Clinton's questionable decision

Hillary Clinton accepts Democratic nomination
Hillary Clinton accepts Democratic nomination

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    Hillary Clinton accepts Democratic nomination

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Hillary Clinton accepts Democratic nomination 01:39

Story highlights

  • David Gergen: Clinton should have addressed elephant in the room -- distrust toward her
  • Public leaders around the world are facing a growing crisis of public distrust, Gergen says

David Gergen is a senior political analyst for CNN and has been a White House adviser to four presidents. A graduate of Harvard Law School, he is a professor of public service and co-director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School. Follow him on Twitter: @david_gergen. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)On a historic night, Hillary Clinton proved that a woman nominee for president can deliver just as good an acceptance speech as a man -- and some would say, even better.

David Gergen
Clinton is more adept at debates than in public speeches, but her sweeping, hard-hitting and sometimes moving acceptance address was one of her most effective performances. Unlike most speakers in Philadelphia, she put jobs and terror front and center in her campaign -- just where they belong. She also delivered one of best attack lines against Donald Trump: "A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons."
Even so, it is questionable whether she and her team made the right call in skirting around the elephant in the room: the high levels of distrust felt toward her that could cost her victory in November.
From experience in past presidential campaigns, I am sympathetic with their decision to remain silent: It would definitely have been a risky play, probably drawing headlines away from her more positive message and perhaps converting few voters.
Even so, I thought they made a mistake. Bobby Kennedy liked to quote an old saying, "Hang a lantern on your problem." Clinton seemed to be moving in that direction several days ago, humbly acknowledging that many don't trust her and that she needs to work on it. That admission made her more real and credible.
"Well," say friends, "what can she do about it? How can she turn things around?"
For starters, she ought to be aggressively finding ways to be much more transparent and accountable. Her news conferences are rare; they need to happen frequently. She needs to release transcripts from her past speeches to Wall Street audiences. As she did at her convention, she needs to bring a bevy of speakers to public attention who can testify from working with her how trustworthy she is. And she needs to begin mapping out plans for an administration that would be far more open than those of the recent past, including the governments of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Public leaders in America, Europe and much of the world are now facing a growing crisis of public distrust.
As the first woman nominee in U.S. presidential politics, wouldn't it be exhilarating if Hillary Clinton could also be a pioneer in raising standards in politics?