WITH just five days to go before American voters decide who will become the 45th president of the United States, the campaign has been shaken by ever more bizarre and hard to believe twists and turns.
If Hollywood scriptwriters tried to pitch recent events as the plot of a new political thriller, they would be laughed out of the producer’s office and told to go away and come back with something a little less far fetched.
Only days ago Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was progressing serenely towards the White House, having built up a solid and seemingly unassailable 12-point opinion poll lead over Republican challenger Donald Trump.
She had survived numerous scandals with barely a scratch, including admitting using an unsecure private email server for official and classified information during her time as Secretary of State.
She had been forced to hand over 30,000 emails to the FBI, but her campaign deleted another 33,000 saying they were personal in nature, and her staff admitted destroying several of her electronic devices with a hammer. Nothing suspicious there, then.
Even though the FBI described her handling of classified information as ‘gross negligence’ – hardly a ringing endorsement of a presidential candidate – Clinton appeared to have ridden out the storm and her team had successfully turned the spotlight on Trump’s past boorish and crude comments about women.
Game over – or so we thought.
Then, just 11 days before election day, a hand grenade was tossed into the very heart of Clinton’s campaign. As a result, her poll lead quickly evaporated and the two candidates are now neck and neck, with many arguing the momentum is all Trump’s.
That human hand grenade goes by the unfortunate, if apposite, name of Anthony Weiner – a former Democratic party golden boy who managed to destroy what promised to be a glittering political career because of his bizarre obsession with taking photographs of his genitalia and sending them to women he met on the internet.
Who said romance is dead? It is with a baffled shake of the head that I pose the question I find myself increasingly asking these days – where on earth do they find these people?
Weiner, who went by the internet pen name of ‘Carlos Danger’, is now in even deeper trouble because the latest victim of his creepy ‘sexting’ happens to be a 15-year-old schoolgirl. He is 52. Ugh!
Weiner, apparently in the hope of securing a lighter sentence in case of any possible criminal prosecution, agreed to hand over his laptop to the FBI.
What has all this got to do with Clinton, you may ask? Well Weiner is the husband – not surprisingly estranged – of key Democratic strategist Huma Abedin, who is so close to Clinton that she is sometimes described as her second daughter.
And lo, what should the investigators find on Weiner’s laptop but a whopping 650,000 official emails that could be pertinent to the Clinton investigation.
The FBI, having previously said Clinton was in the clear back in the summer, now was forced to announce that with the discovery of the new cache of emails, the investigation was still very much ongoing.
Cue utter pandemonium. The Democrats are now viciously lashing out at the FBI, saying the decision was politically motivated. It all appears increasingly desperate. I don’t know what their private polling is saying, but there is a whiff of panic in the air.
What happens next is anyone’s guess. The experts say the election mathematics still point to a Clinton win. Trump would need to win all the traditional swing states – including Ohio, Florida and Iowa – plus states that are seen as solidly Democratic, such as Pennsylvania or New Hampshire – to secure the 270 electoral college votes to put him in the White House. Clinton’s path is much clearer.
But in the craziest election in living memory you can’t rule out another dramatic twist over the coming few days, which may sway undecided voters.
And you have to have some sympathy for our American cousins who are faced with an unenviable choice for their next president – between a swaggering braggart who speaks disrespectfully of women, and a deeply compromised candidate who is under investigation by the FBI.