White House Nightmare

By Andrej Mrevlje |

For Hillary Rodham Clinton, clinching the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination seemed equivalent to crossing a torrential river. The closing image from convention in Philadelphia last month showed her on the other side of that river in much jubilation. The newly confirmed Democratic presidential nominee played with balloons, relaxed and happy. Dressed in paper white — as if to evoke her innocence — and immersed in hundreds of balloons, she seemed to be walking on air, a triumphant expression plastered across her face. It was a perfect, Hollywood-like scene — one of a dream that shows an elderly woman returning to a happy childhood, a recurring dream that finally turned into a reality. Hillary actually uses another metaphor for her great, long-desired achievement: now that she has managed to shatter that glass ceiling, the sky’s the limit. She was flying. She was in heaven. Perfect.

Philadelphia’s convention was a triumph of American political rhetoric, tainted with Hollywood-esque savoir-faire. It was adorable and irresistible. Philly was a cinematographic set, second only to Gone With the Wind and All that Jazz. The narrative wove between speeches from the best orators at the Party’s disposal: Michelle Obama set the fire under the pyre ready to burn Bernie Sanders.(You can read what was happened on the floor in the convention hall here.) Fatherly Joe Biden called the Democrats to the arms, while Bill Clinton narrated a wonderful tale of the smartest girl in town, sliding in an artful apology for his past promiscuity. And President Obama spared no words in praising Hillary — even to the extent that he sounded ready to sacrifice his own legacy for her success. Depicted by powerful friends and allies as a person you can trust your children to — as a steady, constant, caring presence — Hillary was crowned as a mother of the nation. In fact, as Jill Lepore noted in her article “A Tale of Two Conventions,” Hillary has already changed politics into love:

“I am so proud to be your mother,” she said to her daughter, beginning her address to the American people not as citizens but as objects of love. “I will carry all of your voices and stories with me to the White House,” she promised, the words like lace. “We begin a new chapter tonight.” The balloons fell.

In the weeks that followed, the balloons evaporated completely — exploded, even.

The impeccably white dress that Clinton chose to wear on her coronation night will have to get dirty — perhaps even covered with some blood stains — if she wants to make it to the White House again. It is now between her and Donald Trump. In this unprecedented presidential run between a brand manager who loves gold and a seasoned politician who adores power, Trump seems to be running by himself while Clinton is backed by a political machine that has kept Barack Obama in his seat for the last eight years. So what kind of fight this can be?

There are no dreams anymore. There are no mothers or fathers of the nation. There is nothing that won’t be used in this fight — from medical records to conspiracy theories about the two candidates.

It is a dirty war in which American voters will have to make a rather depressing decision: it will either be the disorganized, inconsistent, and scatterbrained Donald Trump, or the strategic but self-centered and completely non-transparent Hillary Clinton. Next January, one of these two personalities will sit in the White House and start giving orders. And if you ask me, it will be a pain — both for America and for the world.

In the first couple of weeks after the Democratic National Convention, Hillary’s war machine seemed to be headed for a straightforward win. Trump’s attack on the Muslim parents of a slain American soldier has generated  backlash within his own party, as reported by CNN. Many Republicans distanced themselves from the extremist candidate, with his rude manners and intolerant attacks on everyone who doesn’t resemble his image of an American.

Do you remember Trump saying in January that his supporters are so loyal that he would not lose them even if he were to shoot someone in the middle of downtown Manhattan? Luckily, Trump did not have to kill anybody with a real gun. His words were enough for voters to flee from his sinking ship. Just two weeks after the conventions, the polls showed Clinton in a strong position. The blog FiveThirtyEight even gave her an 85 percent chance to win.

For a few days in mid-August, the presidential campaign seemed to be over. While the Republicans desperately defended their party’s positions in Congress and planned to limit their financial support for the party nominee, Clinton had already started to build her transition team.

