THE BLOG
08/21/2016 10:59 pm ET Updated Aug 22, 2016

Hillary Clinton's Gauntlet: Emerging Trouble Spots And The Trump Turnaround

Hillary Clinton has a very challenging gauntlet to run in order to win a presidential race that so many in the media imagine to be in the bag.

Despite all the advantages she has had the past two months, including endless screw-ups by Donald Trump and his crew of freebooters and a massive spending advantage, Hillary Clinton now has, tossing her best and worst polls, about a 5-point edge in national polling. Which ought to be of real concern, since there are signs that Trump is kinda getting his act together and Hillary herself has some big emerging hurdles to surmount, especially with regard to Obama-identified economy, the problematic funding of the Clinton Foundation, and various geopolitical situations with Iran, Turkey, and Russia. And she must worry about sudden shocks to her campaign as a result of potential economic downturn, terrorist spectacular, and the intervention of Russian intelligence.

Let's start with the most counter-intuitive of Hillary's challenges. Trump bringing on the head of the frankly borderline psychotic Breitbart News outfit as his campaign CEO may be a very good move for Trump.

Forget about the nonsensically offensive hype and reactionary packaging of stories by the Breitbart operation. Forget about its slavish harping on behalf of the neo-fascist bully boy Trump. Think instead about the single most damaging attack on Clinton in this election cycle. That would be the book 'Clinton Cash' by Peter Schweizer, a book put together by the Breitbart operation's Government Accountability Institute.

Then consider the recent film pushing the book's storyline of the Clinton Foundation as Exhibit A for the couple being among the most corrupt and hypocritical political figures in American history. Whether it's entirely accurate or not, it's pretty darn good.

See for yourself.

'Clinton Cash,' a sophisticated agitprop documentary accompanying the best-selling book of the same name, makes a largely circumstantial but very effective argument that the operational pattern of funding the Clinton Foundation by unsavory foreign sources gives the lie to some of Hillary and Bill Clinton's most heralded progressive principles. Note that it is not an argument for the right, but an argument that could be very effective in suppressing the vote of millennials and others that Hillary is relying on for her edge in the presidential race.

That film was produced and co-written by Trump's new campaign chief, former Breitbart News boss Steve Bannon.

Frankly, if Trump does nothing but absorb what's in the movie and regurgitate it in his first debate with Clinton, he is halfway home to an effective performance.

Also on-board is shrewd, personable pollster KellyAnne Conway, as campaign manager/read candidate manager. If she can help keep Trump focused on stuff besides his own too easily wounded ego he will be an effective opponent.

Then there is Roger Ailes. Maybe many of us should not have been so pleased that he was so quickly forced out of Fox News on stunning sexual harassment charges. Because now he has plenty of time to help Trump get ready for the debates. Which is kinda how we got this guy in the first place. He was a producer for the Mike Douglas Show who decided to show a frequent guest with a personality problem, an ex-vice president named Richard Nixon, how to perform on television as a credible president.

Getting rid of money-marinating mercenary campaign chairman Paul Manafort -- whose highly lucrative coziness with and string-pulling for foreign dictators goes back to Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines -- was crucial for Trump's prospects. Just as getting rid of miscast bar bouncer type Corey Lewandowski was before Manafort took over.

Many in the media thought that Manafort would make Trump more palatable, i.e., centrist. (As if that is a default good thing.) But what he really did, with ongoing questions about his massive payments from a pro-Russia party in Ukraine's thoroughly corrupted politics, was make Trump look like both a money politics-oriented hypocrite and a Russian stooge.

The challenge for Trump is not so much sounding nicer but sounding coherent. I have never had any regard for Trump's temperament, as long-time readers know. But I've been agog at his endless string of comments since clinching the Republican nomination which have turned his candidacy into a non-stop psychodrama. I had hoped that would help Hillary build a big lead. But, though she has developed real strength in some key battleground states, her own vulnerabilities in the present dynamic have left her with the sort of lead that a few bad developments can wash away.

Any sign of an economic downturn as she runs for what is in essence a third term of the only presidency since Herbert Hoover's never to achieve three percent economic growth in any year could be devastating.

So too would b any revelations about the Clinton Foundation.

What was to have been a powerful government-in-waiting is now something to be avoided. In the wake of pay-for-play charges around foreign contributions to the Clinton Foundation and Hillary's actions while secretary of state, the Clintons have announced that the foundation will no longer take foreign and corporate donations if she is elected president. Why the past practice was ethical for a secretary of state and not for a president is the sort of contradiction that a competent candidate can go to town on in a debate.

So, ironically, next month's annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York City, coincident as always with the UN General Assembly, which was to have a been a Clinton campaign showcase, now may be something to be avoided. Which turns out to be another sign of the precipitous decline of Davos culture, a larger topic I'll get into another time.

Then there are very recent developments with Iran, Turkey, and Russia which challenge Hillary's narrative of a successful run as secretary of state.

The execution of a returned Iranian defector as a traitor for collaborating with the "enemy," i.e., the US, coupled with the what looks like the paying of ransom to gain the return of hostages all occurred after Hillary left. But she was at the center of developing policy around the Iranian nuclear deal which clearly has defied Obama's description of a new positive relationship with the Islamic Republic. And now Iran is allowing Russia an air base with which to launch air strikes in the Syrian civil war.

Turkey is drifting rather rapidly away from the US in the wake of the recent failed coup there, and seems to be getting very chummy with Vladimir Putin's Russia. Since Turkey is a key NATO ally, and our nuclear weapons and air base there are very important, any new developments going the wrong way will be bad for Hillary.

And, speaking of Russia, we wait to see if there are other larger shoes to drop as a result of Russian intelligences penetration of the upper echelons of the Democratic Party.

The November 8th election really can't arrive soon enough for Hillary Clinton.

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