Times of crisis are moments of truth. Moments when leadership qualities can become apparent. Days in which the condition of a country is revealed. And sometimes, it is the true character of a single person that comes to light.
The blood of the victims in Orlando hadn't even dried yet, their lifeless bodies still lay in the Pulse nightclub, unidentified and horrifically mangled by the bullets fired by the attacker, the blue police car lights still bathed South Orange Avenue in an eerie light -- when Donald Trump sent out a tweet. He wrote:
Two days later, on Tuesday evening, Trump was standing on the stage of a sports arena in North Carolina telling his audience where the responsibility for the Orlando bloodbath lies. "Political correctness is deadly," he fulminated. "We have to control the amount of future immigration into this country." Trump was reading from notes, apparently to temper his words. But even his controlled sentences were poisoned, meant to appeal to the baser instincts and fears of the 9,000 people in the arena. There has been "no assimilation" on the part of immigrants, Trump called out.
The audience erupted in ecstasy and began chanting "USA, USA, USA!" The crowd was loud, aggressive and uncompromising -- just like their idol on stage. Trump turned 70 years old on that Tuesday, but there has been no indication that he has become mellower or wiser with age.
Can you really seek to cynically gain political profit from the deaths of 49 mostly gay and lesbian human beings, murdered by the New York-born son of Afghan immigrants? Can you really utter a self-congratulatory "I told you so" in light of the worst mass shooting in American history
Trump can. The question is becoming increasingly pressing as to whether America, a proud, great and powerful country, will fall into the hands of an egomaniac who wants to prevent Muslims from entering the land and to deport millions of illegal immigrants, a man who seeks to limit freedom of opinion and who has threatened to terminate old friendships across the globe. A whiff of 1950s McCarthyism is in the air, emitted by a candidate who is stoking hatred against Muslims and immigrants to a degree never before seen in a presidential campaign. If we "imply that we are at war with an entire religion, then we are doing the terrorists' work for them," US President Barack Obama said following Trump's speech.
The results of this presidential election will have ramifications around the world. It's not just about the construction of walls and societal peace in a divided country, it is also about possible trade wars with Asia, the survival of the trans-Atlantic alliance and America's relationship with the Arab world. In November, the future of the international community is on the ballot.
In the face of the ferociousness of Trump's campaign, his challenger Hillary Clinton seems helpless and debilitated. Thus far, no Trump opponent, including Clinton, has found a way to effectively combat the at times feverish declamations of this political maverick. Just as was the case during the Republican primaries, it again became apparent in the wake of Orlando that Trump's opponents do not have recourse to the same political weapons as Trump does. How can you compete with someone who apparently knows no taboos or inhibitions?
The Voice of Furious Whites
As such, the outcome of this race is completely open. The two presumptive nominees couldn't be any more different from each other. The voice of societal rage against a power-political strategist, an outsider against the establishment, the voice of furious whites against the advocate of a diverse America.
In recent weeks, Trump managed to overtake Clinton in some public opinion polls while the Democratic candidate has the lead in others, most notably in a recent survey released post-Orlando. Trump is shamelessly seeking to take advantage of the uncertainty that has taken hold of American society and is instrumentalizing fears of a new terrorist attack for his campaign. Contrary to expectations, he has not become more presidential or more conciliatory since becoming the presumptive Republican nominee. On the contrary, since Orlando the once hard-and-fast rule -- that the American nation comes together in times of crisis -- seems no longer to apply.
If Orlando was a test of the leadership qualities of a future president, then Trump didn't pass. He broke with the principle of solidarity and brought many of his followers along with him. After Orlando, the US seems to be a country that doesn't even agree anymore on the most American of all values: nationwide support and compassion in moments of tragedy and mourning. In this campaign, society has split into two irreconcilable camps.
Trump is a candidate of rage, supported by the sense many have that something fundamental must change in the United States.
