It’s no wonder Americans have a negative opinion of both major presidential nominees. Beyond their escalating rhetoric, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump continue to act as if they have something to hide, raising the prospect that voters may not know everything they should before Election Day.
Investigators keep finding more Clinton-related e-mails, underscoring the former secretary of state’s lack of transparency and her cozy, continuing relationship with the Clinton Foundation and its donors (though so far one that more exemplifies traditional Washington access of contributors than indicates improper impact on governmental policy).
And Trump continues his refusal to follow tradition and release his tax returns, enabling him to keep many details of his complex finances from public view. Investigative reporting by authors and newspapers suggests everything from a history of housing discrimination to potentially serious conflicts involving major banks and foreign countries.
Two separate events recently illustrated both their respective problems and the significant contrast between what we know of the one and the other.
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One was the Associated Press revelation that Clinton’s appointment calendars, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, showed dozens of private meetings while she was secretary of state with foundation contributors. Clinton tried to keep the data secret, both by setting up her private e-mail system and rejecting AP requests. But AP found no ethical or legal violations.
The other was a bizarre interview with Trump’s doctor about his letter declaring the Republican nominee would be “the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”
Harold Bornstein told NBC News he wrote the letter, largely devoid of specifics, in just five minutes while a representative of the candidate waited in his limousine outside.
Both the minimal content and the circumstances Bornstein related seemed surprising from a candidate whose campaign repeatedly suggests – without any evidence – that Clinton is covering up details about her health. In fact, while Clinton has also not issued full medical details, she has provided more than Trump, which has not prevented him from pledging now to reveal his details if she disclosed hers.
That contrast in transparency seems generally to be the case. Though Clinton has often limited her disclosures, and continues to avoid full-scale press conferences, Trump has done less.
Their tax returns are the main example. Clinton followed the traditional approach for presidential nominees by releasing returns for 30 years, at the cost of stories about vast income from speaking fees and other outside endeavors. Trump has refused to release his tax returns, citing the fact that recent years are under audit.
The American people deserve full disclosures from both candidates.
Carl P. Leubsdorf is a columnist for the Dallas Morning News.