The first thing to understand is that before it's a presidential election, it's a TV program. To the suits at CNN, NBC and Fox News, that means it's about ratings and money. So of course they're going to play it as a cliffhanger.
Do they ever say, "Tune in Saturday to watch the Alabama Crimson Tide humiliate hopelessly overmatched Kent State!"
So it's going to be with Trump vs. Clinton. Almost regardless of what political scientists and number-crunchers say, the race will be depicted as a nail-biter. The fact that Charles Manson could win Texas' electoral votes with an "R" after his name, while Democrats could take Massachusetts with a Kardashian sister, will prolong the manufactured suspense.
It's going to be a very long five months.
Even so, it's hard to imagine a manifest fraud like Donald J. Trump becoming president of the United States. Surely voters have too much self-respect.
"If Trump came to power," writes Adam Gopnik in the New Yorker, "there is a decent chance that the American experiment would be over. This is not a hyperbolic prediction; it is not a hysterical prediction; it is simply a candid reading of what history tells us happens in countries with leaders like Trump. Countries don't really recover from being taken over by unstable authoritarian nationalists of any political bent, left or right — not by Peróns or Castros or Putins or Francos or Lenins or fill in the blanks."
All politicians fudge the truth, exaggerating their successes and minimizing their failures. Trump, however, takes it to a different level. He's a contemporary version of Baron Munchausen, an 18th century literary character whose wildly exaggerated military exploits — riding on a cannonball, voyaging to the moon — made him a comic-heroic favorite for generations.
Trump tells falsehoods so brazen as to redefine political lying. To see what I mean, let's compare a couple of Clinton classics that emailers harangue me about all the time.
"I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."
The beauty of this Clintonian masterpiece lies in the fact that people often misquote it — changing "sexual relations" to "sex." Because according to the evidence assiduously gathered by independent counsel Kenneth Starr, it's literally true and therefore perjury-proof.
Cunning and deliberately deceptive, yes. But sexual relations means "intercourse," and that supposedly didn't happen. Cute, huh?
That's Bill Clinton.
Readers who have never lied about sex are encouraged to vent.
Then there's Hillary's infamous Bosnian adventure: "I remember landing under sniper fire," she told a 2008 audience. "There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles."
Confronted with CBS News footage that showed her walking calmly across the tarmac of Tuzla airport from an Air Force C-17 in 1996, Hillary Clinton basically blamed an overactive memory. She'd actually written about the incident in her 2003 book "Living History" without mentioning the imaginary snipers.
Her press secretary later explained the possible origin of Hillary's false memory: "We were issued flak jackets for the final leg because of possible sniper fire near Tuzla. As an additional precaution, the first lady and Chelsea were moved to the armored cockpit for the descent into Tuzla."
She won't say so, but I'm guessing Hillary got scared, and her mind played a trick on her. Confronted with the discrepancy, however, she owned it.
Suffice it to say that is not the Trump method. With a background in professional wrestling, he understands that there's a vast audience out there only slightly more discerning than a potted geranium and willing to believe (or pretend to believe) damn near anything.
Trump doesn't trim or embroider as much as invent huge, thunderous fictions aimed at boosting himself or hurting his enemies — evidence be damned. In Trump World, facts don't exist. He cannot be shamed.
Trump went on "Morning Joe" recently to attack Hillary's terrible judgment about Libya. See, if people had listened to Donald, the U.S. would never have helped NATO overthrow Gaddafi.
"I would have stayed out of Libya," he affirmed.
Except that Trump shot a video back in 2011 urging an immediate invasion: "Gaddafi in Libya is killing thousands of people," he said then. "Nobody knows how bad it is, and we're sitting around, we have soldiers all [around] the Middle East, and we're not bringing them in to stop this horrible carnage ... . Now we should go in, we should stop this guy, which would be very easy and very quick."
The candidate does this stuff every day, on every imaginable topic. It's brutal, demagogic make-believe, demanding his followers blind themselves to reality and enlist in his cult of personality.
So who are you going to believe, Trump or your lying eyes?