Thu | Oct 19, 2017

Egerton Chang | It’s complicated – Part 2

Published:Sunday | November 6, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Hillary Clinton

The thought of a facile Clinton victory has been thrown out the window as what had virtually been a certainty (Hillary winning bigly) has been turned on its head with one letter from the FBI to Congress that concluded:

"Although the FBI cannot yet assess whether or not this material may be significant (my emphasis), and I cannot predict how long it will take us to complete this additional work, I believe it is important to update your committees about our efforts in light of my previous testimony."

How vague can a letter, that can possibly change and probably did change the direction of the presidential elections, be?

Various high-ranking officials on both sides of the political divide have commented about this action of James B. Comey, the FBI director.

The most telling of these critiques, in my opinion, is that of three former attorneys general, two in the Republican administration of George W. Bush and the other under Obama.

In a CNN Politics report of November 1 titled 'Ex-AGs Alberto Gonzales, Eric Holder, Michael Mukasey rip FBI director', David Wright and Eric Bradner write:

"Republican former US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Monday slammed the FBI director's recent actions in the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server.

"He called Comey's actions an 'error in judgement' and said he is 'somewhat perplexed about what the director was trying to accomplish here'."

Gonzales said, "Comey's letter Friday informing lawmakers that the FBI was reviewing new emails potentially related to its investigation into Clinton's use of a private email server as secretary of state breaks from long-standing Justice Department practice. The protocol is not to comment on investigations and to stay silent on politically sensitive matters less than 60 days from an election.

Gonzales, who served in the George W. Bush administration, said Comey wouldn't have been misleading voters by withholding the news until after November 8.

These sentiments were echoed by Michael Mukasey and Eric Holder. It is pertinent to note that Comey served under Gonzales as deputy attorney general.

Buoyed by this latest email investigation, Trump is seeking to expand the map by campaigning in states that are leaning Democrat. Meanwhile, the Clinton team has been frenetically circling the swing states that they must win to ensure victory.

 

HAND THAT IS DEALT

 

As I wrote in an earlier column, when all is said and done, conjecture and what-ifs are all well and good, but we have to deal with the hand that is dealt.

While some polls indicate that the Comey letter hasn't affected how voters plan to vote, only a fool (or an ostrich) would discount the significant negative effects of that letter on Clinton's chances of winning the presidency.

At the same time, 'Clinton's Growing Lead With College-Educated Whites Could Block Trump' was the title of a Bloomberg Politics post of November 3. With the subtitle:

"Trailing by double digits, he's on track to be the first Republican in generations to lose white college graduates."

Sahil Kapur writes:

"Barring a sudden and dramatic turnaround, Donald Trump is on track to become the first Republican presidential nominee since the dawn of modern exit polling in 1956 to lose among white voters with a college degree.

"Losing this constituency in Tuesday's election may be enough to deliver the White House to Hillary Clinton, who remains favoured to win even as polls continue to tighten.

"Clinton leads by an average of 12.3 percentage points among white college graduates, according to recent polling data tracked by the Bloomberg Politics Poll Decoder. While she has lost ground with most constituencies in the wake of the FBI saying it is reviewing new emails connected to her tenure as secretary of state, Clinton's average lead with this bloc has expanded by 1.4 points since that Friday revelation and more than doubled since the second week of September."

 

PROBABILITIES AND ODDS

 

As of Thursday, November 3, at 10 a.m., FiveThirtyEight's probability of a Clinton presidency had tumbled quite dramatically to 64.8 per cent (and still falling) from the high 80 per cent less than three weeks ago. That means that Clinton's chances are rated less than twice as good as Trump's.

At the same time, the Princeton Election Consortium has the probability of a Hillary presidency at 98 per cent.

In the Huffington Post, under the heading 'Poll Instability Could Be Deceiving', Ariel Edwards-Levy and Natalie Jackson warned against 'Phantom Swings'. It concluded that Hillary's chances were still very high at 98.1 per cent when updated at 8.01 a.m. on November 2.

The bookmaker, PaddyPower, as of November 3, was offering odds of 2/5 for a Clinton win while offering 2/1 for Trump. That's a huge drop from the 5/1 being available just three weeks ago on a Trump victory.

While I would suffer less cognitive dissonance to side with those giving Hillary chances greater than 80%, I feel that her real chance is closer to that of FiveThirtyEight, that is, around 70%.

I am actually looking for Hillary to win with 322 electoral votes.

 

AFTERMATH

 

What happens after?

Already, hate crimes have been on the increase. The latest was reported by Reuters on November 3: Hate crime before US election: Historic church in Mississippi burned, 'Vote Trump' spray-painted.

Posted by Kritika Banerjee,

"A historic black church was burned and spray-painted with 'Vote Trump' in Mississippi in the United States.

"The attack comes just a week before the presidential election. Authorities are probing if it was a hate crime.

"Greenville Fire Chief Ruben Brown Sr told a news conference on Wednesday afternoon that investigators had determined the fire at the Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church was 'intentionally set'.

No one was injured in the attack, but the church was extensively damaged.

No matter who wins, the post-election scenarios promise to be quite ugly.

 

UNANSWERED PRAYERS

 

Meanwhile, in a Roll Call opinion piece, Matt Lewis writes in 'Comey's Revelation a Gift for Hillary Clinton'. Waiting would have created a cloud of doubt around her administration:

"Hillary Clinton probably has no idea what an unexpected gift FBI director James Comey gave her this week by firing off that missive about her emails.

"We know that the odds are that Clinton will likely become president anyway. And if that happens, Comey's revelations will have accomplished two crucial tasks that helped pave the way to her having a shot at a successful presidency.

"First, he will have avoided having her election clouded by a post-election revelation. And second, if my calculations are correct (and that's a big "if," to be sure), he will have helped preserve a narrow Republican majority in the US Senate.

"Now, if it sounds to you like the latter argument is counterintuitive, it is. But sometimes the things we think we can't live without will destroy us, while the things we dread may come as unexpected blessings."

In the immortal words of Garth Brooks, "Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers."

- Egerton Chang is a businessman. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and  e_rider69@hotmail.com.