- - Thursday, September 8, 2016


President Obama airily predicted Thursday that voters will reject GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s “wacky” ideas. Hillary Clinton was also at it again, pushing her narrative that Mr. Trump is “temperamentally unfit and totally unqualified to be commander-in-chief.”

The top Democrats are clearly hoping to take out Mr. Trump by focusing on his temperament, but that one-sided strategy may not be enough to slow down the Republican’s recent momentum. Both the president and Mrs. Clinton’s strategy of lecturing the American people is becoming less palatable as they fail to convince voters that the nation is moving in the right direction under their leadership.

Mr. Trump is already cutting into Mrs. Clinton’s lead. In the latest CNN/ORC poll, Mr. Trump leads Mrs. Clinton by two points in a four-candidate race. A surprising 54 percent of married women support Mr. Trump, compared to 36 percent for Mrs. Clinton. And 90 percent of Republicans now support Mr. Trump, which shows the party is clearly coalescing around its unconventional nominee. Yes, this is just one poll, and Real Clear Politics’ average of recent polls gives Mrs. Clinton a 2.1 point lead. Yet enthusiasm for Mr. Trump is greater than for Mrs. Clinton, and momentum seems to be shifting his way. The question is, Will there be a significant shift in the battleground states for Mr. Trump, since the electoral college map appears to be favoring Mrs. Clinton?

It might be time for Mrs. Clinton to revisit her focus groups and figure out a new campaign message. Debates about “temperament” cannot replace real policy discussions and a politician’s record of repeated inconsistencies.

Mrs. Clinton has recently been bogged down with questions on the FBI notes on the email probe and is having difficulty explaining and justifying her actions. During the NBC national security forum, an Air Force and Navy veteran with top-secret clearance told Mrs. Clinton that “had I communicated this information not following prescribed protocols, I would have been prosecuted and imprisoned.”

And here’s Mrs. Clinton’s convoluted response: “What we have here is the use of an unclassified system by hundreds of people in our government to send information that was not marked, there were no headers, there was no statement top secret, secret, or confidential.” Talking about “headers” or “no headers” fails to address the fact that Mrs. Clinton told us that she understood the classification system, but then told the FBI a different story. Her inconsistent answers are not helping to clarify the narrative.

Her email practices may appear too technical or complicated for ordinary Americans to understand, but what is easy to understand is that her staff destroyed several of her devices with a hammer. As a former White House official, I am completely shocked by this revelation. Any of my emails or devices during my time at the White House belonged to the government and I had no right to destroy that property. It is no wonder that her polling numbers on trustworthiness continue to plummet.

Fox News analyst Charles Krauthammer recently observed that, as in the case of Richard Nixon, voters are willing to back an experienced candidate they might not fully trust. Nixon certainly did not score highly on trustworthy scale, but his vast foreign policy experience overrode those doubts in his two victorious presidential campaigns.

The same dynamic could benefit Mrs. Clinton. But I would argue that in this age of the 24-hour news cycle, the internet and instant global communications, we have far more access to information from and about our politicians. And what we have seen is an obstructionist State Department, a hands-off and politically driven Justice Department, a lack of transparency and “extreme carelessness” from Mrs. Clinton, and far too many connections between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department when Mrs. Clinton was secretary. Mrs. Clinton is facing little to no consequence for her actions, which seems unfair to those in the military and government who face a much higher level of scrutiny.

In this election, the issue of trust is proving to be just as important as the question of temperament. These two qualities go hand in hand, because ordinary Americans deserve to know that the government is working for them, not for those with special interests or the elitists who know how to work the system. Otherwise, we may soon find ourselves with another president like Richard Nixon, who fell from grace from an inability to follow the rules.

Mercedes Schlapp is a Fox News contributor, co-founder of Cove Strategies and former White House director of specialty media under President George W. Bush.

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