Via the Free Beacon, yesterday we played the “what the hell was he thinking?” game with Trump over Machado, now we get to play a special bonus round with Hillary. Most people (like me) didn’t know that Machado was once accused in Venezuela of driving the getaway car in a murder(!) and then threatening to kill a judge(!!), but Hillary’s researchers must have. (The accusations against Machado were reported in old AP stories, easily accessible to professional oppo people.) There’s no way a candidate as risk-averse as Clinton would make a point of bringing up Machado at a debate and rolling out an ad that features her unless she’d vetted her first and decided it was worth doing. So how did not-a-saint-girl pass the vetting? Did she reassure Team Hillary that the charges were bogus and promise to flatly deny them when asked? Because … she doesn’t do that in the clip below. It’s as glaring a non-denial as you’ll ever see.
The only explanation I can come up with is that Clinton is playing a very cynical media game premised on the short attention spans of voters. She greenlit the Machado ad, I think, believing that by the time the media reported the old business about murder in Venezuela, the target audience would have already processed the underlying point — Trump is cruel, especially to women — and moved on. Only a fraction of people who watched the debate and maybe saw the coverage yesterday morning about “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping” will continue to follow news about Machado. Telling half the story is worth doing, even with a very flawed messenger, because low-information voters simply won’t sustain their interest long enough to hear the other half. Trump himself has a savant-type understanding of this phenomenon. Public interest in most news has a short half-life, so tell whatever lie you like and trust that comparatively few people will ever find out afterward that you were lying. Claiming that he opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning is a perfect example. The media’s corrected him on that repeatedly (although not consistently) this year, but a maestro like Trump understands that the audience that tunes into his interviews is much bigger than the audience that tunes into the fact-check hours later.
Clinton may have arrived at the same conclusion before the debate. If she had data showing that focus groups turned against Trump upon hearing Machado’s story, she might have concluded it was worth mentioning her in front of the gigantic debate audience even though the stuff about threats and murder was destined to come out when people were no longer paying much attention. Besides, Clinton can say, the Venezuela business doesn’t prove that Machado is lying about Trump; he’s on the ballot, not her, and he’s still a jerk to women even if she’s no saint. This is a glimpse at the future of political warfare in an age of instant media, where you have every incentive to lie on a big stage because you know that the audience will splinter before the whole truth can be told. In that sense, having two ludicrous liars like Clinton and Trump as nominees is a hint of things to come. God help us.