Politics & Policy

Trump Up, Hillary Down, Obama Out

Trump rallies supporters at a campaign stop in Canfield, Ohio, September 5, 2016. (Reuters photo: Mike Segar)
Without traditional battle lines to fight over, Hillary Clinton is lying low while a frenetic Donald Trump talks nonstop.

In most presidential elections, the two candidates spar over issues. The president campaigns for his party’s nominee in hopes of continuing his legacy. 

Democrats champion liberalism, Republicans conservatism. In numerous press conferences, journalists try to force newsworthy and embarrassing admissions from the two candidates.

Not this year.

Barack Obama, who less than two years ago dipped to 40 percent in approval rating, is nowhere to be seen. He seems to know that the more he is absent and quiet, the more the public likes the idea rather than the reality of him as president — and his approval rating has risen to 51 percent.

In his self-imposed retreat, Obama makes no effort to defend the Affordable Care Act, which is all but disintegrating, as major insurers pull out and costs skyrocket.

Ditto the Iran deal. Obama is learning that it is better to be quiet about Iranian violations, ransom for hostages, and provocations than to explain them away.

RELATED: The 2016 Political Event Horizon

Obama months ago gave up mentioning how the crushing national debt has almost doubled to nearly $20 trillion under his watch. No one seems to be defending the Obama administration’s lax immigration and border-enforcement policies.

He is also silent on his foreign policy — “reset” with Russia, the abrupt pullout from Iraq, the intervention in Libya, the growth of the Islamic State, the disintegration of Syria, and the decision not to associate global terrorism with radical Islamism.

Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has kept a relatively low profile for someone who’s running for president. She has not held a press conference in more than nine months, counting on a compliant press to keep giving her a pass on her e-mail scandals.

RELATED: The Candidate Who Wasn’t There

Her campaign strategy is to agree to occasional one-on-one interviews with pre-selected friendly journalists, and to engage in chitchat on frivolous morning and late-evening TV talk shows. Clinton avoids large rallies, where she often grates rather than enthuses.

The Clinton strategy is to sit on her small lead in the last two months of the race, expecting that the mercurial Donald J. Trump will finally destroy his campaign with another outburst. She apparently assumes that nonstop fundraising, attack ads, and an army of staffers will bury the amateurish Trump campaign.

Clinton doesn’t talk much about the Obama record. Voters do not have any idea how — or indeed if — she would fix Obamacare.

Clinton talks tough about her future foreign policy. Does that mean she thinks Obama has been too complacent abroad?

Would she add to or reduce Obama’s massive addition to the national debt?

#share#Meanwhile, the frenetic 70-year-old Trump cannot sit still. He talks to the press nonstop, anywhere, anytime.

He flies to Louisiana to inspect flood damage, to Mexico to joust with the Mexican government over illegal immigration, to a black church in Detroit to woo inner-city voters. Trump likes huge crowds at rallies where he bellows and at any moment can veer off script.

Trump’s effort is mostly a loud, public, solo affair.

Trump’s effort is mostly a loud, public, solo affair. He tries to scrounge free TV and radio exposure. He is at war not just with Clinton but also with the Republican establishment and the so-called elites of both parties.

This weird election is coming down to just two factors:

One, the outcome on November 8 is largely up to Trump.

Can he continue to widen his appeal and chip away at Clinton’s lead? In other words, can a hyperactive Trump reinvent himself as “presidential” and assure voters who do not like Clinton that as a calm president he won’t embarrass the country?

Two, will Clinton’s scandals, which now have a life of their own, ever cease?

RELATED: Does Donald Trump Have a Path to 270?

Seemingly every day we receive new confirmation from Clinton’s communications that she did not tell the truth about either the troubling overlap between the Clinton Foundation and her tenure as secretary of state or how she put national security in jeopardy by using an unsecured private e-mail server in violation of government policy.

Unfortunately for her, there are still thousands of communications to be released under court order — and two months to air them all. Embarrassing communications will keep surfacing to both contradict her prior statements and reveal more past improprieties.

#related#Looming in the background is the fear that foreign hackers may have stolen her huge trove of private correspondence before she deleted it — and are waiting to release even more of it in late October.

In sum, a passive Clinton hopes that scandals now beyond her control will not evaporate her once-sizable lead before November 8, a date that suddenly seems to Clinton to be too far away.

A lame-duck Obama runs out the clock, too, neither defending his old policies nor offering new ones.

All the while, a madcap Trump makes nonstop news, hoping that his self-generated publicity is more helpful than harmful.

Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

Most Popular

Politics & Policy

Broward’s Cowards

It is impossible to imagine circumstances under which Broward County sheriff Scott Israel could attempt to perform his duties with the confidence of the public. He should resign immediately, and if, as he promises, he refuses to go quietly, then he should be shown the door by the people he professes to ... Read More
Culture

Courage: The Greatest of Virtues

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Or Listener), As the reporter assigned the job of writing the article about all of Sidney Blumenthal’s friends and supporters told his ... Read More
Immigration

My American Dream

This morning, at 8 a.m., I did something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember: I became an American. I first applied for a visa in early 2011, and since then I have slowly worked my way through the system — first as a visa-holder, then as a permanent resident (green card), and, finally, as a ... Read More
Politics & Policy

CNN’s Shameful Town Hall

CNN recently hosted an anti-gun town hall featuring a number of grieving children and parents from Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who aimed their ire at the National Rifle Association, politicians peripherally associated with the NRA, and anyone who didn’t say exactly what they wanted to hear. ... Read More
U.S.

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More