As the nation nears its 240th birthday, Americans got an early glimpse — and taste — of the developing two major presidential campaigns and what’s in store for the next four months.
It's not pretty. It's brutal. But it's what we've dealt ourselves in this latest leap year cycle, the 58th presidential election in U.S. history.
In recent dueling speeches, the two presumptive nominees touched on what they would do as the Oval Office occupants but spent more time on the dangers of the other.
With the poor trust and approval ratings of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, this gives voters the unsavory choice Nov. 8 of the least worst candidate. Comedian Jimmy Fallon predicts 2016 will go down as the election of “Shut up! / No, you shut up!” Funny, but painful.
A Gallup Poll analysis of the Trump and Clinton speeches, however, found the contents not only strikingly similar in ideas but, not by accident, also targeted to the ears of voters, a record 94 million of whom are out of the job market.
Voters have been saying jobs and the economy are their top issues for, lo, these 388 long weeks of the Obama presidency, which produced the worst economic recovery in 70 years. Even when the trillion-dollar Obama-Biden stimulus spending package failed to produce the promised hundreds of thousands of new jobs, hopeful voters re-elected the pair.
Clinton: “My mission as president will be to help create more good-paying jobs so we can get incomes rising for hardworking families across America.”
Clinton has a serious problem with the economy.
Trump: “We can come back bigger and better and stronger than ever before. Jobs, jobs, jobs! Everywhere I look, I see the possibilities of what our country could be. But we can’t solve any of these problems by relying on the politicians who created them.”
Clinton has a serious problem with the economy. She’s running for a third consecutive Democratic term. Historically, Americans don’t like that. Only once since World War II have they given the same party three straight White House terms.
And — oh, look! — more than 2,700 days after George W. Bush left office, the over-regulated Obama economy wheezes with weak growth and investments. So Clinton calls for dramatic improvements, hoping no one notices her party’s incumbent has been in office that entire time.
“We know people are working harder and longer just to keep their heads above water,” she says, “and to deal with the costs, the everyday costs, the costs of basics like child care and prescription drugs that are too high. College is getting more expensive every day, and wages are still too low and inequality is too great. Good jobs in many parts of our country are still too hard to come by.”
Did you notice, by the way, Clinton has had nothing to say on camera about Britain’s vote to exit the European Union? Here’s what else she does to distract: She spent about two-thirds of her 5,400-word speech criticizing Trump.
Trump and Clinton do agree on one thing: Neither thinks the other has the temperament to be president.
While repeating his lavish reform promises, Trump, of course, also criticized Clinton. He said she “has perfected the politics of personal profit and theft. She ran the State Department like her own personal hedge fund, doing favors for oppressive regimes and many others in exchange for cash.
“Then, when she left, she made $21.6 million giving speeches to Wall Street banks and other special interests – in less than two years – secret speeches that she does not want revealed to the public. Together, she and Bill made $153 million giving speeches to lobbyists, CEOs and foreign governments in the years since 2001. They totally own her, and that will never change.”
But Trump and Clinton do agree on one thing: Neither thinks the other has the temperament to be president.
“Every day,” Clinton adds, “we see how reckless and careless Trump is.” Clinton, Trump says, is “a world class liar” who “may be the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency.”
Only 19 weeks to go.
Malcolm is an author and veteran national and foreign correspondent covering politics since the 1960s. Follow him @AHMalcolm.