America, prepare to take your medicine

A probable second President Clinton is a bitter pill especially given the lingering foul taste from the first one. Yet it may unexpectedly prove good medicine.
Not because it will stop Donald Trump, I hasten to add. So let me deal with a few preliminaries before holding my nose and swallowing hard. Preliminary 1: I consider Trump so manifestly unfit for office that I have consistently underestimated his appeal and may still be doing so. Recent polls suggest he is within striking distance of Hillary Clinton although the Electoral College math remains problematic. And I have intelligent, decent friends somehow convinced Trump is not as bad as he seems. But I think it would be disastrous for America and the world if he won, and a very sorry reflection on everybody involved. Preliminary 2: I consider Clinton so manifestly unfit for office that I cannot believe her party was determined to nominate her. During the Republican primaries somebody said they preferred Ted Cruz to Trump because if impeached he would leave. Some might now favor Clinton on those grounds, and as a matter of low cunning I would rather have her being liberals’ problem than Trump being conservatives’. But it does not mean I support her as the lesser evil. Preliminary 3: I would not back Trump to keep Clinton out, Clinton to keep Trump out, or either of them to keep Satan out. If you vote for the devil the sulphur is on your hands while if I vote for either of these wretches the slime is on mine. I reject backing the lesser evil in this or any election; it is only because too many people accept this dismal variant of strategic voting that we so often face it.
If I were American I would put my X beside the underwhelming Libertarian Gary Johnson or write in Calvin Coolidge. But my preferences won’t stop me having to practice saying “President Hillary Clinton” after November 8. So what happens next?
I don’t mean in policy terms. I expect a President Clinton would be less spineless than Barack Obama in foreign affairs, equally committed to sexual radicalism, and middle-of-the-road on how fast the United States government should bankrupt itself. But as I periodically remind the apocalyptically-minded, “the most powerful man in the world” is by no means omnipotent even within the American system of checks and balances let alone globally.
Most of the harm Barack Obama has managed to do required the acquiescence or incompetence of Congress, or both, plus seriously flawed judgement by voters. And precisely by regarding a second Clinton president in that light, I find a ghastly glimmer of hope.
The Democrats must be feeling rising partisan panic at recent polls. But it may also be dawning on them that they are probably about to foist upon the nation a president who may be too unwell to do the job and is certainly far too dishonest to give us a remotely credible account of her health, including all those stumbles, blood clots and coughing fits.
There were these wacky online conspiracy theories about her being sick, then she collapsed leaving a 9/11 ceremony early and her staff eventually went oh yeah, she has pneumonia, no biggie, didn’t we say? No. You didn’t. And the grudging, after the fact, minimal, unconvincing revelation makes us think you’re probably still lying. As the Clintons always have and always will.
Remember “The era of big government is over”? Well, no. Nobody can keep track of all the Clinton lies, fibs, misdirections and logic-chopping, from “I haven’t eaten at McDonald’s a single time since I’ve been president” because takeout isn’t “at” to “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”
Bill Clinton didn’t just cheat on the golf course in front of Jack Nicklaus, he set out with an illegal club selection. And an astounding 60 percent of Clinton voters admitted in exit polls that they considered him dishonest and untrustworthy. But his party and feminists stood by their man as he seduced an intern and perjured himself over it, and after leaving the White House he became a fabulously wealthy, hyper-connected globetrotting star.
As Bob Dole asked plaintively in 1996, “Where’s the outrage?” Yet by many measures, the loveable rogue Big Dog who claimed tax deductions for donating used underwear to charities was less unfit for office than his wife.
It was painful, even nauseating, to dig through my old Clinton files on their trail of malfeasance, deceit, personal enrichment and slime going back four decades. And while Bill was always the grinning “Man dat’s living” face of their scandalous conduct, Hillary seems to have been the spider at the centre of the web, from the Rose Law Firm scandal to firing the White House travel staff to those cattle futures trades.
