White House race: E-nailed, WikiLicked and Trumped up (Washington Diary)
Washington, Nov 5 (IANS) What a difference a week makes in politics! Last Friday, Hillary Clinton was said to be “measuring the drapes” in the President’s Oval office before the FBI struck with what her camp called an “18 wheeler”.
Now three days before the November 8 presidential poll, Democrats are curled up in the foetal position, as a pundit put it, fearing a loss that would once again shatter the former First Lady’s 16-year-old dream to return to the White House.
For the Clintonites the “Friendly Bureau of Investigation” suddenly turned into the “Federal Bureau of Intrigue” as FBI reopened its probe of her “damned e-mails” three months after letting her go scot-free despite finding her “extremely careless”.
Pundits and pollsters still gave the Democrat an edge amid tightening polls, but they also saw a potential breach in her electoral firewall in several swing states giving her Republican rival Donald Trump a broadening path to victory.
And as the FBI started wading through some 650,000 e-mails found on a laptop her desi “second daughter” Huma Abedin shared with her estranged husband, WikiLeaks kept up its relentless exposure of shenanigans in her campaign and her family charity.
Abedin, daughter of a New Delhi-born Islamic scholar and a Pakistani mother, went into hiding and husband Anthony Weiner checked into a rehab facility as the Clinton campaign cried foul at FBI and threw the kitchen sink at Trump.
From President Barack Obama to First Lady Michelle Obama to Vice President Joe Biden to Bill Clinton joined Hillary in calling Trump “uniquely unfit” to be President.
Breaking his silence over the FBI action, Obama declared “we don’t operate on innuendo and we don’t operate on incomplete information and we don’t operate on leaks”.
Yet days earlier his press secretary Josh Earnest had affirmed that Obama still has confidence in FBI director James Comey and “doesn’t believe that he’s secretly strategising to benefit one candidate or one political party”.
“The president thinks very highly of Director Comey,” Earnest said, calling him a man of “integrity and good character”.
Meanwhile, smelling victory, Trump, highly prone to the foot-in-mouth disease, took on an all-new avatar, reminding himself in public to stay laser focused on the prize.
“We’ve gotta be nice and cool,” the brash billionaire admonished himself at a rally in the battleground state of Florida. “Nice and cool. All right? Stay on point, Donald. Stay on point. No sidetracks, Donald.”
“Niceeee,” said Trump delivering yet another uncharacteristically disciplined speech. “Because I’ve been watching Hillary the last few days and she’s totally unhinged.”
His campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, credited with keeping Trump on a tight leash, exulted over Clinton’s “scandalabra” finally catching up with her.
“This is somebody who has already proven how she would handle classified information, confidential information, and frankly, how she handles lying about lying,” she said asking Democrats to dump their nominee.
With early voting revealing a huge enthusiasm gap for her among black voters and the millennials, Clinton, painting the spectre of a Trump presidency, exhorted them not to sit out this election.
So did Trump, asking supporters to “go out and vote. Do not blow it up. We’re on the cusp of an incredible historic change”.
He even invited Democrats with “buyer’s remorse” in the light of “lot of stuff” coming out against his rival to change the early ballots they cast for Clinton in states where it’s permitted.
But a record number of voters still not buying either of the most unpopular candidates in history were planning to exercise the write-in option that allows one to write any name that takes one’s fancy on the ballot.
Popular choices include from Michelle Obama to comedian Jon Stewart and Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s pet beagle in the comic strip “Peanuts” created by Charles Schulz.
“Snoopy was a liberating candidate in 1968 and will be a liberating candidate in 2016,” wrote Time, recalling his first bid complete with an official theme song, “Snoopy for President”.
Alarmed at his popularity in 1980, Ronald Reagan jokingly urged Schulz, “Anything you can do to talk Snoopy out of running will be appreciated. How would he feel about a cabinet post?”
But if Trump wins, he knows who has earned his gratitude. “Thank you, Huma. Good job, Huma,” he said at a rally. “Thank you, Anthony Weiner.”
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)