The honesty and transparency themes are driving much of voter sentiment in this election. It helps explain the surprising success of Republican candidate Mike Huckabee. And we see similar dynamics with the Democratic candidates.
Consider a "The Economist/YouGov'' poll out last week.
When Democratic voters were asked which phrases they would use to describe their candidates, results included the following:
-- Honesty: Obama 54 percent, Clinton 35 percent.
-- Moral: Obama 54 percent, Clinton 34 percent.
-- Religious: Obama 29 percent, Clinton 19 percent.
-- Says what he/she believes: Obama 60 percent, Clinton 39 percent.
Clinton's growing image of untrustworthiness is taking a toll. Obama now leads in Iowa, and the gap between him and Clinton is tightening in other state and national polls. Now, just out, is a poll by John Zogby showing Clinton losing in races against every Republican candidate. Yet, Zogby's poll shows Obama or Edwards winning these same races.
It's more than perception. Dishonesty defines Clinton's campaign.
A few examples:
-- Health Care: Clinton's signature issue. The defining theme is the need for mandated universal health care because of the large number of uninsured.
When the census bureau reported earlier this year that 47 million Americans are without health insurance, Clinton said: "When I began the fight for universal coverage almost 15 years ago, there were 37 million people uninsured. It was an outrage then and with 10 million more uninsured today, it is an even deeper outrage today."
Who are these 47 million? It's not hard to dig into the U.S. Census Bureau numbers to see. N. Gregory Mankiw, Harvard economics professor, and former head of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisors, did this a few weeks ago on the pages of the New York Times.
About 10 million are not U.S. citizens and many are illegal immigrants. Another 18 million have annual household incomes over $50,000, half of whom have incomes over $75,000. According to Mankiw, about 25 percent of the uninsured have been offered health insurance by their employer and have turned it down. A good chunk of the remaining individuals qualify for Medicaid and haven't applied.
After eliminating non-citizens, those who can afford to, but for whatever reason don't insure themselves, and those qualifying for Medicaid but haven't applied, the remaining universe of uninsured is a fraction of the 47 million.
-- Social Security: According to Mrs. Clinton, the Social Security problem is benign and the system was in good shape when her husband left office.
Fox News reported at the end of October that Senator Clinton "says that when her husband left office, Social Security was projected to be solvent until the year 2055." They checked official statistics and found that when Bill Clinton left office the Social Security system was projected to remain solvent until 2037, not 2055.
Fox News reported then that they "asked the Clinton campaign repeatedly ... to provide the source for the claim that the projection was 2055 when Bill Clinton left office -- but so far we have received no response."
But two weeks later at the Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas, Clinton was at it again: "Six and a half years ago when George Bush came into office... the Social Security system was on a path to be solvent until 2055."
You don't have to rely on the Fox News research staff.
Here's President Clinton himself in his State of the Union address in 1999, the year before he left office: "...by 2013, payroll taxes will no longer be sufficient to cover monthly payments. And by 2032 the trust fund will be exhausted, and Social Security will be unable to pay out the full benefits older Americans have been promised."
-- Iraq: I wrote earlier this year about the documentation by New York Times journalists Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr. in their book "Her Way" of Clinton's obfuscation of her vote for authorizing our invasion in Iraq. When it was no longer politically attractive to support the war, she claimed she thought she was voting for more diplomacy. But, as the book shows, Clinton voted against Senator Levin's amendment that would have required this very additional diplomacy.
Now alter ego, hubby Bill, the former president, said a few days ago on the campaign trail that he "opposed Iraq from the beginning."
Google search engines were smoking from journalists trying to find a shred of evidence of this -- to no avail. Senator Clinton, when asked about this clear fabrication by her husband, responded, "There was nothing new in what he said."
Layered upon the wholesale dishonesty that defines Senator Clinton's presidential campaign is a projected arrogance that it doesn't matter. That somehow this nomination and this election belong to her, regardless of what she says or does.
Voters, of course, will have the final say on this.