Remember the “vast right-wing conspiracy”, denying standing by her man while directing the reputation-crushing operation against his various conquests? As long ago as 1988 when long-time aide Betsey Wright convinced Bill not to run for president because of the harm his infidelity would cause his family if exposed, Hillary was furious. Not about the cheating; she’d hired a private investigator years earlier and knew all about it. About the check to their ambition. “Who is going to find out?” she hissed. “These women are all trash. Nobody is going to believe them.”
Memorably described by John O’Sullivan as “a sort of Madame Defarge, PhD (Gender Studies)”, Hillary is not less dishonest than her husband. She’s more so, and colder and crueller. Calculating, reckless, premeditated, spontaneous, it doesn’t matter. Virtually everything she says is untrue including the business about wiping the email server with a cloth.
On and on it goes. Outrageous conduct, brazen lies, a gradual grudging incomplete series of concessions that never express genuine contrition or really clear up what happened. Like a novice making $100,000 in high-risk cattle futures in less than a year with a major Arkansas firm whispering in her ear while she was married to the state Attorney General and then Governor, but she couldn’t remember the details because she was pregnant and all fuzzy-minded. The smaller sugar futures profits she forgot to pay taxes on. Or crucial Rose Law Firm billing records linking her to the corrupt savings and loan at the heart of the Whitewater debacle that just up and vanished, and then after two years of subpoenas and searches 115 pages of them mysteriously turned up in the private family area of the White House with her fingerprints on them.
No more, you cry. But we must also recall her husband raking in millions in speaking and consulting fees and Clinton Foundation donations while she was Secretary of State and over half of her private meetings and phone calls were with Foundation donors. Which that infamous private email server may well have been set up precisely to conceal.
Once again the Clintons have produced a scandal so in-your-face and complex that people lose track of the pea. So what does it say about American culture that this horrible woman might win? The United States has had corrupt administrations before, from Ulysses S. Grant to Warren Harding. But neither Grant nor Harding was personally corrupt and voters didn’t know their associates were corrupt when they elected them. Never before have Americans elected a president they knew was personally irremediably, shamelessly crooked from the outset.
If Hillary wins it will be thanks to tens of millions of primary and general election voters, plus big donors, celebrities and backroom operators. And if the public elect this “yuppie dreadnought,” as National Review’s Florence King once dubbed her, it will not be in ignorance of her character. It may well be despite it in many cases, out of legitimate revulsion at Donald Trump. But even then it will involve willingness to cast an unclean vote, reluctantly or gleefully.
So is the Republic done? By no means. It is bad that Americans seem poised to elect a candidate with the highest negative ratings in the history of polling… other than her opponent. But those ratings mean Americans are not fooled. And in contrast to her husband’s case, this time they care.
There’s a kind of Picture of Dorian Voter process in modern democracies, in which candidates become ever more hideous while voters remain pristine, beautiful and virtuous. Yet at some point the destruction of the portrait reveals to the public, ideally before it is too late, that it was a mirror not a painting.
Here it is important to recall Andrew Breitbart’s aphorism that politics is downstream from culture. Even if Americans are so revolted by this election and its outcome that they determine to demand better candidates, they may be unable to find them or stick to their resolve.
This election choice has resulted less from the formal mechanisms of politics than from the disintegration of public standards generally that in turn has its roots in the collapse of the family, the school of morality and restraint. The US needs another Great Awakening of the sort some scholars including economist Robert Fogel believe happened in the late 1960s and early 1970s, except stronger and more fundamental, halting the drift in people’s personal lives. And while it can’t come from government in the sense that too many people seek, the state making us better through speech codes, human rights tribunals and irritated lectures, widespread revulsion at what the public has wrought just might help inspire the public to re-examine itself. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to realize how bad your problem is.
If President Hillary Clinton is medicine, she an emetic. But if it’s really needed, it gets a bit easier to swallow. John Robson is a crowdfunded documentary filmmaker and freelance journalist in Ottawa, Canada. See his work and support him at   


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