The end-game has begun. America’s nightmare presidential election has entered its final agonizing throes.
The latest opinion polls suggest that Donald Trump, badly damaged by the release of the 11-year-old tape of his lewd and offensive remarks about women, is unlikely to win. His second debate with Hillary Clinton last weekend, where he put in a much stronger performance than the first, doesn’t seem to have helped him.
Women are now queuing up to claim he groped them and worse, accusations he says are lies. With any other candidate, it would be game over.
Yet Trump has been written off many times before.
No one can predict this election result even now. People still don’t seem to understand the enormous insurrectionist dynamic behind Trump’s rise.
Those who are firmly for Trump are in wholesale revolt against precisely the kind of people who tell them they can’t insult or demean women or others who are never held responsible for their own actions.
Indeed, the near-universal hysteria over the tape was hard to credit. Surely no one can be surprised that Trump turns out to be a crude sexual barbarian? What’s more, the frenzy is being fueled by people who brushed aside Bill Clinton’s sexual excesses as a “private matter” and ignored the way Hillary used threats to silence the women he had used.
Among previous Democratic presidents, John F Kennedy is said to have sexually abused a teenage intern and asked her to perform oral sex on members of his staff while he watched. Lyndon Johnson, described by his press secretary Bill Moyers as “paranoid and depressed,” exposed his private parts, treated his wife like a servant and reportedly gave dictation to a female secretary while he urinated in a corner washbasin.
Who cares about any of that? Of course it’s hardly surprising that people who dislike Hillary feel they simply can’t vote for Trump. Apart from the disgusting attitude revealed on the tape he is unpredictable, uninformed, inconsistent, volatile and gets a lot of stuff wildly wrong.
Those who aren’t signed up to either candidate find the choice they are being asked to make excruciating because both of them are so awful.
The sex-tape episode may have finally cooked Trump’s goose. Well, look at what America will get if Hillary wins.
It will get a president who doesn’t give a fig for the US Constitution and will ride roughshod over it.
In last weekend’s debate, Hillary said she would use Supreme Court nominations to drive through a leftwing agenda. She made no mention of upholding the constitution. Instead, she indicated that she intends to refashion society regardless of the public’s wishes or respect for the bedrock values of America and Western society.
It will get a president who, with the dismissive comment “What difference does it make?” shrugged off her responsibility for the Islamist murder of the US ambassador and other personnel in Benghazi, after she failed to answer repeated concerns and requests for help from the mission there.
A president who on her private email server exposed state security secrets to hostile governments, putting more American security personnel at risk, and who then destroyed 30,000 of these emails in order to conceal them.
A president who enriched herself and her husband by using her State Department post for personal gain, with their Clinton Foundation contacting State Department officials to ask favors for foundation “friends” including meetings with the secretary of state herself.
A president who obtains much of her advice about Israel from Jew-haters and Israel-bashers and who refuses to acknowledge the nature and extent of Islamic extremism, seeking instead to prioritize Muslim interests and demands.
A president who never ceases to tell untruths. For example, she accused the Trump campaign of falsely claiming she wanted to create totally open borders. Yet in a private speech to a Brazilian bank in 2013, she said: “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders...”
A president who supports Black Lives Matter as well as every politically correct attempt to destroy normative Western values and stifle those who uphold them.
A president who, despite laughable claims to be a feminist, fashioned her entire political career by riding on the coattails of her husband. If she had not been married to Bill, it’s safe to say that we would never have heard of her.
So let’s sum up what voters disgusted by Trump will be electing if they vote for Hillary: a corrupt, untruthful hard-leftist who disdains the US Constitution, whose record includes endangering American security and who has declared her intention to remake American society in the image of the oppressive and illiberal leftist causes she espouses.
People think that, compared to Trump, Hillary is at least a safe pair of hands. If that were so, the choice would indeed be easy. But she is not safe at all.
Let no one be under any illusions. The choice is between a candidate who is a dangerously unpredictable loose cannon and a candidate who is a predictable danger to both America and the world.
The issue in this election is not which candidate has the better claim to be an admirable human being or indeed a fine president. The issue, unfortunately, is which of the two presents the greatest danger to America and, by extension, to Israel and the rest of the free world.
Either way, America’s fate hangs in the balance. We can only look on aghast.
Melanie Phillips is a columnist for The Times (UK).