WEDNESDAY, 10am: So it’s President Trump, who should end up with around 300 Electoral College votes.
As I type, Hillary Clinton is preparing to make her belated concession speech. The TV footage of her walk to the waiting limo, Bill by her side, showed a woman wearing a fawn pant suit* and a supercilious smile. It is the same grin one sees on public figures who find themselves in court, where the defeated presidential candidate may well find herself.
Yes, she has been “cleared” of the email scandal, sort of, by the Eastern District investigators based in Brooklyn. But there is another probe being conducted across the East River by the Southern District, where the focus is on pay-to-play allegations involving the Clinton Foundation. This office is run and staffed by people who were hired by Rudy Giuliani, a Trump surrogate and hot tip to become Attorney General. The Brooklyn operation, by contrast, is run and staffed by people hired for the most part by Loretta Lynch, who was appointed to that post under Bill Clinton and subsequently elevated to Attorney General by Obama.
Does one need to be terminally suspicious to see why the foot-dragging email probe took so long and why, having identified a rash of violations, the Brooklynites deemed them unworthy of prosecution?
Now the Manhattan crew will be able to get the co-operation they have been requesting from across the river. Expect a grand jury to be convened and, if the leaks and whispers are correct, charges brought.
Should that happen there will be both justice and poetic justice in the wind. Throughout their public lives the Clintons have used and discarded those who might and did help them — Whitewater associates, the future trader who made Hillary a small fortune in the cattle market by assigning profitable trades to her account after the market closed.
Now, denied the White House, the Clintons aren’t of much use to anyone.
This is going to be marvelous theatre, count on it.
*rather than do a McGeough, let it be admitted that the footage of Hillary and Bill just screened on CNN was, as it turns out, from the archives. The colour of her pant suit is not yet known, but she will be wearing that felon’s smile. It is all she has left to hide behind
WASHINGTON DC, 7.30pm: Once upon a time, in a more innocent age, Americans liked to crow that their electoral system was the fairest, best and most reliable in the world. Mind you, they said much the same about the cars that poured out of Detroit as well, only to be disabused of such ill-founded confidence by the plagues of Toyotas, VWs and other imports that, with the help of a bloody-minded United Auto Workers, humbled Ford and General Motors while seeing Chrysler sold off to Fiat.
Democracy might prove more vigorous, though no less prone to breakdowns, if today’s 170-mile tour of Pennsylvania and its polling places is any indication.
Unlike many other states, Pennsylvania obliges its citizens to vote on Election Day and not a second earlier. Today, in Philadelphia, that heavily black city was queueing with a patience that would have put a Londoner to shame. The City of Brotherly Love, it need hardly to said, always go Democrat, although you have to wonder why. Time after time, mayors and City Hall pols, hangers-on, judges, police, state legislators, local officials and union leaders have traded their offices first for monetary gain and later, in the case of the less careful, for jail cells. Corruption in Philly is as much a part of the local culture as the cheesesteak and it has been that way for quite some time, at least since the muckraking journalist Lincoln Steffens observed that the city was corrupt and content to stay that way. That was back in 1903 and the contentment yesterday was palpable.
Ask those black voters, many herded to the polls by local political warlords and ward heelers, what they thought of Trump and the answer, as provided by a young man in baggy trousers and a puffy parka the warm didn’t didn’t warrant, was an observation that the tycoon enjoyed an unnatural carnal relationship with his mother. At his rallies, Trump would note that black Americans of the inner cities have to survive with shocking schools, crime rates no white community would tolerate, drugs, decrepit housing and few employment opportunities. “Why not support me me?” he would ask. “You have nothing, absolutely nothing, to lose.”
Nothing to lose except, maybe, a menial city job handed out for electoral loyalty by one of the City Hall corruptocrats.
Pennsylvania is a big state, however, one that is as divided by race as once was Berlin by a wall. My friend and driver, a retired military man, swung the wheel toward the countryside and here, the further we left Philly behind us, the more Trump signs we saw. Indeed, for every, say, twenty Trump roadside placards there was but one advocating his opponent. That is a rule-of-thumb appraisal, but accurate enough.
What doesn’t appear to have been accurate, according to a spate of initial reports, is the voting machines that the American propensity to make the simple complex insists on using (consult the rule book for the American version football – gridiron as Australians persist in calling it; a term Americans haven’t used with any regularity for decades). Votes cast for Trump, the reports relate, are being magically turned into votes for Clinton.
God forbid there is any truth to these reports or, if there is, that Providence limits the anomalies to a few irrelevant electorates. Trump has declined to say he will he accept a negative verdict if there is any reason to believe infernal fiddling has doctored the result.
This is an angry electorate. If his supporters feel they have been gyped, the extended fracas that followed Al Gore’s refusal to accept the 2000 result will seem mild by comparison.
