Monday, September 12, 2016

The Trump Reality: It's a Tight Race

By Sarah Lorenzo

It is easy to remember the days Donald Trump was treated as a joke. An afterthought. During a week when Clinton made an unfortunate comment, calling some Trump supporters "deplorables," and suffered from ongoing health concerns, Trump may have briefly regained afterthought status. But his legitimacy as a possible victor in November only grew.

NPR Politics' Domenico Montanaro was the first to mention the strong connections between Hillary Clinton's health news and the transparency and wellness concerns that have plagued her campaign, particularly in recent weeks, during a Monday podcast. Following Clinton's abrupt and, for some time unexplained, exit from a 9/11 memorial in New York, her campaign informed the public that Clinton was diagnosed on Friday with pneumonia, a common illness that is often recovered from but is more dangerous for individuals over the age of 65. Clinton, of course, is 68. Reporter Tamara Keith noted that Clinton's delay in disclosing her illness directly feeds concerns that Clinton is in bad health, a rumor predominantly fueled by Rudi Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and current Trump supporter, in late August. Furthermore, by waiting until Sunday events necessitated disclosure of her Friday diagnosis, Clinton added potential substance to complaints that she is not transparent - complaints that trace to controversy over her response to the Benghazi attack in 2012 and are also rooted in her equally controversial use of a private email server as secretary of state.
Politico reporter Ben White was quick to dismiss
Trump's potential in July, 2015. (Source:

Yet, the NPR Politics team is quick to put the Clinton campaign's struggles into perspective: reporters have noted that an unusually enthusiastic report from one of Donald Trump's doctors may not be entirely accurate or complete in its disclosure. Furthermore, Clinton is hardly the first politician to avoid sharing a sickness in effort to reduce risk of seeming weak or raising general fitness concerns.

Despite Clinton's history of nondisclosure, Trump's current reluctance to share both detailed health information and his tax returns have resulted in far less focus than Clinton's acts of coming forward with particulars of her own. Perhaps, as noted by Trump's son Eric, it would indeed be "foolish" for the candidate to release his tax data because it is more compelling for the media to report on facts than on the absence of information. Even so, accusations that Clinton is not transparent may evidence a double standard to which Donald Trump is not equally susceptible. While negative news about Donald Trump portrays him frequently as a racist and a bigot, his lack of transparency is certainly not in focus, even if it is currently more severe than Clinton's. The Clinton Foundation, for instance, releases more data than is required of most 501(c)(3) nonprofits and, according to PolitiFact, can be grouped among the most transparent presidential foundations. By contrast, Donald Trump raised eyebrows during the presidential primaries following vague disclosure of the outcomes of a fundraiser to benefit veterans. More recently, Trump was accused of unethical intentions when donating to an attorney general who later dropped a case against his heavily accused for-profit school, Trump University.

As the November election draws near, lopsided media coverage may markedly sway opinion. Although much coverage, including NPR's Politics Podcast, provides balanced and thorough analysis,
mainstream coverage seems rarely to depart from its pack mentality. With public emphasis on he-said/she-said scandals and time-worn topics heavily occupying the political stage, policy issues and post-election plans have largely been forgotten. As that coverage continues, a "President Trump" may become increasingly possible.

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