"What else do you expect from the Financial Times journalistic ABYSS!" H.Tuttle
September 18, 2016 by: Edward Luce
The end is in sight. In 50 days we will know whether Donald Trump has pulled off the biggest upset in American history. It is a credit to the reality TV star’s populist skills that such an outcome is possible. Hillary Clinton is all that stands between the world and the Trumpian abyss.
It is a pity she has to pull this off while recovering from pneumonia. It is little short of astonishing that this close to midnight she feels obliged to launch another drive to explain to voters why she wants to be president. What exactly was the past year about? Or the past decade? As the song says, “If you don’t know me by now …”
It is safe to say that Mrs Clinton is not about to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Voters will have to make do with her campaign themes of building bridges rather than walls, and being stronger together. Laudable though such sentiments are, they are dangerously anodyne. They tell voters what Mrs Clinton is not — Donald Trump. They tell us next to nothing about what she would do.
Her success is thus predicated on Mr Trump’s indiscipline, which cannot always be relied upon (recent gaffes about disarming his opponent’s secret service detail notwithstanding). If he sticks to advice by “reaching out” to African-Americans, Hispanics and women he can take the edge off Mrs Clinton’s warnings. What then, would her campaign be left with?
The answer is worryingly vague. Next week Mrs Clinton and Mr Trump will face off in what will almost certainly be the most watched television debate in history. Mr Trump will start on low expectations. Mrs Clinton is an accomplished and well-prepared debater. That means Mr Trump’s bar for winning will be far lower.
For many viewers — possibly a majority if the audience clears 100m — it will be their biggest exposure so far to the 2016 campaign. Newspaper readers may be shocked that anyone could have failed to make their minds up by now. But most Americans are turned off from politics, which is why Mr Trump has come this far. If he can refrain from bullying Mrs Clinton, and steers clear of insulting large groups of Americans, the media will declare him victor. History tells us that challengers tend to win the first of the three debates.
They have made $22m from the education industry since 2010 but such connections may blight her White House bid
At which point panic would set in. During the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama’s aides talked of the liberal “bed wetters” who kept worrying he would lose to John McCain. If Mr Trump holds his own next week, dodgy bladder control will go global.
The pressure on Mrs Clinton is already acute. Now try combining the world’s toughest political endurance test with recuperation from what used to be a killer disease. Doctors say it takes an able-bodied adult about two weeks to recover from pneumonia, after which they should take it easy. Mrs Clinton, who is 68, was back on the campaign trail within six days of her diagnosis. If she stumbles, coughs or sneezes in the coming days, the political results could be lethal.
Unfair though this is, Mrs Clinton has only herself to blame. Her instinctive secrecy is a spur to the type of conspiracy theory in which Mr Trump excels. His surrogates have been peddling rumours that Mrs Clinton is suffering from Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s or worse. These are low tactics from unscrupulous people. Yet were Mrs Clinton to be diagnosed with something worse, could we trust her to tell anyone? Everything in Mrs Clinton’s history tells us that she will only disclose information when compelled to do so. It should be no surprise that voters are sceptical of her honesty. If this is a contest over who is least unpopular, Mrs Clinton is capable of losing it. All Mr Trump has to do is control his nastiness for seven weeks. For most people this would pose few difficulties. But he is capable of falling off the wagon.
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Then there is Mrs Clinton’s reputation for hanging out with rich people. She was wise to say she will not be appearing at the annual Clinton Global Initiative in New York this week. But the Clinton Foundation’s philanthropic jamboree should not be taking place at all. Just as the campaign is entering its final stretch, people will be reminded of all the “pay-for-play” allegations against the Clintons.
Even without Mrs Clinton’s presence, three days of wealthy liberal self-congratulation is the last thing her campaign needs. It was bad enough that she said at another gilded event in Manhattan last week that half of Mr Trump’s supporters were “irredeemable” racists. Whether true or not, candidates should never speak ill of the electorate. But the CGI event is no slip of the tongue. It does not matter that the Clintons have promised to disengage from the foundation if she wins. It is not what you say that counts. It is what people hear. What most people perceive is a Democratic candidate who spends half her time with billionaires.
This, then, is the sickeningly gripping 50 days in store. Make no mistake: the US could be about to elect a proudly ignorant xenophobe as president. Mrs Clinton is none of these things. Yet she has allowed Mr Trump to turn this election into a nail-biter. At this point the momentum is shifting towards him. Everything now hinges on Mrs Clinton’s past ability to find her best fighting self when her back is against the wall.