Is the Tide Going Out on Hillary?
Were the election held today, Hillary Clinton would probably win a clear majority of the Electoral College.
Her problem: the election is two months off.
Sixty days out, one senses she has lost momentum—the “Big Mo” of which George H.W. Bush boasted following his Iowa triumph in 1980—and her campaign is in a rut, furiously spinning its wheels.
The commander in chief forum Wednesday night should have been a showcase for the ex-secretary of state’s superior knowledge and experience.
Instead, Clinton looked like a witness before a grand jury, forced to explain her past mistakes and mishandling of classified emails at State.
“Of the two candidates,” the New York Times reported, “Mrs. Clinton faced by far the tougher and most probing questions from the moderator, Matt Lauer of NBC, and from an audience of military veterans about her use of private email, her vote authorizing the Iraq war, her hawkish foreign policy views …”
On defense most of the time, Clinton scored few points.
And with a blistering attack on Lauer, the Times all but threw in the towel and conceded that the Donald won the night.
“Moderator of Clinton-Trump Forum Fields A Storm of Criticism” was the headline as analyst Michael Grynbaum piled on:
“Mr. Lauer found himself besieged on Wednesday evening by critics of all political stripes, who accused the anchor of unfairness, sloppiness and even sexism in his handling of the event.”
When your allies are ripping the refs, you’ve probably lost the game.
Indeed, in this dress rehearsal for the debates, Donald Trump played Trump, while Clinton was cast in the role of Mexican President Pena Nieto, who just fired the finance minister who told him to invite the Donald to Mexico City for a talk.
There are other indices suggesting the tide is turning against Clinton.
Consider the near hysteria of a media that has taken to airing charges, in echo of “Tail Gunner Joe” McCarthy, that Donald Trump is somehow the conscious agent of a Kremlin conspiracy.
Why? Because Trump accepts the compliments of Vladimir Putin and refuses to call the Russian ruler a “thug,” which is now apparently the mark of a statesman.
Moreover, when it comes to her strongest suit, foreign policy, before Clinton can elaborate on her vision, she is forced to answer for her blunders.
Why did she vote for the war in Iraq? Why did she push for the war in Libya that produced this hellish mess? Does she still defend her handling of the Benghazi massacre? What happened to her “reset” with Russia?
Most critically, when facing the press, which she has begun to do after eight months of stonewalling, she is invariably dragged into the morass of the private server, the lost-and-found emails, her inability to understand or abide by State Department rules on classified and secret documents, and FBI accusations of extreme carelessness and duplicity.
Then there are the steady stream of revelations about the Clinton Foundation raking in hundreds of millions from dictators and despots who did business with Hillary Clinton’s State Department.
Bill Clinton now describes himself as a “Robin Hood” of Sherwood Forest who took from the rich to give to the poor, with Hillary Clinton presumably cast in the role of Maid Marian of Goldman Sachs.
It is all too much to absorb.
To get her “message” out, Clinton has to punch it though a media filter. But many in this ferociously competitive and diverse media market today know that the way to the front page or top of the website is to find a new angle on the plethora of scandals, minor and major, surrounding Hillary and Bill.
And with thousands of emails still out there, the contents of which are known to her adversaries, she will likely have IEDs going off beneath her campaign all the way to November.
Consider the coughing fits, a repeated distraction from her message. Should they go away, no problem. But if they recur, people will rightly demand to know from a physician what is the cause.
Because of her own blunders, Clinton’s adversaries have achieved a large measure of control over how her campaign is reported.
In a sense this is like Watergate, where, no matter that Richard Nixon might be managing well a Yom Kippur War or a strategic summit in Moscow, the press and prosecutors cared only about the tapes.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s message has begun to come through—loud, clear, and consistent.
He will secure the border. He will renegotiate the trade deals that have been killing U.S. manufacturing and costing American jobs. He will be a law-and-order president who will put America first. He will keep us out of wars like Iraq. He will talk to Vladimir Putin, smash ISIS, back the cops and the vets, and rebuild the military.
Other than being the first woman president, what is the great change that Hillary Clinton offers America?
The Clinton campaign has a big, big problem.
Patrick J. Buchanan is a founding editor of The American Conservative and the author of book The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.