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Who’s on First

mckee

The national campaigns are careening totally out of control. We have jumped down the rabbit hole and have no idea of where the damn rabbit went. We don’t know who’s driving, where we’re going, what to expect from either campaign, or how this will all play out through the conventions and into the fall. It may seem like November is still a long way off, but in real time it is just around the corner. Nobody in the entire panoply of cognoscenti has even a faint clue of what the landscape is going to look like as that critical day in November approaches.

On the Republican side, the media has become a circus, mesmerized by Trump to the point of the absurd. He has been handed the lead of every news cycle in recent memory. Any event of his campaign is now treated as though it were a national disaster, meaning wall to wall coverage of little more than the grass growing around the venues of the day, with blank time filled with interviews of ticket-takers and janitorial staff. Whenever Trump is cornered into a one-on-one, little information beyond what he wants to release comes out, for Trump is a master of the spin and pivot. Press interviews of The Donald have become reminiscent of Abbott and Costello’s classic “Who’s on first?” only for keeps and in real time. Trump is obviously having a ball, and the media, trying to keep within traditional campaign rules, is left collectively chasing its tail.

Although the party stalwarts are grudgingly beginning to fall in line, Donald is not making it easy. He has not made peace with the Speaker yet, and has announced that he may not even try. He continues to lob verbal hand grenades at anyone he perceives to have slighted him in any fashion – no matter who or from which party. His recent target for a totally unnecessary verbal slam-down was the governor of New Mexico, who is not only a popular Republican in a potentially purple state, but also (a) a woman, (b) Hispanic and (c) the national chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

On the issues, it is becoming increasingly obvious that Trump is not a Conservative and probably not a Republican. The purists among the R’s are appalled at all the inconsistencies and U-turns, as Trump is beginning to walk back from deeply held conservative tenets in foreign policy, national security, economics and even social issues. On policy issues he is, in a word, whatever the current trend at the present locale appears to want him to be – for that moment – if it will get him elected. All of this would, in other times, result in a mass exodus from the Republican party – except for the deep seated and unshakable fact that overwhelmingly, most Republicans so despise Hillary Clinton, that they would vote for the devil himself before they would be caught crossing over.

On the other side, the Democrats are not doing it that much better. The D’s are stuck between a proverbial Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts, as they try to figure out whether the interloper is something out of Lewis Carroll or the Brothers Grimm. Was Bernie Sanders sent by the good fairy to rescue the kingdom from the evil red queen, or is he just a Kafkaesque crusader sent in to illustrate the futility of it all? No one has nailed an answer to this yet, and no one has been able to get Bernie to quit beating up Hillary while they try to figure it out.

Hillary Clinton has focused her sights on Trump and is trying to run on policy issues germane to the general election. Her efforts to concentrate on policy keep getting overridden by process issues that won’t die. The current flap is the State Department Inspector General’s report that no one has actually read but everyone cites with hand-wringing concern. It is casting a low pall over Hillary’s campaign at the moment, even though in reality there is nothing new there. Everything contained in the IG report has been out in the open and examined to death. But despite the best efforts of the Clinton campaign to bury the issue, it keeps recurring.

What would undoubtedly be worse is for the FBI report to recommend prosecution. This report could pop out at any time, or could remain hanging until after the election. While opinions abound from all sides over what will be in it, those who appear to be more objective believe the expected FBI report will not find criminal involvement. If such were likely, letters of caution would already be flying around and the investigatory interviews would be far more circumspect. Nevertheless, until the shoe drops, the specter of a criminal prosecution continues to glow and give off heat, fanning the fervor of the entire line-up at Fox News. The issue will not die.

In times past, even the hint of such a mess would have disqualified the individual at the very get-go. It speaks volumes to the resilience of Secretary Clinton’s strength as a candidate that she has continued to weather all of this nonsense through everything thrown at her up to now, and has still sustained her position as the leading and now probable Democratic candidate. On the other hand, it also speaks volumes about how deep into the barrel the Democrats found themselves willing to reach in their search for suitable candidates this term.

Senator Sanders is now fighting a battle that is statistically impossible for him to win. Of the handful of states left, only California is of any size in total delegate count. The polls indicate that at best, it may wind up a tie. But Clinton does not need to win California to win the nomination. Even if she gets the lesser end of the election in California, unless she goes all the way to zero she will still receive enough delegates to push her total of committed delegate count over the needed line for the nomination at the convention.

In every situation in the past, the traditional step has been for the one with no realistic chance to withdraw and deliver up his support to the leader. Sanders must be gambling either upon the release of an FBI report recommending prosecution against Clinton, or upon some sort of mutiny among the uncommitted super delegates. But even in such event, from a practical electability standpoint, the enigma facing the Democrats would still be which would be worse – the patina of socialism swirling over the non-Democrat, or one more anchor added to the thirty years’ worth of anchors the leader is already dragging about?

It might appear that the predicted result will be for Clinton to succeed at the convention, albeit with a few more scars administered by Sanders and his minions. Clinton stands to beat Trump in most of the polls. But it will be close. The negative numbers might influence the final result, but both sets of negative results virtually cancel each other out. Because of the history of everybody’s predictions up to now, nobody is predicting anything on the relative negative poll standings. It is going to be an un-callable crap shoot from here on out.

On a deeper note, what cries out for further comment and analysis is that both parties managed to bring forward seriously flawed candidates for what should have been posts demanding the best of their best. We have never seen anything like the debacle that faces the electorate during this term.

How did it happen that we had to tolerate a bus load of unqualified prospects this term? How did it happen that so few answered the call to challenge Mrs. Clinton? Is it enough that every person who wants can declare themselves to be candidates, fully entitled to seats on the stage for as long as they want to remain? Would different processes at the outset have produced better candidates, and avoided the slow motion train wrecks we are viewing today?

No matter what happens, these issues need to be examined by both parties with steps taken if necessary to ensure that this nightmare is not repeated.

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