling Benghazi response – and plenty between – Clinton has too often been something less than forthright.

Add the do-it-yourself email server and calendar omissions – not to mention those Wall Street speeches she refuses to disclose – and you have a reinforced narrative that Clinton has trouble with transparency, especially when it comes to donor relationships that Americans deserve to know about.

In any other election year, that would be crippling. But in 2016, Clinton will be running against a Republican who frequently says things that are flatly untrue, even after being presented with evidence that he’s wrong. And that’s one of Donald Trump’s smaller flaws.

It’s unfortunate that for many voters, the most potent argument for Hillary Clinton is that she isn’t nearly as dangerous to America as her opponent. But in this case, the devil we know really is better than the devil we shudder to think of as president.

That doesn’t mean Clinton’s issues with transparency and forthrightness should be excused. They have left her vulnerable as a candidate, and they should trouble all Americans, whether she gets their vote or not.