The woman tasked with saving America from Trump is the candidate of reason, supported by the liberal bourgeoisie who want a continuation of Obama's policies of enlightened pragmatism. It isn't yet clear if there is more reason or more rage in today's America.
Clinton is America's last hope. But the longer the campaign lasts, the more questionable it has become whether she can fulfil this hope. Even worse: It is unclear if she is the right candidate for a country in upheaval.
It seems as though Hillary Clinton has always been there. She was first lady, she was a US senator, she was a presidential candidate and she was secretary of state. In 2008, many thought she had a clear path to the presidency -- until she was beat out in the primaries by a virtual unknown by the name of Barack Obama.
She began this campaign too as the presumptive favorite, but stumbled early on over the email affair and faced an unexpected challenge in the form of a 74-year-old senator by the name of Bernie Sanders. His call for a leftist revolution proved surprisingly appealing among many young Democratic voters, including a remarkable number of women who, it had been thought, would gravitate toward the Clinton campaign.
And now Trump has the initiative, and hasn't proven shy about deriding her and portraying her as a weakling. It is almost impossible for Clinton to reply in kind. She wants to avoid dividing the electorate and is loath to play one group of voters off against another. Reasonable responses are the only possible rejoinder to Trump's baiting of Muslims and other minorities, but her message of conciliation seems fainthearted and impotent against Trump's blustering. It is a battle being fought with unequal means, but what else can she do?
When Hillary Clinton spoke at the Cleveland Industrial Innovation Center on the Monday after the attack in Orlando, she warned in muted tones that it was a day on which all Americans must stand together. She called for limits on the sale of firearms and condemned the wave of violence against mosques that took place after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. And for the first time, she uttered the words "radical Islamism," which Trump had demanded but which she had thus far avoided so as not to discredit all of Islam. Clinton declined to go after Trump. "Today is not a day for politics," she said.
But for Trump, it was. He tweeted:
When Trump told his supporters in North Carolina of his mini-triumph, the audience erupted in cheers. Trump essentially forced Clinton to use the term and Islamism is one of his primary campaign issues. As he did during the primaries, he showed after Orlando that he has the instincts to set the political agenda.
Trump's nickname for Clinton, "Crooked Hillary," is one he uses in speeches, tweets and interviews and it is just as mean-spirited as the "Low-Energy Jeb" moniker he used for Jeb Bush in the primaries, or "Lyin' Ted" for Ted Cruz. But it is a nickname Trump uses to touch on one of his opponent's weaknesses and it helps sow mistrust of the kind Clinton is confronted with everywhere in this campaign, no matter where she appears. Places like Charlie Roesch's deli on a sunny spring day in Buffalo, New York.
The door flies open and Clinton strides into the room. She spreads her arms wide and exclaims: "Charlie!" The butcher and the candidate have known each other for years and he sets down the knife he had just been using to slice roast beef. "My senator from New York!" he says and they kiss each other on the cheek.
Clinton has just spoken in front of 1,200 people in Buffalo and now she's in the mood for a roast beef sandwich. But she is interrupted by a reporter: What is her response to surveys that indicate only 40 percent of Americans trust her, the reporter wants to know. Clinton freezes for a moment and, clutching her bagged lunch in her hand, she searches for an answer. "When I was secretary of state, my approval rating was the highest of any public official," she finally says, as though the survey results could simply be ignored. People have always approved of the job she's doing when she's actually in office, she adds.
Mistrust of the Political Class
It is tempting to recall the way Bill Clinton simply smiled away such questions. In moments like these, it is clear that Hillary Clinton lacks the lightness of her husband, the litheness, the instinct for human nature -- all of those characteristics that have made Donald Trump so strong and dangerous.
Clinton is fighting against something much larger than Trump in this campaign. She is struggling against the widespread mistrust of the country's entire political class -- a mistrust that has gripped the country like a fever. The majority of Americans have lost faith that politics can improve their lives.
Representative democracy was born in Philadelphia and Washington and America -- this "shining city upon a hill," as Ronald Reagan described his country in 1989 -- became a paragon across the world. Today, though, it has lost much of its luster.