WASHINGTON DC, 7.30am: It is morning in America, Ronald Reagan proclaimed in 1980 after defying the pollsters and thumping Jimmy Carter. Well it was an uncertain morning in America today, a bright and sunny late spring day that banished the overnight chill beneath a sky of the most delicate baby blue. Apart from the mad woman howling at reality outside the coffee shop, all was peace and matter-of-fact tranquillity in America’s capital, the world’s largest company town, as public servants schlepped to their desks in the Department of This or That. None paid more than a second’s heed to the banshee with her commandeered shopping trolley and mobile mountain of plastic sacks stuffed with what appeared to be a lifetime’s collection of cherished rags.
Still, some of her scattershot observations seemed apropos the spirit of the day. Not the abuse she was hurling at the US military or her shrieked warnings to the phantoms none but she could see that they had better give her a wide berth.
“The devil Trump! The devil Trump!” she hollered, a form of punctuation between her other rants.
Here was a poor unfortunate who had missed her vocation and true calling. If only she had gone to journalism school and found a bar of soap, she might have been working as a talking head at one of the mainstream media outlets which may well be the biggest losers to emerge from the two-year melee that has been Election 2016.
Hillary Clinton will have the immense wealth – between $31 million and $100 million, depending on whose estimate suits your prejudice — she has somehow accumulated by running a charity. Trump will have his real estate holdings and, should he lose, a pulpit waiting to be occupied by the de facto leader of the unofficial opposition.
And the media? Well, it will have squandered the most precious possession anyone who purports to be in the business of peddling truth is duty-bound to guard: the trust of those it is pledged to inform without bias or prejudice. You don’t need to have been in America to see how it works, as Australia’s US-based correspondents have echoed the narrative with an attentive fidelity that would put to shame the little dog on the old HMV record labels.
You know the line: Trump is a racist who hates Mexicans.
Really? He certainly hates illegal aliens who rape and kill, and there are quite a few of those in US prisons, including Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, who had been deported five times only to turn right around and make a sixth illegal trip across the Rio Grande. This time his alleged offence was the murder of 32-year-old Kate Steinle, who might well have voted for Mrs Clinton had she not encountered her killer on a San Francisco street. She loved and respected foreires, her grieving brother explained, was the essence of charity itself, once having given her winter jacket to a homeless woman she observed shivering in a doorway.
It was Steinle’s murder that lit Trump’s fuse, prompted the sort of language that set the TV talkers and editorialists to denouncing him – never, not ever, conceding somewhere in the vicinity of 25% of all felons behind bars in US prisons are illegal aliens. As long ago as 2010, the US Government Accounting Office laid out the numbers, the crimes and the costs. More recently, official stats out of Texas alone confirmed that 130,000 illegal aliens had been imprisoned in that state over the two years to 2015.
A career politician would never have let such blunt sentiments slip out, not while working the mental arithmetic of ethnic voting blocs and numbers, even less so while considering the howling, lynch-the-heretic orthodoxy that inevitably erupts around those who decline to genuflect before the altars of the politically correct. It’s not a US phenomenon, of course. Just ask Bill Leak what grief awaits the cartoonist who draws an Aborigine in other than the sainted light of eternal victimhood.
Trump wants to wall off Mexico. Ha-ha, what a doofus.
Except there is a wall there already, it’s just not a very good one. From San Diego to the Gulf of Mexico there are fences, sensors, armed patrols and, for the past few years, vigilante militias dedicated to foiling the ‘coyotes’ who guide troupes of illegals through the existing barriers’ weak spots.
Trump wants to plug those. For this this he is damned – not that such condemnation should surprise any Australian who watched the contortions of the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd years, when the party line maintained that leaky boaters weren’t welcome but (said with a shrug) nothing could be done to stop their armadas. Recast that sentiment with an American accent and you know what has been happening in the US: incompetence, lip service and impotence draped in the garments of stoic virtue.
These are some of the memes and themes on which the US media has traded, presented as fact and expected to be honoured for its self-proclaimed purity of journalistic principle.
Today, though, thanks to Wikileaks, we know better. We know of CNN feeding questions in advance to Clinton, an embarrassment that last week saw Al Gore’s former campaign manager, Donna Brazile, fired for playing the newsroom mole. But we’ve seen worse than that, including the Politico pundit, Glen Thrush, who sent his chin-strokers to the Clinton campaign for vetting and amendment before publishing them as allegedly independent commentary.
Trump’s hope, the very basis of his campaign, is that the voting public – enough of it, anyway – is no longer prepared to be fooled by a media that, far from afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicting, salutes the Establishment and shills its myths and comfy, narcoleptic narratives.
Tonight we’ll see if he is right. Now, my ride is waiting and it’s off to Pennsylvania – one of the few states that have yet to OK early voting and where, if Trump’s optimism stems from something more than wishful thinking, the lines of voters now forming might just install him at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Roger Franklin is the editor of Quadrant Online.