So Hillary’s a Liar? What’s Your Point?

Hillary Clinton has done a 180 on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but few seem to mind. Greg Mankiw suggests that Hillary’s dishonesty is “a feature, not a bug.”

A few weeks ago, a poll asked people what were the first words that they thought of when they heard the names of the various presidential candidates. For Hillary Clinton, “liar” and “untrustworthy” ranked high. Many commentators saw this result as a problem for her.

I bring this up now because Clinton just came out against the TPP trade deal, even though the Obama administration strongly favors it and Clinton previously favored it. I don’t know of any poll of economists on TPP, but an overwhelming majority of the profession agrees that “Past major trade deals have benefited most Americans.” I would guess that TPP would also poll well among economists. …

So, will those economists who like Clinton start to turn against her? I doubt it. My guess is that most of them don’t believe what she is now saying. They expect that once she moves back into the White House, she will return to the moderate view of trade deals that her husband championed. In other words, they are counting on her being untrustworthy. If they had reason to doubt her mendacity, then they would start to get worried.

I think that is correct. We saw the same phenomenon with Barack Obama. Liberals often thought he was lying–e.g., when he first claimed to be against gay marriage, and then said he had changed his mind–but they didn’t hold his dishonesty against him.

Maybe liberals are starting to come out of the closet. Matthew Yglesias, writing at Vox, explained that Hillary is dishonest, and he considers that a good thing:

From her adventures in cattle trading to chairing a policymaking committee in her husband’s White House to running for Senate in a state she’d never lived in to her effort to use superdelegates to overturn 2008 primary results to her email servers, [Hillary] Clinton is clearly more comfortable than the average person with violating norms and operating in legal gray areas. …

She truly is the perfect leader for America’s moment of permanent constitutional crisis: a person who cares more about results than process, who cares more about winning the battle than being well-liked, and a person who believes in asking what she can get away with rather than what would look best.

I can’t think of any analogy on the right. Conservatives don’t assume that their politicians are dishonest scofflaws, and if they are perceived as such, it is disadvantageous to say the least. (Richard Nixon wasn’t much of a conservative, but he will do as an instance.) It is a sad commentary on our political life that one of our major parties considers a talent for deceit to be a qualification for office.