American society's current identity crisis has a lot to do with the vast gap between the superrich on the one hand and the middle- and working-classes on the other. The 400 richest Americans own as much wealth as the bottom two-thirds of society taken together and the annual, inflation-adjusted income of an average family has dropped by $5,000 since 1999 to $52,000. The great promise of America -- that it is possible to climb the social ladder if you work hard enough -- sounds to many these days like so many empty words.
Washington, DC doesn't just stand for the hated establishment, but also for the connection between money and politics -- a link few could epitomize better than the Clintons. Indeed, the calculating presidential couple Frank and Claire Underwood from the television series "House of Cards" almost seems like a parody of Bill and Hillary.
America's Crumbling Social Model
Politics have in fact made the Clintons rich. Since they left the White House in 2001, Bill and Hillary have earned more than $150 million from public speaking engagements. They have become part of the 1 percent.
Trump, of course, is also extremely rich, but he has established a narrative that his wealth makes him incorruptible because he doesn't need to rely on other people's money. He presents himself as the opposite of Clinton, a narcissistic businessman who claims to have the best of everything -- the best women, the best properties and even the best genitals.
In particular, it is his sense for the national mood that has made Trump so successful and dangerous. His proposal to stop allowing Muslims into the country isn't just supported by a majority of Republicans, but also by 45 percent of undecided voters and even one in four Democrats. After Orlando, Trump spoke of expanding the ban to include people from "areas of the world where there's a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies."
More than any other presidential candidate, Trump has intuitively registered the tectonic shifts that have taken place in American society over the last two decades. It has become apparent that a societal model is crumbling, one which reserved key political, economic and cultural positions for the white, Christian majority -- in addition to the privilege of defining the nationwide debate. Demographers predict that by 2050, whites will no longer represent the majority of the US population.
The success of Trump's campaign depends on mobilizing this shrinking, white societal majority and on triggering a revolt of these Christian middle- and working-classes against their perceived societal expropriation. The ostracism of immigrants and Muslims is no accident -- it is part of his strategy. Trump's campaign relies on division.
Clinton's campaign, by contrast, relies on women, African-Americans, Hispanics, the LGBT community -- on the summation of many different elements of American society -- and the politics she champions is focused on reconciling these elements. She wants to continue along Obama's path and he has announced his intention to campaign for her. That will help, but it also binds her to him and makes it more difficult for her to differentiate herself from his presidency.
A bitter irony of this campaign is that Trump is now seeking to score political points out of an attack aimed at potential Clinton voters: young gays and lesbians, most of them children of immigrants from Central and South America. People who epitomize those for whom Trump has nothing but contempt.
Stiffness and Coolness
The massacre, Trump said following Orlando, "is an assault on the ability of free people to live their lives, love who they want and express their identity," and he even adopted the abbreviation LGBT -- lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual -- which is commonly used among American leftists and liberals.
For Trump, the biggest question facing his campaign is whether he will be able to mobilize enough white non-voters to push him over the top.
For Clinton, the question is whether she will be able to overcome her own stiffness and coolness, whether she can become a true campaigner and confront anger and hate not just with reason, but also with emotion. Thus far, she has had distinct difficulties doing so.
At a campaign appearance in Des Moines, Iowa, Hillary Clinton is speaking in a high school gymnasium before roughly 1,500 supporters who are chanting alternatively "M-A-D-A-M-E" and "P-R-E-S-I-D-E-N-T." The audience is made up of classic Clinton voters: union members, Planned Parenthood workers, teachers and Africa-American families.
A barstool has been placed in the middle of the gymnasium and a glass of water stands next to it. When she takes the stage, Clinton promises to fight climate change and to introduce a nationwide minimum wage. She pledges to promote renewable energy and to support small and medium-sized companies. "No woman should be paid less for her work than any man," she says.
