Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Unruffled and Unbowed

Who would have ever thought Hillary would upstage Donald at the Al Smith dinner.  This was his chance to redeem himself after three awful debates but instead his caustic jokes fell flat and he resorted to his usual name-calling as he was unable to fill 15 minutes at the podium at this charity event.  By contrast, Hillary delivered her jokes with ease,  striking back at Donald a few times, and still left the last 5 minutes to offer a touching tribute to all the work Al Smith and Cardinal Timothy Dolan do for children in New York.  Hillary had Al in tears.

One of many accusations Donald leveled at Hillary is that she is anti-Catholic, in reference to recent wikileak revelations.  His comments drew boos from the audience and left Cardinal Dalton noticeably upset.  This is supposed to be a light-hearted affair, but here was Hillary once again forced to defend herself, which she did with ease by pointing to how much Pope Francis has touched everyone's life, including her own, by appealing to our better nature.  All except Donald of course.

What has stood out for me in the debates and the Al Smith dinner is how well Hillary holds herself when being attacked.  The wikileak revelations would make us believe it is a false front, but if it is it is a very good one because she doesn't crack.  As she pointed out, she withstood four and a half hours of Donald's withering barrage during the debates, which no one should be asked to do.  She has commented afterward on talk shows that her rival goes too far but for the most part has shown an uncanny ability to brush off the barbs, which hurts Donald more than anything she could say in return.

Donald prides himself as a man who can get under your skin, force you to think about him long after you want to.  But, you get the sense Hillary gives little thought to him beyond what's necessary to get her through this grueling election cycle.  We have had to endure Donald for 18 months now with virtually no break.  It's not like The Apprentice where you can choose to turn him on or off.  The media runs with Trump stories 24/7 giving us little respite.

Yet, Hillary has somehow been able to ride above Trump TV, unbowed in the face of a constant stream of attacks not just from Donald but from his surrogates. She singled out Rudy Giuliani at the dinner, sitting in the back row with his cockeyed glasses.  She's been the one to get under Donald's skin, who petulantly strikes back at her even at this gala dinner.

What she lacks in charisma she more than makes up with political fortitude.  She may not have had to endure that airstrike she evoked back on the 2008 campaign trail, but she has had to endure more than two decades of blistering attacks on everything from her sexual character to her moral fiber.  The live stream of wikileak releases point to her as a cold, calculating politician who uses people to further her own interests.  That maybe so, but when you think of all she has had to overcome to be where she is it is little wonder she has formed such a tough skin.  This is an asset, not a liability, especially in these troubled times.

It seems that Russia is genuinely afraid of her, given the role they have played in trying to undermine her campaign.  It's not like Julian Assange has been digging up these e-mails on his own.  He is simply a courier.  The trail leads directly to the Kremlin, not some 400 lb. hacker as Trump implied at one of the debates.  Making things even more uncomfortable, Putin has been challenging territorial water and air space not just in Eastern Europe but had the audacity to send a fleet of Russian warships through the English Channel.  It came as little surprise she referenced Russia in her dinner monologue.

If Russia is not enough a concern, Turkey is now trying to lay claim to former Ottoman boundaries, exercising what it believes to be its territorial right to encroach on northern Syria and Iraq in the name of battling ISIS.  This doesn't make the Kurds very happy, who control much of northern Iraq and want to keep a clear boundary between themselves and Turkey.

We seem to forget that the prime responsibility of a President is foreign policy, something the Republican party once prided itself on but now finds itself being led by a "useful idiot" for Putin in this election cycle.  Although it turned out to be a hoax, Trump's apology to Serbia fit right in with the Russian talking points he has favored throughout his campaign.  Even Henry Kissinger commented on how badly Trump bombed at the dinner.

It seems many persons are finally coming to accept Hillary in these final days of the campaign trail. She is the only candidate with the foreign policy chops to serve as President.  That's been the case throughout the election cycle, but there has been little mention of this.  Instead, we were forced to revisit Benghazi time and time again as if this disqualified her.  President Obama quipped at his last correspondents' dinner in April that the only foreign policy experience Donald has had is the Miss Universe pageant.

Although Donald has dominated the media airwaves, this election has been about Hillary from the beginning.  She was the one the Republicans loved to hate, using every opportunity to gainsay her and linking her to one nefarious activity or another.  Trump even went so far as to say she is the most corrupt candidate ever.  Yet, here we are 18 months later and not only is she still standing, but standing tall.

Her performance at the Al Smith dinner maybe the best yet.  She withstood yet another 15-minute harangue to get up and deliver a well-timed monologue that showed once again that she is unruffled by the worst Donald or any other Republican has to say about her.

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