Timing is everything in a race. The old cliché (usually applied to the football season) that it’s a marathon rather than a sprint, has certainly been proved true on endless occasions, not only when it comes to the national sport, but also when it comes to politics. The 1970 General Election, in which serving PM Harold Wilson was expected to extend his Labour premiership to a full decade, was derailed by adverse balance of payments figures published during election week, though many believe world champions England losing to West Germany in the quarter finals of the World Cup just days before polls opened also played its part in the electorate delivering Wilson a bloody nose. It served as a warning to all hares speeding ahead of competing tortoises that the winners are declared as such only on the final day of the contest.
The timing of the FBI’s decision to reopen the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s ‘email affair’ less than a fortnight before election day in the USA has been downplayed as a political ploy, though the FBI certainly has history; under its first director J Edgar Hoover, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was far from impartial. Democrat President Truman had observed Hoover’s stewardship of the FBI as the emergence of a private police force separate from presidential control. ‘We want no Gestapo or secret police,’ said Truman in the early 50s. ‘The FBI is tending in that direction. They are dabbling in sex-life scandals and plain blackmail. J Edgar Hoover would give his right eye to take over, and all congressman and senators are afraid of him.’
Instigator of the ‘dirty tricks’ wing of the organisation, which became known as COINTELPRO, Hoover was in charge of the FBI from its 1935 inception until his death in 1972, and it is generally accepted that President Nixon refrained from removing Hoover from office over fears that Hoover would release the hounds; bearing in mind the skeletons that Nixon had nestling in his closet it was probably one of Tricky Dicky’s most astute decisions. Since Hoover’s death, the head of the FBI has been restricted to a 10-year tenure in order to avoid the perceived abuses of power Hoover oversaw; yet one cannot but feel the announcement to renew the entire Clinton email saga so close to polling day has been a concerted attempt to kindle fresh doubts in the minds of floating voters regarding Hillary’s suitability as President.
Prior to the weekend’s announcement by the FBI, Clinton had established a comfortable (albeit not exactly commanding) lead over Trump in the polls, though this has been slightly destabilised since. It goes without saying that Trump has revelled in the reopening of the investigation, claiming with customary melodrama that ‘this is bigger than Watergate’. However, as much as it appears to be appeasing the Republican candidate’s constant demands that Hillary be exposed as a crook, the FBI’s decision to once again stir up a controversy that has already been dealt with and dismissed presents us with yet another unedifying chapter in a gory story that has dominated world headlines for the past few months.
Donald Trump’s failure to present himself to the American public as something other than an egomaniacal sociopath telling the disgruntled and dispossessed what they want to hear (without any discernible solutions to the nation’s problems) has sorely required ammunition to aim at his opponent; and the former First Lady has gifted him with a succession of dodgy rumours that has turned their TV debates into a theatrical equivalent of constantly arguing parents.
As to what impact the FBI’s announcement will have on the outcome of the Presidential race, it’s too early to say. Trump has uttered enough contentious statements during the campaign to have fatally damaged most candidates, though his blunt speaking candour has appealed to a sizeable majority of the American public that is thoroughly sick of Washington spin. Whether the official stamp of approval on his opinion of his opponent will affect the outcome of the election depends upon the don’t knows out there who have yet to decide between the most experienced (albeit allegedly corrupt) practitioner of the Washington Dark Arts or a billionaire TV celebrity selling himself as an outsider in synch with public disillusionment over the way things have been run in the American capital in the post-war era. And Jennifer Lopez flashing her gargantuan arse at a Clinton rally probably won’t make much difference either way.
There’s no doubt that Trump moving into the White House would utterly obliterate the vice-like grip the professional politicians running both Democrat and Republican parties have on American governance, belonging as he does to no real traditions of either party and being in possession of an ego determined to dismantle an ancient network of cronyism that has done few favours to anyone residing beyond the borders of the District of Columbia; and I suspect many mischievous critics of the system would welcome his tearing down of the status quo. But the stark choice the American electorate faces is that of the known knowns or the unknown knowns (as another Donald once said), and whether or not they are prepared to gamble the future of the western world on the outcome probably has little to do with anything the FBI has to say. Our life is in their hands; and if that doesn’t fill you with dread, I don’t know what will.
© The Editor