Toward the end of her speech, she asks a question: "Who of you still has student loan debt?" Roughly half of those present raise their hands. "I had some too," she says, "but interest on those loans is much too high. We have to invest in better, more affordable college education!" The appearance revealed the challenge Clinton is facing: She is trapped in her own world and is focusing on the details even as a great crisis sweeps the country. She has been unable to throw off the corset that she has tied around herself in recent decades. Even as her Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders has pledged to break the power of capitalism and Donald Trump has promised to bring back jobs from China and Mexico, Hillary Clinton is proposing that interest rates on student loans be lowered.
Still, Clinton's policies would result in improvements in the lives of many Americans. She intends to preserve Obama's health care reforms, introduce paid medical leave and establish a right to paid maternity leave. On foreign policy, she advocates a more aggressive approach that focuses on US military power. Whereas Trump would like to withdraw the US from NATO, Clinton would intensify American's presence on the global stage. He is an isolationist. She is an interventionist.
As a result of the success her rival Bernie Sanders has enjoyed on the campaign trail, Clinton has veered distinctly to the left, demanding the tackling of the shadow banking system and saying she will increase the taxes owed by the country's highest earners. Her platform isn't visionary, but in an America where many still believe in unrestrained capitalism, it would represent progress.
Clinton's campaign message can be summed up in a sentence that she called out on that evening in the Des Moines gymnasium: "I get things done." Her campaign is depending on people to vote for her because she has been first lady, a member of Congress and the American secretary of state -- because she has put in her time and earned a shot at the White House. She believes that in times of crisis, Americans are yearning for an experienced stateswoman. But in this campaign season, political experience does not appear to be high on the electorate's priority list.
Seventy-one-year-old Melanne Verveer, one of Hillary Clinton's few real friends, is sitting in a pastel green house in Washington's Georgetown neighborhood. It's the location of Georgetown University's Institute for Women, Peace and Security, which Verveer leads.
The two women have known each other since they went to college together in the 1970s. Before long, Verveer became a close confidant of Hillary's and she supported Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. After he won, she became one of his advisors and then Hillary Clinton's chief of staff in the White House.
Verveer believes that Clinton's steady manner and her experience would be good for the country in moments of crisis. "We are living in times when demagogues like Trump are on the rise," she says. "But politics is the art of the possible and Hillary is very good at that."
On the wall of Verveer's office hangs a colorful poster from a UN conference that took place in 1995 in Beijing. The conference focused on an issue near and dear to Clinton: Women's rights. Verveer accompanied her to the conference and she says that it was a key moment in Clinton's political education.
The first lady's trip to Beijing was controversial in the White House at the time. "There were some in the government apparatus who said that we shouldn't go," Verveer recalls. Clinton kept the manuscript of the speech she planned to deliver in Beijing secret until her departure. "Had it been submitted earlier to the White House, it would have been called off," says Verveer.
Clinton's Falling Out with the Media
"For too long, the history of women has been a history of silence," Clinton said from the stage in Beijing. Women's rights are human rights, she said, and separating the two "is no longer acceptable." The reactions to her speech were euphoric. Her words became a global manifesto for equality. "That was the moment when she realized that she could help people and make a difference," says Verveer. Hillary Clinton's quest for the White House began that fall in China.
But Clinton also learned in Beijing that resistance was lurking everywhere, even among political allies -- and it was resistance that she had to break through.
It is a very masculine brand of politics, but Clinton is remarkably good at it, though she often seems unapproachable and arrogant in the process. The Hillary Clinton described by Verveer seems to have little in common with Clinton the politician. Verveer describes a woman full of empathy for others and though she is a policy "wonk," according to Verveer, she can also be passionate and surprisingly funny. "If she finds something funny, she'll sometimes laugh hysterically," she says. These are the sides of her personality that often don't come out in the political arena, elements of her personality that she stifles in her efforts to stay under control. But why?
