woody zimmermann 120“Well, they’re finally down to their last hope,” said Big Al (of Al’s Coffee Shop). “They’ve played their last card – thrown the Hail Mary pass.”

“Whose last hope and last card?” I asked, as I sat down at the counter with other regulars and ordered Al’s signature Triple-caffeine Kona-Eruption Mocha-Java. “Hail Mary pass? What’s going on?”

Al regarded me with pity. “The Democrats,” he explained patiently, as if I had recently been released from a home for the feeble-minded. “They’ve finally busted Hinckley out of stir. He got released on a promise that he’ll be ‘real good from now on.’”

I must have had a blank look as I tried to remember who Hinckley is (or was), and why he was locked up. “John Hinckley tried to waste Ronald Reagan in ‘81,” Al explained, “and he came within a whisker of doing it. Reagan took a bullet through the lung, and two Secret Service agents saved his life by getting him to the hospital in a few minutes. Even Reagan didn’t realize how badly he was hurt. He collapsed when he tried to walk into the hospital under his own power. It was a near thing.”

Al added: “Hinckley also wounded a Secret Service agent, a DC policeman, and Press Secretary Brady with a six-shot fusillade. The agent and the cop recovered, but Jim Brady took an exploding bullet to his head and was disabled for life. It was a miracle that he survived. At his trial, Hinckley said he wanted to ‘impress’ actress Jodie Foster. He was obsessed with her, and hoped to meet her. (Miss Foster never knew him.) Hinckley was found ‘not guilty by reason of insanity,’ and sentenced to indefinite treatment at a mental hospital, until medical experts should pronounce him no further threat to society.”

“OK, I remember it now” I said. “That was close call for Reagan, and a terrible tragedy for James Brady. So how did Hinckley get out? I thought he was locked up for life.”

“A federal judge decided he was ‘cured,’” said Al. “Liberal do-gooders have been trying to spring him for years, and they finally found a judge who would do it. He has to stay within a 50-mile radius of Williamsburg, Virginia, where his 90-year-old mother lives.”

“But what does all this have to do with the Democrats?” I asked. “And why do you say Hinckley is their Hail Mary pass?”

Al became deadly serious. “The Democrats know Hillary Clinton’s candidacy is in deep kimschi. The FBI chief’s summary of the investigation into her e-mails was disastrous. She’s sinking in the polls, and nearly 70% of voters now say they don’t trust her. Absent a miracle, she’s headed for the crash of the Hindenburg, so Dems are going into overdrive. It’s outrageous to say it, but Hinckley’s release simply can’t be a coincidence. Why now, of all times? My theory – and I’m sticking to it – is that some radical Democrats hope that Hinckley might ‘solve’ the Trump problem and clear the way for Hillary. In a twisted way, Hinckley is all they have left.”

I was used to Al’s occasional, semi-hysterical rants about various political issues, but this one seemed different. Al was sounding less like an excited Sonny Corleone and more like the old Don teaching young Michael. It brought to mind my desultory conversation with a fellow movie-patron last week, as we waited for our wives outside the ladies’ room after watching the new D’Souza film, “Hillary’s America.” Using my best Don Corleone impression, I joked with the guy sitting nearby in the corridor.

“The Clinton people will set up a meeting with D’Souza, and on the way to it he’ll be assassinated…” I rasped. My chance companion chuckled wryly, and added a prediction of his own. “That’s the only way they’ll be able to stop Trump,” he said, before he strolled away with his wife. (He didn’t look or sound anything like Don Corleone.)

That not-entirely-funny exchange has niggled at me ever since. Is it possible that Al is right? And did my anonymous movie-theater compadre see something that I was too dense to see or even imagine? The possibility is troubling. Nevertheless, although I’m a life-member of the Grassy Knoll Society, I’m not quite there with the conspiratorial idea that Democrats released Hinckley into the population like a lethal bacillus intended to do harm. It’s probably just a curious “coincidence,” after all.

But it is clear that Democrats no longer consider Donald Trump just an ignorant buffoon whom they can ignore. They are throwing the kitchen sink at him. This evidently includes orchestrated “protests” designed to make the public think The Donald is a radical and dangerous figure. New information indicates that Democrat operatives – notably the billionaire George Soros – are funding Black Lives Matter protestors, as well as the so-called “grass roots” protestors who “spontaneously” show up to disrupt Donald Trump’s political rallies. (As Mr. Dooley famously said, “politics ain’t beanbag…”)

Despite all this, Mr. Trump has overcome all of the ridicule and brickbats thrown at him, not just by Democrats but by bigwigs in his own party. Mitt Romney – who blew a sure win in 2012 against a riotously vulnerable president with a disastrous fiscal record – has announced that he won’t vote for Mr. Trump in the fall. And Ted Cruz, Mr. Trump’s primary-opponent who waged a valiant, but losing fight for the nomination, has refused to endorse Mr. Trump because of comments he made about Senator Cruz’s wife and father. (A private meeting followed by joint public statements of unity could heal this rift, but so far neither man has made a move in that direction.) Members of the Never Trump faction – encouraged by commentators like George Will – have declared undying opposition to the flamboyant mogul. (One wonders: did they all flunk arithmetic? Don’t they see that their efforts might put Mrs. Clinton in the Oval Office? Do they prefer that?)

Mr. Trump lacks political experience, but he is obviously smart enough to surround himself with advisors who do have that experience and knowledge. He is still the Donald Trump who delighted crowds, dismayed the Establishment, and won more primary votes than any candidate in history. But he is now soberly going about the essential business of securing his own base. His choice of Mike Pence – a popular and successful conservative Indiana governor – as his vice-presidential running mate was a clear overture to the conservative and Christian wings of the GOP. He is doing less “popping off” on the stump, and more deliberate speaking from prepared texts. He is learning how to gain the trust of Republicans who have been unsure if he was really presidential timber.

Mr. Trump also continues to reach out to Reagan Democrats and Bernie voters who feel abandoned by their party. “I am your voice,” he declared in a recent speech. He believes what some commentators (including Yours Truly) have believed for a long time – that a majority of the American people simply will not accept Hillary Clinton. He knows he can’t reach the Gravy Train Cadre, who would vote for a yellow dog on the Democratic ticket, but he believes he can attract the “center” of the electorate.

Have you noticed how Mrs. Clinton’s poll numbers never move above 42 or 43 percent, while Mr. Trump’s numbers have been nearly the same? Where is that other 16 or 17 percent? I believe those voters don’t want Hillary, but they’re unsure about Mr. Trump. He has an opportunity to bring them to his side, and he is making a game try to do it.

Is John Hinckley’s release really the Democrats’ try for a Hail Mary pass that will change the game? I don’t know, and neither does Al. Certainly the timing is curious. All we can say for sure is that TV-reruns of Hinckley’s shoot-‘em-up will divert the public for a few days and get their attention off the Democrats’ hysteric (I mean “historic”) convention and away from The Donald’s highballing train. He is on a roll, and his opponents are in full panic mode. (Many of them hate football, too.)

We live in interesting times…