Then, after a very brief and hardly noticed attempt to reconcile with public opinion and broaden his electoral base (and maybe act a bit more presidential), Trump changed his campaign team overnight, calling in Steve Bonnan,a right-wing enragé whose business appeals to ultra-conservative Tea Party types. Why would Trump do such a thing, if he knew that he would lose the election if he didn’t broaden his constituency beyond angry white voters? One of the conspiracy theories that has been circulating for a while is that Donald Trump never wanted to win the elections to begin with. For a billionaire like him, sitting in the Oval Office is not profitable enough — it is not a good deal. No matter how much fun Trump would have creating chaos from the White House, he would always be losing money while he was acting as the president. This was, perhaps, the real concern that led Trump to recruit Steve Bonnan — and later on Roger Ailes, who recently got fired from Fox NewsJohn Cassidy observes in the New Yorker :

The appointment of Bannon isn’t merely another affront to establishment Republicans, such as Paul Ryan, whom Breitbart News has lately been targeting. It is an acknowledgment by Trump that he no longer has any interest in modifying his strategy to appeal to college-educated voters in places like the suburbs of Philadelphia and Milwaukee, where he is running miles behind where Mitt Romney was in 2012. Instead, he has decided to retreat to his base, which is a surefire recipe for political failure. But not necessarily business failure.

Back in June, Vanity Fair’s Sarah Ellison reported that Trump was “considering creating his own media business, built on the audience that has supported him thus far in his bid to become the next president of the United States.” A person briefed on Trump’s thinking told Ellison that it went like this: “Win or lose, we are onto something here. We’ve triggered a base of the population that hasn’t had a voice in a long time.” One of Ellison’s sources also reported that Trump resents the fact that he has helped raise the ratings of certain news organizations, such as CNN, without getting a cut of the additional revenues. Trump has “gotten the bug,” the source said, “so now he wants to figure out if he can monetize it.”

This is not the only conspiracy theory that’s been floated. Yesterday, AP published a list of some of the most prominent conspiracies.

With this latest development, the current presidential campaign has become an event that one would not expect in a country that calls itself the model of democracy — one that pretends to teach other countries to respect the law and the international community. Nothing good can happen if an unpredictable, ignorant person who has no respect for established institutions starts calling the shots from White House. No improvement or reforms can be expected from the candidate who knows the system well, but is too deeply involved and has too high a stake in a system that trades favors and is otherwise politically corrupt. Clinton will never be able to make a disruptive move that would make this country better or stronger.

In the United States, democracy is at a standstill.

A few days ago, AP disclosed a new stash of emails that proved further conflict of interest for Clinton:

More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money — either personally or through companies or groups — to the Clinton Foundation. It’s an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.

At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press. Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million.

Donors who were granted time with Clinton included an internationally known economist who asked for her help as the Bangladesh government pressured him to resign from a nonprofit bank he ran; a Wall Street executive who sought Clinton’s help with a visa problem; and Estee Lauder executives who were listed as meeting with Clinton while her department worked with the firm’s corporate charity to counter gender-based violence in South Africa.

The non-transparent methods of handling the Clinton Foundation was revealed a year ago by the Washington Post in an analysis that demonstrated an overlap between Bill and Hillary Clinton’s charitable work and their growing personal wealth. And RealClearPolitics reported on an interview that Clinton did on CNN:

Sounding exasperated, she defended the Clinton Foundation for its transparency, which she argued exceeds the industry standard. And at every turn in the telephone conversation, Clinton returned to critiques of her opponent.

“You know more about the foundation than you know about anything concerning Donald Trump, his business, his tax returns. I think it’s remarkable,” she said, her voice rising.

“I’m proud of the work my husband started and he did. We provided a massive amount of information,” she argued. “And Donald Trump doesn’t release his tax returns and is indebted to foreign banks and foreign lenders!”

No matter how strong Clinton’s defence might be — or how valid and important the work of Foundation has been — it has become a big-enough elephant in the room that it may drag down Clinton’s dream of getting into the Oval Office. Pretending that it does not exist will not help. As the New Yorker suggests, the Clintons should step down from the Foundation fast — before the voters jump ship and swim back to Trump again.

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