Today’s presidential race unfortunately reminds me of the bitter 1991 gubernatorial runoff in Louisiana, a state long associated with colorful politics.
That was the runoff that pitted former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, then a Republican state legislator, against three-term governor Edwin Edwards, a Democrat who had been acquitted in two racketeering trials.
The most memorable bumper sticker from the race was “Vote For the Crook. It’s Important.”
That’s what reminds me of the current race between Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump calls Clinton “crooked Hillary.” Clinton accuses Trump of “taking hate groups mainstream.”
An appropriate bumper sticker for Clinton would be, “Vote for the alleged crook. It’s really important.”
After covering a couple of decades of crime and politics as a reporter in Chicago, a city in which those beats sometimes overlap, I’m willing to give “bad” a chance in order to avoid “worse.”
Bad is how I would describe Bill and Hillary Clinton’s record for avoiding the appearance of impropriety, whether actual impropriety has occurred or not.
For example, “extremely careless” was the worst that FBI director James Comey could conclude after investigating her handling of State Department business over her private email server. Yet she didn’t help herself by misquoting Comey in a later televised interview as having exonerated her. Not even.
Yet Trump doesn’t look any better with his overblown calls for a special prosecutor to probe what he calls a corrupt “pay for play” arrangement with the Clinton Foundation.
In fact, actual evidence of a quid pro quo arrangement is severely lacking a “quo.” There is no evidence revealed so far that shows any favors granted to the foundation’s donors that probably would not have been granted anyway if the Clinton Foundation did not exist.
Yet, for all the great work the charity has done to fight AIDS and other global problems, it also kept the Clintons connected to rich and famous folks who potentially could help her presidential aspirations.
Bill Clinton now says he will leave the foundation if his wife wins and that it no longer will take foreign or corporate money.
For now, Trump’s erratic, shoot-from-the-lip campaign style has given the Clintons little reason to do anything drastic. For example, he now has softened his hardline position on immigration, his signature issue.
After more than a year of promising to round up and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants, Trump promised a different policy in a town hall hosted by Fox News’ Sean Hannity: Round up the “bad ones” and as for the rest, “we work with them.”
It apparently only occurred to Trump after “some really great, great people” came up to him and pleaded how “it’s so tough” to consider ousting people who have “been here for 15 or 20 years and throw them and their family out.”
Trump also went on the offensive, repeatedly calling Hillary Clinton “a bigot” without bothering to offer any evidence to back that up.
Trump’s new campaign CEO, Stephen K. Bannon, was chairman of Breitbart News, a go-to hive of alt-right activity. That’s another bad sign for those who hoped Trump would move away from the far-right.
No, Hillary Clinton is hardly the only candidate who invites suspicions, warranted or not. Thanks to Trump’s misfires, her bumper sticker might well be: “We could do worse.”