Early in November 2015, when the 2016 election was still an over-populated free-for-all, I had lunch with a friend who is a member of an endangered species: the conservative, “Scoop Jackson” Democrats. They are very thin on the ground these days, and are vanishingly rare in public life. But once upon a time these patriotic, unashamedly pro-American Democrats provided a life-giving current of realism and sanity to their party. They were strong on defense, pro-labor but also pro-prosperity, and they tended to regard their Republican counterparts not as enemies but as colleagues with whom they had differences of opinion or strategy.
As I say, such Democrats are all but extinct today, especially in the corridors of power. My well-connected friend is almost as aghast as I am at the Democrats’ lurch to the hard, identity-politics Left. He could not muster any enthusiasm for my candidate — Ted Cruz — but he was not flattering about the two Democratic contenders, either. Bernie Sanders he regarded as insane and Hillary Clinton — whom he knows well — he regarded with that visceral distaste that only close personal acquaintance can impart.
At the time, Ted Cruz seemed to be doing well — my how appearances can be deceiving! — and already there were troubling stories about Hillary Clinton’s health. I said that I doubted she would be up to the rigors of the campaign, but he replied: she won’t need to campaign. She will win the primary and then the election by acclamation.
“Er, ah,” I said, or words to that effect. I didn’t believe a word of it. Now I am not so sure.
A year ago, I thought that a growing, cross-party impatience with the self-serving Washington establishment would usher in a candidate of change. I favored Ted Cruz, but I understood those making the case for Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, and even, on the other side, those making the case for Bernie Sanders. Yes, he was insane and his policies were (in my view) preposterous, but he was the understandable mouthpiece for a certain species of populist revulsion. Why, just to take one issue, should the presidency of the United States be a prize that rotated among the Bushes and the Clintons?
That said, I wasn’t surprised that Hillary won the nomination. The Clinton machine is a formidable thing, and of course she commanded a bottomless supply of money.
Still, I have been surprised at the evolution of this campaign. I made my peace with Donald Trump at the Republican convention. Trump’s continuing erratic behavior (the business about Ted Cruz’s father and Lee Harvey Oswald was especially bizarre) caused me intermittent pangs of regret. But as the weeks passed I found my position on Trump changing.
At first, I supported him chiefly because he was not Hillary Clinton, whom I regard as a thoroughly corrupt candidate. But as Trump’s campaign evolved, I found myself supporting more and more of his announced policies — not everything: that silly wall, for example, or his plan to make me pay for other people’s child care.
But I like his list of candidates for the Supreme Court. I like his tax plan. I like his energy policy. I like his pro-growth orientation. I like his plans to rebuild the U.S. military. I like his plans to reduce onerous regulation. I like his recognition that the inner cities are petri dishes of civic pathology. I like his determination to enforce our immigration laws. I like his realism about the threat of Islamic terrorism. I’ve laid out my thoughts about all this a few times, here, for example, and here.
At the end of the day, however, I like Trump not just because I support many of his of his announced policies. No, its something more general that undergirds my support. It’s his unvarnished pro-American stance. “Make America Great Again” may sound corny. But we have had nearly eight years of a president who hates this country and has done everything in his power to make us poorer, less secure, and to expose us everywhere to the contempt of the international community. It is a breath of fresh air to behold a candidate who is unapologetically pro-American, who wants this country to be richer, freer, more secure. I like that.
But back to the idea that Hillary’s coronation will essentially be a matter of acclamation by the powers that be.
I scoffed, silently, at that idea when my Democratic friend laid it before me a year ago. Now I am not so sure.
Here we are just a few weeks away from election day. What is everyone talking about? Two things: A secretly recorded video of Donald Trump saying louche things about women a decade ago and unsubstantiated allegations by a few women that Donald Trump made unwanted sexual advances towards them years ago.
That seems to be the provender on offer by the media. There wasn’t any “locker-room talk” in the locker room of my local gym yesterday. As I was getting ready for my workout, the commentary on the always-on television was devoted entirely to the Trump “scandals.” Clip of Trump. Female talking head tut-tutting to male talking head, who also tutted. The entire eight or ten minutes it took me to change into the running shorts and gym shoes were given over to rehearsing Trump’s alleged torts and their likely effect on women voters. As I left the locker room, the talking heads were shaking their heads and retailing Trump’s poll numbers, which looked bad, bad.
Forty-five minutes later, I returned to the locker room sweaty and aglow, and guess what? They were still at it. Different talking heads — two females and a male — but the same show: Donald Trump said lewd things about women a decade ago! And not only that, a couple of women had come forward to accuse him of sexual harassment at some point in the dim and distant past. That took us through my shower and three-quarters of the way through my changing back into my street clothes. The talking heads then devoted twenty or thirty seconds to the latest WikiLeaks email dump before getting back to Donald and the dames. What was that WikiLeaks thing about? Oh, right, that was the cache of emails that revealed Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta emailing Clinton confidante Cheryl Mills about secret emails exchanged over Clinton’s homebrew server with President Obama when she was secretary of State.
Think about that. The president, using an alias, communicated over a private, non-secure server with his secretary of State.
