Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump – both – have demonstrated, again and again, that they are inherently incapable of honesty or forthrightness when any information available to the public might damage or diminish their ambitions or favorable public images.

Only in recent weeks has it become clear to me that Clinton’s mountain of email deceits, studiously enumerated by – indeed her decision to move much of her work-related emails to a private server – were primarily intended to conceal the connections between donations to Clinton foundations by individuals/corporations and access to government officials she gave to these persons/groups, as well as Clinton-influenced government decisions favoring such groups that were shortly accompanied by their contributions to Clinton foundations. Watergate’s “Deep Throat” advice is still relevant: “Follow the money.”

Subsequent to those revelations, however, Democrats’ indignant cries of “You can’t prove quid pro quo” were in sharp contrast to their earlier indignant replies to Nixon Republicans’ use of the same dodge during the Watergate scandal.

Shortly after the terrorist attacks on the US Benghazi consulate, Clinton could not bear to truthfully admit that she had lied to inquisitors about the known source of the attack. After learning that the assault was not a result of jihadist resentment of an Islamist-insulting news publication cartoon – as she originally announced – but a well-planned and well-orchestrated attack, she continued for a matter of hours to tell people that the former was the case. After all, public knowledge of her lack of awareness of a long-planned jihadist group’s functions might create a crack in her reputation.

Now we find that she has authored a cover-up of her actual health condition. Two days after her physician concluded she had pneumonia, a fact not announced to the world, she appeared at a 9-11 memorial service in New York City, became faint, wobbled and required support to enter a vehicle that took her to her daughter’s Manhattan apartment and then to her Chappaqua, NY home.

Her campaign apparatus, in usual form, announced that her observed coughing fits were the result of “allergies” and that she had become “overheated” in the day’s low-80s temperature. Of course pneumonia, a congestion of the lungs, produces lots of coughing and fever is one of its symptoms.

Imagine this amoral operator at work in the White House. Her vote to support the Iraq war was, she tells us, a “mistake.” But she and her prospective staff are now planning to widen the war in Syria. Although in a recent appearance in Scranton, PA, Clinton proclaimed that adding ground troops there is “off the table,” all her military advisers are currently at work on a plan to attack Assad more heavily, including “no-fly” zones and increased air strikes and other enhanced military aggression, risking war with Russia. You can be sure she will be very cute when she has to refer to the enhanced “ground troops.”

“’I can’t think of another instance in which a U.S. presidential candidate was actually planning, via advisors who had drawn up detailed plans, a new war, to actually start an additional war that didn’t exist before,’ said writer Gareth Porter, who recently penned “Hillary Clinton and Her Hawks.”

“’That is even more dangerous and more reckless, because even the authors of the [Center for New American Security] report acknowledge there is a serious risk of coming into direct conflict with Russian forces in Syria. It’s really quite an astonishing turn of events when you think about it,’ Porter added.” (The American Conservative, Aug. 16, 2016)

Unfortunately, in candidate Donald Trump we have an equal opportunity scam artist.

His bullying, brutish, narcissistic character, in addition to many examples of his deceit, are repeatedly in evidence.

In Trump’s early televised campaign speech, when he inveighed against Mexican immigrants as “murderers and rapists,” the camera saw many behind him applauding enthusiastically. These were of course avid supporters, right? No, as revealed by the Hollywood Reporter, they were actually actors paid $50 each.

In 2013, the Academy of Hospitality Sciences, run by convicted art thief Joseph Cinque, awarded “the most prestigious award in the world” to the Scottish golf course owned by Donald Trump, who happened to be the organization’s Chairman of the Board.

In 2005, Trump created “Trump University,” an organization that did not comply with state regulations as to what a university is and did not fulfill any dictionary definition of that term. He promised potential subscribers that all faculty – who would train them in successful real estate transaction – were “hand-picked” by him. In fact, he had no hand in their selection and didn’t even know them. Were the faculty skilled in real estate transactions? We know that one was manager of a fast-food operation; two were in personal bankruptcy. They were, it is generally agreed, skilled in high-pressure salesmanship.

New York’s Attorney General launched an investigation into “Trump University” with the possible purpose of bringing suit against Trump. Other state Attorneys General announced the possibility of joining the investigation. One of these was Florida’s AG Pamela Bondi.