Verveer believes the explanation is to be found in the early years of the Clintons' tenure in Washington. The couple moved into the White House in January 1993, and Hillary was bestowed with the status of first lady and advisor. The media fawned over Hillary, who was "arguably the most important woman in the world" (Vanity Fair). But her relationship with journalists soon soured when she began campaigning for her husband's controversial health care reforms, which failed a short time later. A cover story in the New York Times Magazine appeared under the headline, "Saint Hillary." The cover photo showed the first lady in a white dress and the article itself was peppered with quotes from an esoterically tinged speech she gave about religion as her father lay dying, with criticism of her role in the White House. It was a reckoning.
Its publication, Verveer says, hit Clinton hard. She felt cheated and deceived and afterward, she no longer had the same relationship with journalists. This was also exacerbated by all the political scandals that would follow over the years: real estate dealings from her time in Arkansas or Bill Clinton's brief affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Hillary Clinton considered the reporting on the scandal to be part of a "vast, right-wing conspiracy" that had a single goal: that of destroying the Clintons.
People close to Clinton say that she still categorizes the world according to those who are for her and those who are against her. In 2014, a book revealed that Clinton's staff during the 2008 election kept black lists detailing those members of the party who provided her with support and those who did not. A number was assigned to each, ranging from "1" for most helpful to "7" for the greatest degree of opposition.
A Lack of Trust
Since then, Clinton's relationship with the public has been a schizophrenic one. She needs publicity in order to reach the public, but she doesn't trust it. She needs people to be elected, but she doesn't open herself to them. During her public appearances, she wears high-necked, heavy pantsuits and a long coat that resembles a suit of armor, in addition to massive necklaces.
Melanne Verveere says she has always advised Hillary to be authentic and not to hide behind a mask. Her friend Hillary listened and considered her advice -- but decided otherwise.
Over the years, Clinton forged a distance between herself and Americans at large that will be difficult to surmount in the current campaign, at a time when it is most important. The Americans don't love her -- at best they respect her. And six out of 10 Americans claim they don't trust her.
The reasons for this can be found, among other places, in Chappaqua, a suburb of New York City and a bedroom community for senior executives. The community is home to 1,436 people and counts as one of the richest places in America. Bill and Hillary Clinton are its most famous residents.
From the train station, you head uphill to where Old House Lane forks to the right. The street is lined with fir trees and, at the end, there's a cul-de-sac with a Colonial style wooden house painted white. The Secret Service has set up a guard post in front of it. For a time, state secrets were stored on an email server on the property.
At the beginning of 2009, after Obama appointed Clinton as secretary of state, the Clintons made a decision that says a lot about their relationship to public office and democratic controls. They had a mail server installed at Old House Lane, which Clinton used to process all of her digital communication in the State Department. It wasn't expressly prohibited, but it also wasn't really allowed.
When the existence of the server was revealed in 2014, Clinton explained that she had redirected the mails because she didn't want to have to carry two computers around with her -- a private one and a work one. In an investigative report issued at the end of May, the State Department inspector general accused her of having committed serious violations. The FBI is also investigating, and Clinton will likely to have to testify again. The possibility of charges being filed has not been ruled out. Emailgate, as the US media has dubbed the scandal, has become a burden.
Something to Hide
All the allegations that have chased Clinton for decades -- the ones Trump is now gratefully reciting on the campaign trail -- are crystallized in this scandal: that Hillary Clinton thinks she's above the law; that she makes her own rules; that she evades any form of public supervision; and that she must have something to hide.
It is an affair that feeds into her poor reputation and it makes it easy for Trump to portray her as "crooked." And the widespread distrust has dogged her in this election campaign -- in places like Flint, Michigan, for example.
General Motors used to be based here and the city served as a symbol of America's industrial success. But the city has since become symbolic of policy failures. In order to save money, the city switched its public water utility company and after the change, the water that flowed through the taps was yellow-brown and full of lead. Soon, people began to fall ill.