But what about that big FBI investigation into Clinton’s use of a private, non-secure email server while she was secretary of State? Remember that? And do you remember Bill Clinton’s cozy tête-à-tête with Attorney General Loretta Lynch on her plane in Arizona this summer? You weren’t supposed to hear about that at all. The FBI tried to keep the crowds way. No photos. No cell phones. But an enterprising local reporter got the story and broke it. Fortunately, Bill and Loretta spent their time together talking about his grandchildren, not about the ongoing FBI investigation of Bill’s wife. Whew! That’s a relief. Because it really would not have been right for the spouse of someone under investigation by the DOJ to meet privately with the attorney general and discuss the case.
Back in July when tarmac-gate broke, I wondered in this space whether that might, just possibly, be the scandal that finally broke the camel’s back and brought the Clintons’ entire corrupt enterprise down. Everywhere, I noted, the saga of the Clinton Crime Family was in the news. There was the film of Clinton Cash, which detailed the Clintons’ international shakedown schemes in which political favors were exchanged for hefty cash payments in the form of ludicrously large speaking fees and/or donations to the Clinton Foundation, a tax-exempt money-laundering operation devoted to benefitting the Clintons. There were the Benghazi hearings. There was the email scandal. Could even the Clintons survive this growing mountain of scandal?
I wondered. But Rush Limbaugh was right. It turns out the Clintons were merely playing us. There was an enormous flurry of activity, a cathartic purging of punditry, and then . . . nothing.
Andy McCarthy made a similar point in July. Noting how various tactics can be deployed to delay or derail criminal investigations, he outlined how tarmac-gate might well have been a deliberate strategy to “create appearance of thorough investigation, but assure no-charges outcome.”
And so it was. Loretta Lynch said she would accept the recommendation of the FBI. Remember how people sat up at that? But then, surprise, surprise, James Comey, despite a mountain of evidence (which he acknowledged) of felonious behavior on Clinton’s part, recommended that nothing be done (“No reasonable prosecutor,” etc. etc.). And that is just what Loretta Lynch did, nothing.
So Rush was right. Once again, the public was played by the Clintons.
And the ongoing WikiLeaks dumps show that it was always a foregone conclusion that we would be played by the Clintons. The whole FBI investigation was a travesty, an expensive fraud on the public. Hillary was never going to be charged, for the very good reason that the president of the United States was complicit in her flouting of security protocols and mishandling of classified materials. As Andy McCarthy noted yesterday,
the principal reason why Mrs. Clinton was not prosecuted, despite a mountain of evidence that she committed felony mishandling of classified information, is the fact that Obama engaged in the same kind of misconduct. . . [T]he fact that the president was e-mailing Clinton means he not only participated in her misconduct but also that the Obama-Clinton e-mails would have been admissible evidence in any criminal trial of Clinton.
For the parties to prove such culpable conduct on the president’s part in a high-profile criminal trial would have been profoundly embarrassing to him, to say the least. Therefore, it was never going to happen.
But don’t you go trying that with national secrets. All animals are equal, Comrade, but some are more equal than others. There’s one law (or, to be more accurate, there’s no law) for folks like Barack Obama and the Clintons, another for proles like you and me.
So the entire investigation was just for show. How does the public feel about that? It’s hard to say, for they don’t know about it, not really. Sure, the whole sordid, cynical operation has been detailed by independent journalists like McCarthy. But the phalanx of the MSM has been unbroken in downplaying the story. Twenty seconds to WikiLeaks — during which time the Clinton campaign is quoted dismissing the allegations as a plot by Trump — an hour to Trump’s alleged sexual peccadillos.
Ever since her collapse on September 11, Hillary has barely campaigned. She has gone to a few fundraisers, a rally or two, and has shown up with a brightly polished smile for the two debates. Last week, it was announced that she would be making no appearances until the next and last debate this coming Wednesday, October 19.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump is criss-crossing the country, holding multiple rallies a day. Will it make any difference? I don’t know. Some months ago, I wrote that “there is no reason to believe that the supreme oddity that has characterized this primary season has run its course.” I continue to believe that. Who knows what twists and turns await us in these final weeks. Will there be further October surprises? Will Donald Trump be revealed to have once driven with Hillary Clinton in a cage on the roof of his car? Will it be revealed that he was once mean to a fellow student in high school?
Who can say? Donald Trump has recovered somewhat in the polls but he faces an implacable and united front in the allied forces of the Clinton machine, GOP defectors, and Clinton’s compliant media enablers (just how compliant, and how complicit, WikiLeaks has begun to show us).
I would not be at all surprised to see Hillary Clinton win by acclamation. Like the late Roman Republic, America has more and more come to be an aristocratic oligarchy that is a republic in name only. We plebs exist only to be milked and to provide affirmation for decisions taken by the elites who govern us.
But as I say, there is no reason to think that the oddities of this election are over. Donald Trump is riding a powerful, broad-based, and nationwide current of revulsion with the status quo. The media and hostile precincts of the punditocracy assure each other and us sheep that Hillary is a shoo-in. Just look at the polls. Just consider Trump’s boorish sexism. Contemplate the magnificence of having our first woman president!
And yet, and yet. Perhaps the odds favor Hillary. The fancy money certainly thinks so. But were I a betting man I would recommend a strategic hedge. There are plenty of things that distinguish this election from the Brexit referendum in June. But there is at least one glaring similarity: Here, as in Britain, the smug, inbred uniformity of elite opinion obscures the depth and determination of competing forces. It was enough to shock all establishment opinion when the vote came through for Brexit. Whether it will be enough to propel Donald Trump over the victory line is yet to be determined. It would be a rash man, however, who declared it to be impossible.