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Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente.

Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente.

margaret wente

Hillary swoons, and so does her lead Add to ...

It must be horrible to have smartphones and cameras always in your face to capture your every slip and fall. That’s the price you pay if you want to be the most powerful person in the world. So I felt a little sorry for Hillary Clinton last weekend as she collapsed and lurched, head first, into a waiting van after she became “overheated.” They played that clip over and over. The optics were cruel. Little old lady, too feeble for the job, especially if we have another 9/11.

Naturally, the Hillary brigade leaped to her defence. They tried to turn her public swoon into a tale of feminist courage. Hillary powers through pneumonia – because that’s what women do! They even criticized people who used the word “swoon,” because it’s sexist. As usual, they completely missed the point. The point was that she had been diagnosed with pneumonia but nobody told us.

Why not? Because they didn’t want to play into the conspiracy theories that had been circulating for months about her health. All false!, they’d scoffed. But the rumours weren’t entirely false after all. And yes, her health is our business. Why didn’t she just come clean in the first place? Instead of seeming honest, she came off looking sneaky, sleazy and secretive – just as she has so many times before.

With just seven weeks and a bit to go before U.S. election day, Ms. Clinton isn’t the only person in a swoon. Her poll numbers are awful. Contemplating the latest polling news this week, CNN’s Jake Tapper looked positively stricken. Her lead has shrunk to only two points nationwide. In the key states of Ohio and Florida, Donald Trump leads by 46 per cent to 41 per cent and 47 per cent to 44 per cent, respectively, among likely voters, according to CNN’s polls. “Trump has regained his footing quite nicely and put himself back into serious contention,” opined The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza.

On Friday, the online forecaster FiveThirtyEight calculated that Ms. Clinton’s chance of winning had dwindled to 60 per cent. Take me to the fainting couch.

Obviously I’m no fan of Ms. Clinton. I think the Democrats have fielded perhaps the only candidate that Mr. Trump can beat. I believe that both of them belong in a basket of deplorables. But the prospect of a Trump presidency is truly terrifying. He’d be catastrophic. She would not. The choice is not between cyanide and rat poison. The choice is between cyanide and a particularly unpalatable piece of meat that has been sitting in the fridge for too long. You’ve got to force it down your throat because the alternative is unspeakable.

Former secretary of state Colin Powell put it best. “I would rather not vote for her,” he wrote in one of his hacked e-mails that were leaked this week. Mr. Powell, one of the more dignified figures on the Washington scene, has always struck me as a smart man. “Everything HRC touches she kind of screws up with hubris,” he wrote in another e-mail. He’s miffed at Ms. Clinton because she blamed her own e-mail problems on his advice. That’s typical of her, too – nothing that goes wrong is ever her fault. Although he considers Ms. Clinton a friend, he called her “a 70-year-old person with a long track record, unbridled ambition, greedy, not transformational, with a husband still d---ing bimbos at home (according to the NYP).”

Not that he plans to vote for Mr. Trump, whom Mr. Powell called “a national disgrace and an international pariah.” Unfortunately, the national disgrace has been doing pretty well lately. He hasn’t gone off script for at least two weeks (which seems to be roughly the attention span of the American electorate). He has sent the disastrous Melania back into obscurity. He has refused to release his tax records, but no one seems to care. He talked about his health on The Dr. Oz Show, where he boasted about his stamina, implicitly comparing himself to you-know-who. “I think when you’re running for president, I think you have an obligation to be healthy,” Mr. Trump said. “I feel as good today as when I was 30.”

Unlike Ms. Clinton, Mr. Trump benefits by being beyond the reach of outrage. Lots of his supporters believe everything bad that is said about him, and they still don’t care. But there is hope. Judging by his past, he may well go off the rails again. He has virtually no campaign organization, which must count for something. He has hardly anyone (except Ivanka) to go out and campaign on his behalf. Ms. Clinton has both husband Bill and President Barack Obama, both of whom are vastly more popular, trustworthy and likeable than either Mr. Trump or herself. Maybe she should stay in bed until election day to avoid irritating the voters even further. Mr. Trump may be his own worst enemy. But it’s also true that Ms. Clinton is hers.

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