presidential-1311753_960_720Voters in the 2016 presidential election find themselves faced with what they perceive to be a choice between not the lesser of two evils but the evil that will do the least harm to our country. Loyal Democrats have posted memes on social media regarding Hillary that come right out of the Republican playbook. Meanwhile, some of the fiercest Republicans continue to search for an alternative to Trump or have announced they will vote for Hillary.

Many who oppose Hillary point to her tendency to manipulate the facts and play the spin game. The #NeverTrump camp has all but declared he is pathological in his habit of fabricating things out of whole cloth.

While I think it’s fair to label both candidates as liars, I also think there is a difference. Hillary has been accused of saying whatever it takes to win. I really hate to be the one to break this news, but that is pretty much the definition of a politician. Show me a politician who doesn’t do that and I will show you a politician who is working as an adjunct professor or in some profession other than that of representing her constituents.  It’s simply the nature of politics.

Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_cropTrump, on the other hand, takes things to a very different level. I recently read an article in which grade school friends of Donald Trump were interviewed. One of them said that Trump behaves the same way as a 70-year-old billionaire businessman (and occasional candidate for President) as he did when he was in first grade. That’s certainly easy to believe, given his tendency to label his opponents with silly playground name-calling and his promotion of a make-believe world as reality.

So, while I understand the accusations of un-trustworthiness aimed at both candidates, I also believe there is a difference. That’s not to say it’s okay to lie or spin or stretch the truth. It’s not. We punish our children for lying and we often say it’s not so much the crime but the attempt to cover it up that bothers us. But in Hillary’s case, she is playing the game the way it is played. In Trump’s case, he’s playing a game, to be sure, but it’s a dangerous one and has taken dog-whistle politics to a potentially lethal level.

He has suggested that the President of the United States “actively” supported terror groups. He claims to have personally witnessed “thousands and thousands” of Muslims celebrating in the streets of New Jersey on September 11, 2001. He has claimed his Medicare plan will save $300 billion a year on prescription drugs. (Never mind that Medicare currently spends about $78 billion on prescription drugs. It reminds me of an old car dealer commercial from the ’80s that featured actor Jim Varney as Ernest P. Worrell. “Vern, you’re going to save $50,000 on a $9,000 car. I don’t know how ’em boys stay in business.”) He attacked the judge presiding over a case against Trump University, claiming that, as a Mexican, the judge cannot fairly rule on the case, Donald_Trump_August_19,_2015_(cropped)because Trump is “building a wall.” (The judge was born in Indiana.) He seems obsessed with conspiracy theories and was a leader of the so-called “birther” movement disputing President Obama’s eligibility to serve, accepted as fact a National Enquirer story about Ted Cruz’s father and his role in the JFK assassination, and his most oft-quoted source for information is “some people,” as in “some people” are saying this and “some people” are saying that. Presumably, Trump would be shocked to learn that you can’t create facts by making up stories and then attributing them to some unnamed, unseen “people” to whom you are presumably speaking (when he’s not speaking with himself, of course).

I’m speaking with myself because I have a very good brain” (Donald Trump, MSNBC, April 28, 2016)

So, yes, I will concede that Hillary has been known to say and do questionable things. Trump has been known to say truly outrageous things that have no basis in fact and he’s been known to do underhanded and immoral things to line his own pockets. Pick your poison, but understand, they are two very different poisons and the persons who are harmed by each of them are different.