What will US swing voters make of the latest cloud of gun-smoke?

Politics is full of irony and paradox, never more so than in the latest developments on the eve of the closely run US presidential election. With his last-minute decision to clear Hilary Clinton of a suspected crime in using a private e-mail server to discuss high security matters, FBI director James Comey, has merely refocussed attention on the controversy. Much to an ebullient Donald Trump’s delight as he questions how the FBI processed 650 000 e-mails in eight days, vowing to have her charged when he becomes ‘the boss’. We can perhaps take cold comfort that in the land of the brave and the free, candidates also claim interference in the political process by organs of the state, as Trump certainly did. Clinton, whose campaign took a gut punch when the e-mail scandal first hit in October, is doing her level best to side-step the development altogether, her spokesperson alluding instead to Bruce Springsteen playing at a final Clinton rally when confronted. She’s apologised repeatedly, and doesn’t want to remind swing voters of her carelessness. Meanwhile political pundits on both sides of the divide are furiously interpreting the FBI gun-spike as serving their favoured candidate. – Chris Bateman

By Matthew Lester*

America are a very proud nation. And they are at their very best when their backs are against the wall. That’s why many had great hopes when Barack Obama made it to the White House in January 2009. They thought America would galvanise behind him and they would quickly get out of the mess that was and still is the financial crisis.

US election
Attendees take a selfie photograph during a campaign rally for Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg

But it didn’t happen.

So the last year of the Obama administration has been spent on the golf course or trying to create a legacy through staged performances with Sir David Attenborough and even Bear Grylls. When nobody cared he unsuccessfully stuck his golf clubs in behind British Prime Minister David Cameron and probably contributed to his demise. Today he is actively campaigning for his bitter former rival Hillary Clinton. Perhaps he has visions of returning to the Whitehouse in 2024 as ‘First Laddie’ to Michelle.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks after being presented with the Ambassador for Humanity Award by movie producer Steven Spielberg in Los Angeles
Outgoing US president Barack Obama.

It’s all rather sad given the fever of ‘YES we can!’ back in November 2008.

While all this didn’t happen the best America could do was dish up two hated candidates for the November 2016 election. It does not matter who wins as they will both be estranged from the senate and congress. So they won’t be able to achieve much, just the same as Obama. Either one will spend the next three years trying to extend or unpick the little Obama achieved in eight years. That won’t make America great again or even build a small wall.

The fourth year will be spent trying to make a second term. Hopefully neither will make it.

To quote George Best ‘I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.’  So today, like most I do not have the security of a defined benefit pension fund, my last hope is that equity markets will surge and make something of my currently underfunded retirement portfolio.

Must watch: Donald Trump is pure comedy, says Barack Obama, struggling to contain his mirth

Whatever happens in the elections this week I doubt that financial markets will recover in the next four years. And today’s interest rates are so pathetic they are not even an option.

What ever happened to ‘Cometh the moment, cometh the (wo)man?’ Or those apparently famous words of Admiral Yamamoto about Americans ‘ I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.’

  • Rhodes University Professor Matthew Lester was educated at St Johns College, Wits and Rhodes universities. He is a chartered accountant who has worked at Deloitte, SARS and BDO. A member of the Davis Tax Committee investigating the structure of aspects of the RSA tax system, he is based in Grahamstown. Follow him @ProfMattLester.
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