As the last balloons fall over the Democratic and Republican infomercials in Philadelphia and Cleveland later this month, we voters will face the dreary prospect of deciding which candidate is less arrogant.
It is remarkable that both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have successfully convinced millions that they both think the rules don’t apply to them.
Repeatedly, Trump has said sexist, racist, xenophobic, irrational and stupid things that, if uttered by any other politician or CEO, would result in immediate exile. He flagrantly and reprehensibly makes appeals to the worst instincts of some Americans. He should be ashamed of himself, but he does not have the moral character for that. He is one of the most arrogant, self-absorbed, least knowledgeable people ever to run for office.
And now that old perception that Clinton fudges the truth to serve her self-interest has been fortified again. All the past doubts have been resurrected; it doesn’t get much worse than the head of the FBI accusing you of extreme carelessness in protecting national security secrets.
Clinton promised us she had not sent or received truly classified information on her private emails; the FBI says she did. It is certainly true that way too much information is classified – a ridiculous amount, in fact.
But the FBI made clear that some of her emails contained top-secret and sensitive information and speculated adversarial foreign governments might well have gotten a hold of them while she traveled abroad. If she were still with the government, she might have faced disciplinary action.
It’s a bad day when the best that can be said by your supporters is that you weren’t indicted.
The system is not rigged. FBI Director James Comey was right to find evidence of criminality lacking. A Republican of stellar integrity, Comey was also right to lambaste her for her dreadful judgment in using a private, unsecured email server based in her home while she was secretary of state.
It’s obvious why she did it – with former President Bill Clinton’s knowledge and approval. Two lawyers! She wanted to avoid Freedom of Information requests. Hillary is by nature secretive, defensive and contemptuous of the public’s right to know.
It is true that she has been for many years a target of what she once called a “vast, right-wing conspiracy.” But she certainly made it easy for her critics to attack her.
She may well become the first female president of the United States – an awesome achievement. But she has unnecessarily tarnished her quest. And her bad judgment and intense desire to avoid full disclosure, which horribly backfired, will always be part of her legacy.
How interesting that after seven turbulent years, President Barack Obama is more popular than either presumptive nominee. His heart-felt, even passionate endorsement of Clinton in North Carolina on the same day of Comey’s bombshell announcement was more than anything else an appeal to Americans to remember their better nature and disavow Trump.
The autumn debates between Trump and Clinton and possibly Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson now loom as tremendously important. Republicans are justifiably nervous that an undisciplined Trump will continue to be a buffoon, making a mockery of the process.
We’ll see; his new handlers are desperately working on him to start doing his homework. Democrats are more hopeful that the highly disciplined Clinton will shred him. It should be must-watch TV.
But both candidates are politically damaged. And the real danger is that voters are so disillusioned and pessimistic that they won’t participate. This election could have one of the lowest turnouts in modern times.
That would be a sad outcome, especially in a time when, as Obama pointed out, America is far more popular and respected around the globe than many Americans, such as Trump, believe.
In the 2016 Best Countries rankings done by U.S. News & World Report, the United States ranked No. 1 in power and No. 1 in leadership. People outside the United States may be scratching their heads wondering how a man like Trump is on track to secure the Republican nomination, but they are far from ridiculing the world’s only superpower.
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at email@example.com.