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JOAN VENNOCHI

The real Hillary needs to fight the one Trump made up

Hillary Clinton, accompanied by Democratic Party activist Jay Snyder, left, leaves after a fundraiser at his home in East Hampton, N.Y., Aug. 29.
Hillary Clinton, accompanied by Democratic Party activist Jay Snyder, left, leaves after a fundraiser at his home in East Hampton, N.Y., Aug. 29.(Andrew Harnik/Associated Press)

Just ask Michael Dukakis or John Kerry what happens when a presidential candidate decides to spend August in the Berkshires or Nantucket.

Opponents take full advantage — just as Donald Trump did while Hillary Clinton hobnobbed in the Hamptons. It was fine as long as Trump was insulting Gold Star parents or seeming to suggest his followers might want to exercise their Second Amendment rights against his rival. But then Trump started redrawing the caricature of Clinton previously crafted in Cleveland — the one of a weak and corrupt public official dedicated to the failed policies of the past.

Thanks to Trump’s persistence — and his opponent’s strategy of nonengagement in August — the positive picture of Hillary Clinton painted in Philadelphia by husband Bill, among others, is fading. The former president’s convention speech did something very important. It made Hillary human. She was the girl he met at law school, who dedicated her life to devising policies that tried to make life better for children and other vulnerable citizens. Sometimes she failed, but she never gave up.

After relating his version of Hillary Clinton’s life, Bill Clinton, asked: “Now, how does this square? How does this square with the things that you heard at the Republican convention? What is the difference in what I told you and what they said? . . . One is real, the other is made up.”

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Today, Hillary Clinton is back to fighting off the made-up character created by Trump.

In the crazy mirror world of Trump supporters, she’s not just weak, she’s really sick and possibly dying. Instead of the woman in the arena, fighting for social and economic justice, she’s an advocate for Democratic policies that have increased, according to Trump, crime, broken homes, and poverty. While assorted Trump enterprises manufacture products in China and Mexico, Clinton’s the one, according to Trump, responsible for trade policies that cost millions of American jobs. And Trump, the businessman who admits he contributed money to gain influence with politicians, has turned “pay to play” into a weapon against Clinton. He calls the Clinton Foundation a “vast criminal enterprise,” ignoring his own $100,000 donation to it. Then there’s the matter of the $25,000 Trump’s charitable foundation donated to a group supporting Pam Bondi, the Florida attorney general, who opted not to pursue fraud allegations against Trump University.

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Trump was also gifted with the notes of the FBI interview with Clinton regarding the private e-mail server she set up while serving as secretary of state, which reinforce Clinton’s less-than-candid image. She told the FBI she didn’t recall receiving any e-mails she thought should not be on an unclassified system. She didn’t recall any training on the handling of classified information. And she didn’t know that “C” meant “confidential” — but instead believed it referenced paragraphs marked in alphabetical order.

I am no Trump supporter. But I happen to believe the pro-Clinton press overestimates its ability to take Trump down by revealing his lies, distortions, and hypocrisy. Voters see what they want to see. And throughout August, Trump was the candidate they saw in the arena. He took the hits he deserved when he attacked Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the parents of US Army Captain Humayun Khan, who died in Iraq in 2004. He also took the gamble of meeting with the president of Mexico and using the photo op it produced to his advantage. Then he turned around and gave a speech in Arizona that thrilled his anti-immigration supporters. He also went to a black church in Detroit, swayed to the music as many a Democrat has done, and asked, “What do you have to lose?” by supporting him.

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Love him or hate him, it’s the real Donald Trump.

Voters await the real Hillary Clinton. By essentially taking August off, she gave Trump another chance to run against the one he made up.


Joan Vennochi can be reached at vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.