The 2016 Election: Whose Art of the Deal?

After a fiercely competitive, knock'em down, drawn- out election cycle, a new president will be chosen in a week. Nothing seems particularly artful in the closing days of this campaign, but is there more music to the madness than we realize?

Certainly Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of Hamilton, the play that is still dazzling Broadway, thinks so. As guest host of Saturday Night Live on Saturday, October 8, Miranda teased that Hamilton was a "nice escape from all the craziness in the world right now. It's about two famous New York politicians locked in a dirty, ugly,
mud-slinging campaign."

Then, riffing about the present political discourse, Miranda adapted a hit song, "My Shot," from his show, bringing it up to date: "Who knew that Hamilton would be so topically relevant/The way these grandstanding candidates be talkin'/They're just a tweet away from facing off in Weehawken." (This was the site in New Jersey where Vice President Aaron Burr fatally shot rival and former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in a pistol duel on July 11, 1804. Famously ambitious, Burr eventually fled out West and tried to set up his own empire.)

On the night that Miranda appeared on SNL, he also clearly took sides, pointing at a picture of Donald Trump who had hosted Saturday Night in 2015, and echoing: "Never gonna be president now. Never gonna be president now. Never gonna be..." It sounded in tune.

Trump who had been closing in on Hillary Clinton in polls in the third week of September, suddenly hit a wall. He turned in a poor first-debate performance; The New York Times released numbers that added up to the possibility that Trump had paid no federal income taxes; and Billy Bush tapes aired with Donald boasting of taking advantage of women. It had been the worst two weeks of Trump's candidacy, when Miranda appeared on SNL.

Trump did not fare well in the second or third debates, either. Clinton played her cards better, parried with him and egged him on, finally causing Trump to call her "a nasty woman" in the last match-up, which definitely did not help his case with female voters.

And, since the beginning, Trump has constantly veered off course, ending a good, scripted, first-100-day speech at Gettysburg on October 22, for example, with unscripted remarks on a "rigged election" and more attacks on women who have accused him of unwanted advances.

Reading Trump, The Art of the Deal, the Republican candidate's best seller about how he has succeeded in business, you wonder why Trump seems to be sabotaging the most important deal he ever tried - convincing the American public that he should be president. As Trump says in his book, "I do it to do it. Deals are my art form... But, in the end, you are measured not by how much you undertake but by what you finally accomplish."

Now, he has one last chance. Not that the playing field is level, for Clinton still has an advantage in the polls, but there is an opening. When he is on point, Trump does play the e-mail card about Clinton's private server and 33,000 erased missives quite well, and FBI Director James Comey, by saying that his agency is taking another look, has given Trump a new hand.

How artful will Trump be? And can it make up for all the insults he has hurled around in the past about Muslims, Mexicans, a Gold Star family and more? Will Clinton just outsmart him again? In the end, then, is this election Trump's ultimate art of the deal or a fool's errand?