But after a Donald J. Trump charitable foundation contributed to Bondi’s election campaign, Ms. Bondi decided not to join New York’s investigation. It is not legal for a charitable foundation to engage in campaign activity. When the gift was made public, the Trump organization explained the money was not meant for Bondi but was intended as a contribution to an anti-abortion group. That organization somehow never received it. Later, the Trump group described the contribution as a “mistake.” Ms. Bondi, the recipient of the “mistake,” has, nevertheless, not returned the money and remains a candidate for reelection in Florida.

In 1991, when Donald Trump was undergoing divorce proceedings from first wife Ivana, a Trump PR representative named John Miller (or John Baron) telephoned news publications to tell them that several prominent women, including Madonna, Kim Basinger and Carla Bruni had contacted Trump in hopes of becoming his new wife. People Magazine revealed that Miller/Baron’s telephone voice was actually Donald Trump. Madonna and Basinger declared they didn’t know Trump; Carla Bruni said she did and despised him.

Trump employed the same phone-iness for years, having his “Miller/Baron” persona call news publications to promote Trump’s new US Football League, after which Trump in his own person did a phone follow-up to “verify” “Miller/Baron’s” account.

When New York City’s Bonwit-Teller building was being demolished in preparation for the erection of Trump Tower, the demolition work was being done by Polish immigrants who were paid by Trump $4/hour. The workers could not afford housing; in the city”s frigid winter they slept in the skeleton structure. Trump decided to stop paying them; he said later that he had “paid enough.” These immigrants – presumably not rapists and murderers – were forced with help to sue Trump for their wages. A federal judge concluded that Trump had engaged in a “conspiracy to cheat workers out of their money.”

Felix Sater, son of a reputed Russian mob boss, displays to all his calling card as “Senior Advisor to Donald Trump.” He has offices in the main section of Trump Tower. He is currently accused – not yet tried – of tax fraud, a type of fraud he could only have committed using a letter from Trump. He is a convicted violent felon and convicted stock swindler. He has traveled with Trump to London, Colorado, Phoenix, Denver and Fort Lauderdale.

Faced with reporters’ questions as to this relationship, Trump said something like, “I hardly know the guy. If we were in the same room, I wouldn’t recognize him.” But existing video, photographs and interviews show that Trump knows Sater very well.

Of course Trump had, and has, a legal duty to notify investors and banks from whom he’s borrowed money that he has inquired into this associate’s background and inform them of the result. He has not done this. Nor did he risk his status as a casino operator by fulfilling that obligation.

The nature of Donald Trump’s possible commercial and/or personal relations with Russian oligarchs is a matter of extreme concern to many in the United States, voters who want to be able to understand what this presidential candidate would do should he be elected.

Trump’s tax returns, which he refuses to produce, would almost certainly illuminate this issue. His hard assets and income sources would be available for public inspection. It is generally believed that Trump will never make this informational source available.

So the upshot is this: we are now in an unprecedented US presidential election cycle in which both candidates are, deservedly, distrusted and/or reviled by potential voters. Both habitually lie, cover up, evade uncomfortable moral responsibilities and attempt to distract inquiries by pointing elsewhere, or to each other.

And both do this with the easeful habitual air of breathing. Deceit is in their very bones.

I see only one outcome of this election season that would be welcomed by those who wish to uphold decency, honor and transparency in government.

Should Hillary Clinton’s pneumonia prove so intractable that she cannot, despite her ambition, effectively represent her party, then Democrats would have to put forward another presidential candidate.

In that case, the obvious choice would be Senator Bernie Sanders, the only Democrat who survived as Clinton’s competitor and who attracted hordes of new, better educated, younger voters to states’ balloting.

But since Sanders’ progressive policies – the only ones, in my view, addressing the nation’s major issues – seem uncomfortable to many in the Democratic Party’s establishment, those worthies might ignore voters’ wishes and turn to Joe Biden.

But should that scenario occur, I believe many Sanders supporters, outraged, would flock to third party candidates in much greater numbers than is now likely to be the case.

So, as one far eastern prophet has it, we are pleased – or doomed – to live in interesting times. And as the fortune-teller reminds us, “The future lies ahead.”

William Smithers
Santa Barbara