Those who could left Flint. Those who couldn't stopped showering. As Trump blustered about building a wall along the border to Mexico, Clinton actually did something that was fundamentally correct. She flew to Flint, where she, the woman who gets things done, wanted to help address the problems the city's people are facing.
She coordinated her visit with Kenneth Stewart, 58, a pastor at a Flint Baptist church. On a Sunday in February, she drove in a motorcade in a vehicle with tinted windows directly into Stewart's garage, preceded by the Secret Service and around 20 of her people. From the garage, she was taken directly to the pastor's office.
After Clinton arrived, the pastor told the roughly 1,100 people in the church that, "about nine months from now, the United States is going to give birth to a president. And I don't know what y'all say, but I'm praying it will be a girl." Her staff would later use the quote in a campaign radio spot. She departed shortly after the sermon and a couple of meetings and since then, many residents of Flint were left with the feeling that they had merely been extras in a scene for Clinton's campaign -- and that the visit had little to do with their problems.
A Nasty Campaign
The episode also underscores what makes this race between Trump and Clinton so unpredictable. It shows both Clinton's strengths and her weaknesses. She always had a feel for social justice and she was the only candidate to visit Flint. But she also left behind ambivalence and the impression that the people had once again been used by a politician.
Trump's success is rooted in his proven ability to mobilize a part of society that has turned away from the elite. Around 11 percent of his over 9 million Twitter followers have never voted before, but now intend to cast ballots for him. Instead of visiting places like Flint the way Hillary Clinton does, Trump packs arenas and invites supporters to golf courses he owns. He doesn't tour across the country and he avoids direct contact with the people. Oddly enough, this distance hasn't done him any harm so far.
As hard as Clinton's advisors may be trying to cast her in a better light, they still haven't managed to create any euphoria around the candidate. Hillary Clinton's public approval ratings are at a historic low. A poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal and NBC in April found that 56 percent of those surveyed had a negative view of Clinton. Of the white men polled, 17 percent said they viewed Clinton positively, whereas 72 percent saw her in a negative light. Even many supporters of her Democratic Party contender Sanders consider her to be unelectable.
"By any conventional standard, this is a candidate who's been disqualified to be president (by the voters)," pollster Bill McInturff, who worked on the survey, said at the time.
The goal of Clinton's campaign had been to write history and to install the first female president ever in the United States. But the political agenda has since shifted because Hillary Clinton is not a candidate who carries the same kind of hope that Barack Obama did in 2008. More important, however, is the fact that she is the only person who can still keep Donald Trump from landing in the White House. His success grants her faltering campaign a larger meaning. When, during a campaign appearance in California just over two weeks ago, Clinton went on the attack against Trump by using his own statements, it proved to be one of the strongest moments yet of this election campaign.
The strategy of her team of advisors for the coming months is to present Trump as a candidate who seeks to exclude the majority of the population, a man who lets loose with "bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies." She has described Trump as being a man too unstable and dangerous to be given access to the country's nuclear codes and Clinton's election ads also feature outtakes from Trump's angry speeches, which she then comments on both critically and soberly.
Exclusion and Hate
It is not, perhaps, what she had been hoping for, but Trump has presented her with a unique opportunity: Clinton's biggest strength now is the widespread fear this man could become president.
There are indications these days that Trump may have gone too far with his message of exclusion and hatred. The first poll taken after the massacre in Orlando, published by Bloomberg, showed 49 percent of voters backing Clinton compared to just 37 percent for Trump. One figure that likely pleased her a great deal shows that 63 percent of the women surveyed said they would "never" vote for Trump. A current Reuters poll also shows Clinton with a nine-point lead over Trump.
According to the classic rules of campaign analysis, Trump is almost certain to lose in November -- not because Clinton is so strong, but because he has scared off too many constituencies. Of the 11 most-contested states that will decide the election, Clinton is ahead in nine. Things only look good for Trump in Colorado and Iowa. Hillary Clinton would be the most unpopular president since 1948, but she would still be president. It would represent the triumph of reason over fury.
