Apparently, both Clinton and Trump are not scoring terribly well on the popular "truth meter," with only about 1 in 4 finding Trump "honest and transparent" and about 1 in 3 saying the same for Clinton (CPI). On the flip side, 58 percent of the respondents in the Center for Public Integrity poll found Trump dishonest and about half said the same of Clinton (the full results by category are available at the link above). Of course, much of the discourse around Clinton is based on innuendo, half truths and, well, outright lies themselves. It all goes back to the Bill Clinton presidency and the millions of tax dollars spent on investigations that never bore fruit; unless we count that inconvenient blow job.
With Trump, the truth is a very complicated subject indeed -- or maybe that is an exaggeration if we are speaking of his own opinion on the matter. It appears Trump simply says what he likes and hopes that supplicant media personalities like Matt Lauer won't call him out on his lies (NYT). To a large extent, they have not so far -- with several critics going as far as saying Trump is being "graded on a curve" (WP). This appears to be the case, much as it was with George Bush in both 2000 and 2004. Lest us forget that his questionable service during the Vietnam War did not become a big campaign issue, except in the eventual pushing out of Dan Rather, while the war hero Kerry was savaged by a media that failed to even check the legitimacy of the Swift Boat Veterans for Lies.
At its core, one could argue that the problem lies with the media struggling so vigilantly to keep hold to the rather absurd call for neutrality, objectivity and balance in their reporting. It not only manifests in the he-said she-said style of reporting so popular today, or the even less democratically resonant horse race coverage, but in a complete disregard for the truth and the actual policy positions of the candidates. Trump can lie, fill up the news cycle and then hedge his position later, if necessary. The media does little to dispel his house of cards and so he continues onward toward relative parity in the race.
One wonders if much of the mainstream media really cares if Trump is elected and whether they might actually believe they will benefit from his victory with higher ratings. Much like the callow and soulless characters in the brilliant film Network, satire appears to have fully entered the realm of the hyperreal as American media continues to abrogate its responsibility as the fourth estate of government. In fact, it might be better to call them the first estate of corporate governance, reaffirming the rather obvious, but never reported, reality that corporate greed knows no bounds. For the cynical American public of today, one could argue they are simply mirroring the popular mood. The danger of course, is this cynical stance allows an extremely dangerous man to rise to the most powerful office in the world.