Hillary can take a leaf out of Tricky Dicky's book to beat Trump
Published 14/09/2016 | 02:30
With one leading Republican describing Hillary Clinton as "Tricky Dicky in a pantsuit", the timing of her stumble in New York City could hardly have been worse.
In a matter of minutes, serious questions were raised about not only her health but her honesty.
For weeks, conservative conspiracy theorists have been peddling what appeared to be wild stories about the state of Mrs Clinton's health.
The combination of evasiveness and drip feeding of information from Team Clinton, before finally admitting she has been suffering from pneumonia, has given these tales more credibility than they probably deserve.
When even the liberal 'Washington Post' says that Mrs Clinton's health is an issue, then her team has what they call in the trade "presentational problems".
It has played into the narrative which Donald Trump has been pushing for weeks.
Having seen off 'Little Marco' and 'Lying Ted' in the Republican primaries, he is now going for 'Crooked Hillary'.
By agreeing, albeit belatedly, to publish his full medical records, Mr Trump has made a pitch for the moral high ground.
American presidential campaigns are painted in the broadest ofbrushstrokes and for better or worse, 'Crooked Hillary' is a clever soundbite.
There is even a 'Defeat Crooked Hillary' super-PAC, though to avoid falling foul of the Federal Election Committee its official title will be 'Make America Number One'.
Donald Trump has swiped something from the Democrat playbook of the 1960s when the target was 'Tricky Dicky' - Richard Nixon.
Voters in the 1960s did not trust Richard Nixon and, to put it mildly, even before the Ground Zero stumble, they appeared less than convinced by Mrs Clinton's credibility.
In fact, Nixon had been known as Tricky Dicky for some time, earning the nickname during a bruising red-baiting campaign against Helen Douglas for the Senate in 1950.
It dogged him throughout his career; there was the whiff of scandal over his fund raising in the 1950s.
When it looked as if he might have to resign from the Eisenhower ticket, Nixon made the famous - some might say infamous - Checkers speech in which he proclaimed his innocence.
Pleading poverty, he admitted that his children had been given a dog called Checkers which they loved and the family pet was going to stay.
By the time he reached the presidency, it would be fair to say that Nixon's reputation had not improved.
The whiff of scandal has also dogged Hillary Clinton for a long time, going back to the days of Whitewater, a failed property scheme in the 1970s.
The charge sheet is pretty extensive, at least as far as the right-wing media is concerned.
With Judicial Watch, a generously funded conservative group, pursuing a relentless campaign against her, it would be reasonable to assume there will be more to come over the next couple of months.
Views will differ on the significance of the email controversy, Benghazi and the latest disclosures about the Clinton Foundation and allegations that contributors received special access while she was Secretary of State.
At the very least, it will provide Donald Trump a vast amount of ammunition.
In this 'Alice through the Looking Glass' election, Team Clinton would do well to look at how the Nixon campaign handled the credibility problem in 1968.
Nixon did have one strong selling point - experience. The strategy in '68 was to stress that the presidency was not the sort of position which you learned on the job.
This was a theme that was hammered home in the avalanche of advertising during the '68 campaign.
America had been sucked into the Vietnam war from which there appeared to be no escape. Nixon, the message went, was the man who could extricate the US from the mess with honour.
The simple message was that in dangerous times the presidency was a job for an experienced veteran and, for all his faults, few were more experienced than Nixon.
The good news for Team Clinton is that there is a primer out there and available for a paltry $16.
It is an account of the 1968 campaign, written by Joe McGinniss, complete with a raft of internal memos.
If Robby Mook, Clinton's campaign manager, has not read it, he should get hold of a copy pretty quickly. (© Daily Telegraph London)