After being away for a short vacation in Old Amsterdam it appears that not much has changed in the race to the White House, and yet some things have become clearer. Those who thought that Hillary Clinton would be able to put the email controversy behind her in short order will be proven terribly wrong. In her interview with Andrea Mitchell Hillary showed all the traits that make many people dislike her. She was defensive, lawyerly and at times arrogant. Some pundits feel that she should apologize to the American people for using a private email server and possibly exposing classified materials, but I don’t believe that would make any difference. The issue with Clinton is not about the facts but about the perception that she always has something to hide, and therefore cannot be considered trustworthy. If facts could easily change perceptions the US would not have invaded Iraq, nobody would promote trickle-down economics, and Senator Inhofe would have kept his snowball out of the Senate Chamber. I cannot help but see Emma Thompson when I hear Hillary Clinton, and that is perception too.
With Donald Trump it’s a different story. In his interview with conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt on foreign policy matters he had his first truly bad experience of the campaign. What matters here is not so much the effect on the voters, a majority of which is willing to overlook their candidate’s ignorance in foreign matters because they cannot tell Denmark from Holland either, but the effect on Trump himself. As someone who is suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder Trump cannot accept criticism, let alone defeat, and that’s why he hits back as hard as possible on anybody who exposes his weaknesses. The question is how long he can campaign that way. Matthew Dowd, who is an intelligent observer of US politics, believes that Trump really wants to be president, which seems to be affirmed by the fact that lately he is trying to stay on message, but Dowd is not a psychiatrist. I believe that in the long run Trump won’t be able to take the mental beatings and will settle for the idea that he could have been president, after finding a way to abandon the campaign without loss of face.
What does this mean for the future? Undoubtedly Hillary, who wants to be president more than anybody else, will stay in the race. Bernie Sanders will continue energizing the left wing of the Democratic Party and force her to assume more liberal positions than she might want to. A possible Biden candidacy would weaken her further, but unless Elizabeth Warren somehow gets into the race it’s hard to see how Clinton can miss out on the Democratic nomination.
It’s possible to predict how an eventual Trump departure would play out on the Republican side. The party establishment probably won’t like to run Carson any more as a nominee than Trump, so ultimately the choice will be one of the experienced moderates, Bush or Kasich, with the latter as the stronger candidate in a national election because of his last name.
The voters will then have to decide, no matter how untrustworthy they may consider Hillary Clinton in general, if she will be trustworthy in trying to deliver for the American people what she promises to deliver. I believe the answer to that question is ‘yes.’