Woody Klein: The road to the White House

Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Westport Country Playhouse on July 16, 2000, for a fundraiser and concert. Interviewing Mrs. Clinton is Westport News columnist Woody Klein. The concert by Tom Chapin, folk singer/songwriter, children's music maker, Grammy winner, and social activist, was sponsored by Westporters Bob and Yvette Rose, longtime friends of and major fundraisers for the Clintons. Mrs. Clinton successfully served in the U.S. Senate from New York State from 2001 to 2009.
Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Westport Country Playhouse on July 16, 2000, for a fundraiser and concert. Interviewing Mrs. Clinton is Westport News columnist Woody Klein. The concert by Tom Chapin, folk singer/songwriter, children's music maker, Grammy winner, and social activist, was sponsored by Westporters Bob and Yvette Rose, longtime friends of and major fundraisers for the Clintons. Mrs. Clinton successfully served in the U.S. Senate from New York State from 2001 to 2009.Contributed photo

Finally! The long-awaited November 2016 presidential election is almost upon us. It’s only about two months until Election Day! Pollsters predict it will undoubtedly be one for the history books, representing a stunning paradox: For the first time in modern history, both major candidates are far more unpopular than they are popular. But that has not dimmed public interest or anticipated voter turnout, which promises to set new records.

Heading down the stretch, the close, bitterly fought contest has sunk to a new low with leading candidates — former State Department Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, combative, 69-year-old progressive, left-leaning Democrat, who is waging a fierce, personal knock-down, drag-out battle against the unpredictable, authoritarian hero of millions of angry blue-collar voters, the intimidating bully-billionaire, Donald J. Trump, 70, who has never run for public office and shows it.

Trump’s closing foray into traditional Democratic states has been a gamble which could pay off. Similarly, huge Democratic ad buys in normal GOP states could flip some states back. My worst fear: If enough Americans are unhappy with their lives and the direction in which the country is going in November, Trump could take it all.

It is virtually certain one of them will be catapulted to the lofty position of 45th president of the United States. Yet, in August some voters were still looking for alternatives, per the polls.

The other options? The Libertarian Party ticket of former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and his running mate, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, Republicans who disapprove of Trump’s unorthodox views or Clinton’s liberal bent, could attract a wide swath of voters.

Even some Democrats, disillusioned with Clinton, might go for Johnson-Weld. Further, there is the problematic presidential candidacy of the Green Party yet to be certified in all of the states to appear on the ballot. In Connecticut, Oct. 25 is the last day a voter can write in the name of a candidate, provided the candidate has submitted a personally signed letter to the Connecticut secretary of the state, according to Westport Registrar of Voters Kevin White.

To determine the final outcome, Westport voters will join Americans across the country to participate in a political milestone event. An estimated 150 million voters will go to the polls to cast their ballots in the politically historic fight between two completely opposite heavyweight contenders.

This columnist met Hillary Clinton in 2000 during one of her fundraising trips to Westport when she was running for U.S. Senate. We talked for about 15 minutes at the Westport Country Playhouse, mostly about New York City, where my wife and I had lived on Washington Square in the 1960s. Clinton was cordial, but reserved. She engaged in small talk reluctantly; she chose her words in a carefully, lawyerly like manner. We talked, but we did not connect. Perhaps it was poor chemistry. I was not impressed.

Compared to a previous interview I had with Bill Clinton at National Hall in Westport on March 10, 1998, on the first of three campaign visits, Clinton set aside some time for me to interview him, I told him two other U.S. presidents had stopped in in our history: George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Clinton remarked with a smile: “I can’t imagine why only Washington and Roosevelt have been here, The others (presidents) must not have known what they were missing.” Clinton engaged in a lively conversation and, as we parted, he put his arm around my shoulders and patted me on the back like he had just seen a long-lost friend. I felt the same way.

Contrasting the Clintons, I was enormously impressed with Bill. I think Hillary Clinton is competent and could, without any doubt, run our country. She’s smart, tough, resilient and hands-on. I would have preferred to vote for somebody more personally inspiring to me, like Bernie Sanders. Trump is a complete faker — a phony showman who doesn’t know the first thing about how to run the federal government. He couldn’t even run a four-day GOP convention in Cleveland smoothly. Former New York Mayor Michael Boomberg, at the DNC, aptly labeled Trump “a con man” and “a dangerous demagogue.”

I cannot imagine even moderate Republicans — and I include my many Westport GOP friends in town — voting for Trump. He is simply unqualified, by any measure, to be president. Hillary’s theme of “love trumps hate” is catching, but as New York Times columnist Frank Bruno recently wrote in his column: “Yes, love triumphs hate. But the hateful currents running through America are powerful ones and they’re born of disillusionment that she minimizes at her peril.”

Woody Klein is a Westport News columnist. His award-winning “Out of the Woods” column has appeared in the Westport News regularly for the past 46 years. He can be reached at wklein11@aol.com.