If ever there was a presidential contest that did not need an extra week, this is it.In case you haven’t heard, an unusual quirk in the calendar and election laws has resulted in America’s latest election since 1988.The nation votes on the first Tuesday after a Monday in November. Because Nov. 1 falls on a Tuesday this year, we have almost an entire extra week of what has been, according to various reports, one of the angriest and most anxiety-inducing campaigns in history.A recent Harris Poll for the American Psychological Association, for example, found 52 percent of Americans adults reported they were stressed out by this contest — in close to equal measures of both Republicans and Democrats.Add to that the events of the past few days that have given many folks electoral whiplash. First there was FBI director James Comey and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails, and then there was yet another report of questionable tax loophole usage by Republican nominee Donald Trump.As often has been said of Chicago weather, if you don’t like the latest scandal from the nominees, just wait a few minutes.I was as shaken as everyone else by Comey’s announcement less than two weeks before Election Day that the FBI has resumed its investigation of Clinton’s private email server. This was based on emails that, it turned out, he and his agents had not even read.Immediately, Comey was attacked by lawmakers and former attorneys general from both parties for defying Department of Justice guidelines that bar public comments on ongoing investigations and for possibly using his office to exert partisan influence.I agree with former attorney general Eric Holder that Comey’s a good man who made a big mistake. He’s been under pressure from Republicans, in particular, angered by his announcement in July that Clinton had been “extremely careless” in handling classified material on her personal server but not enough to be prosecuted.After learning that FBI investigators had found a new trove of possibly related emails on a laptop belonging to former New York Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner, husband of Clinton’s top aide Huma Abedin, what was he to do?He could have withheld the information, which would have been proper procedure, to find out if the new emails contained classified information or came from Hillary Clinton’s server — or had anything to do with the Clinton investigation.But, if he had withheld it until after Election Day, he might find himself facing impeachment hearings led by angry Republicans.Either way, the revelation put the brakes on Clinton’s momentum and gave a megaton-sized power boost to the Trump campaign’s morale.Of course, in the seesaw way that both campaigns have wrestled with scandals off and on, the Clinton revelations were followed on Halloween night by a new horror on the Trump side.Citing newly obtained documents, The New York Times reported that Trump used a tax avoidance maneuver in the 1990s to avoid reporting hundreds of millions of dollars in taxable income. He was advised at the time that the loophole might not be legal and it since has been banned. Now it’s another reminder of how Trump has broken tradition by steadfastly refusing to release his income tax returns to the public. So much for transparency.But, alas, in the contest by each candidate to make the other into the issue-of-the-day, this pair of dueling scandals put Clinton at a disadvantage. It’s hard to draw people’s attention to a story about numbers and tax regulations when you have a sleaze magnet like Weiner, charged with sexting a 15-year-old girl, on the other.Early polling indicated little change in Clinton’s lead, but the polls can’t tell you much about turnout. Last minute scandals can dampen turnout with the false notion that, as former Alabama Gov. George Wallace used to say of both major parties, “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between ’em.”If this campaign has shown us anything, it is just how different two candidates can be. As I have written before, the current presidential race has become for many of us less of a question about picking the best candidate as it is about picking the less-flawed candidate.To me, Clinton has been a flawed candidate after years of scandals. Some were legitimate, even if most were heated exaggerations. But Trump’s election in my view would be, to use one of his favorite words, a disaster. Make up your own mind, but don’t be so campaign-weary that you think your vote doesn’t matter.
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Early in his first term, Ronald Reagan addressed a question from the media about whether he was abandoning his principles and campaign promises, especially when it came to his economic agenda and tax reform. Reagan […]