But number games like that ignore the sheer unpredictability of an election. Trump senses his opponent's weakness and has no qualms about crossing any and all lines of decency. He once demanded that Obama release his birth certificate in order to disprove the unsubstantiated claim that the president was born a Muslim in Kenya. He also claimed that the father of his rival Ted Cruz could be recognized in a photo together with John F. Kennedy's future assassin.
In a recent interview with SPIEGEL, CNN anchor Jake Tapper, who moderated several television debates during the primaries, said the election would be "nasty, ugly, horrible." The campaign is almost certain to be a dirty one. Trump's incitement against Muslims won't pose much of a threat to Clinton, but his attacks on her person will. And he got started this week, saying: "We don't know anything about Hillary in terms of religion," essentially questioning whether she had any faith at all.
Trump has already announced that he plans to delve into Bill Clinton's sex scandals, including an alleged incident of rape. He may even quote the unsubstantiated smears by the tabloid press that Hillary Clinton has had a stroke and that she has an alcohol problem. Trump will seek to destroy her image -- and it's a strategy that could work, given that people believe Hillary Clinton to be capable of just about anything.
A Deep Mark
"Never before in history has there been a president about whom the world has known the kind of intimate details they know about Bill Clinton," says political journalist Joe Klein. "That has shaped Hillary and also made life very hard for her." Klein, 69, is sitting in a dimly lit bar at New York's Grand Central Station. He has written several books about the Clintons, including "Primary Colors," a global bestselling roman a clef about Bill Clinton's election campaign. He has known Hillary Clinton since her time in Little Rock, Arkansas, and he has followed her entire career. He likes her and even votes for her, but he is also concerned about Clinton.
"She has gotten a lot tougher over the years," he says, "out of fear of the media and because of the many personal attacks. And she has a fear of doing something wrong in public that borders on desperation." Klein believes that Clinton's behavior reveals characteristics of "symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder," a reaction to the never-ending political quarrels. The disputes during decades of serving as a first lady, then as a senator and then as secretary of state have left a deep mark on Hillary Clinton, he says.
Clinton has also "passed the point" in her career "where she could be judged on her own merits," Klein says. "She has become so encrusted by notoriety at this point that it's nearly impossible for her to get a clean shot to make her argument." In the US, all you have to do is utter the name "Hillary" and everyone is sure to share an opinion about her -- either a positive or negative one. Klein says that the one thing she does do best -- pragmatic politics based on reason -- is "what the public wants least right now."
So is it ultimately possible that she might actually lose against Trump and that arguments based on reason will be no match for anger and Trump's uncontained rage?
Conservative journalist Andrew Sullivan recently published an essay in New York magazine claiming that "America has never been so ripe for tyranny" as it is today. "Those who believe that Trump's ugly, thuggish populism has no chance of ever making it to the White House seem to me to be missing this dynamic."
'Not a Warm Person'
He adds that current poll numbers are only reassuring if you ignore the potential impact of sudden, external events -- "an economic downturn or a terror attack in a major city in the months before November." An attack like the one in Orlando, for example.
Even Joe Klein is uncertain whether Clinton can win. He says Americans traditionally vote for the kind of person they would like to have sitting next to them on the couch at home. Klein has analyzed every election since World War II and he believes that, beyond the policy platforms, there's also another, decisive criterion. He believes the outcome of the election is a question of the temperature.
"People have always chosen the candidates who exuded more warmth," he says. Ronald Reagan beat out Walter Mondale, Bill Clinton won against George Bush Senior and Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney. This pattern has only been broken one time: when Richard Nixon triumphed over Hubert Humphrey in 1968.
That's why Klein fears the worst in a contest between Clinton and Trump. He says that although Trump is a scourge, a racist seducer, he is also entertaining and charismatic. He exudes warmth.
Hillary, on the other hand, may be intelligent, assertive and a good manager. "But there's just one thing she most certainly is not," Klein says. "She isn't a warm person."