For Hillary Clinton, some terrible horrible, no good, very bad days

12 Sep 2016

For Hillary Clinton, some terrible horrible, no good, very bad days

The late, legendary Texas Democrat Robert Strauss used to caution allies that, in politics, things were never as good as they seemed or as bad as they seemed.

As Monday dawned, Hillary Clinton was surely hoping that axiom was true.

Since being nominated at a successful Democratic National Convention in July, Clinton has seen her bounce in support dissipate as she headed behind closed doors for a string of high-priced, celebrity-studded fundraisers. At one of those fundraisers Friday night, she described half of Donald Trump's supporters as a "basket of deplorables," a comment she apologized for on Saturday — well, at least for characterizing them as "half" his backers.

Then on Sunday, a cellphone video showed her legs apparently buckling beneath her as two Secret Service agents lifted her into her van after she had abruptly left an event commemorating the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. After first issuing a statement that she had become "overheated," her campaign finally revealed that she had been diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday.

For the Democratic presidential nominee, it has been what the children's book might have called a horrible, terrible, no good, very bad string of days.

What makes the distressing video particularly damaging politically is that it fuels questions that Trump and such leading surrogates as former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani have been pressing about her stamina. Previously dismissed by critics as unfounded and sexist, those comments now have gained enough currency that Clinton will face escalating demands to release her health records, regardless of whether Trump releases his.

What makes the delay in disclosing she had been diagnosed with pneumonia damaging is that it reinforces doubts about her transparency, about playing it straight with the people whose support she is seeking. A majority of voters already say she is not honest and trustworthy, although they also say that about her opponent.

And what makes the "basket of deplorables" remark damaging is that it seems to reflect an elitist and dismissive view of millions of voters. After serving over the past quarter-century at the highest levels of government, and reaping significant financial rewards from speeches and books, does she still understand and respect the lives of regular Americans?

To be sure, a few bad days in early September aren't likely to determine the outcome in November. There are still eight weeks until Election Day, a period that is slated to include three presidential debates. Those 90-minute forums will be a test of the stamina, the demeanor and the depths of knowledge of both contenders. Trump has his own vulnerabilities, including his continued refusal to release his tax returns.

But Clinton's stumbles over the past few days, both physical and strategic, have raised the stakes on those debates. Some advisers now acknowledge that the tightening of national surveys and those in battleground states show that her attacks in speeches and ads on Trump — intended to detail why voters shouldn't support him — haven't been enough to convince many of them that they ought to support her.

Six weeks ago, after the two conventions concluded, some Democrats were so confident of a victory in November that they began considering just how big her electoral-vote landslide would be.

But as Strauss might have cautioned them then, in politics, things are never as good, or as bad, as they seem.


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