Are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump the same person?

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Story highlights

  • Timothy Stanley: Clinton and Trump are running against each other for president, but in many ways they are the same
  • He says the similarities run from dying their hair to being New Yorkers, to being one percenters -- and under investigation

Timothy Stanley, a conservative, is a historian and columnist for Britain's Daily Telegraph. He is the author of "Citizen Hollywood: How the Collaboration Between L.A. and D.C. Revolutionized American Politics." The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)Are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump the same person? The normal test for that is asking if they've ever been seen in the same room together -- and, OK, they have. At Trump's third wedding. Clinton says she and Bill only went because they thought "it would be fun."

But it's more than that: Power also attracts power; egos are drawn to ego. And when chatting over a glass of champagne at the reception, they might have found they have a surprising amount in common.
    1. Age. Clinton is 68; Trump turns 70 in a few days. They're both baby boomers and their lives followed two very "Sixties" trajectories. Clinton, the young idealist, grew up to become a left-wing activist. Trump, the square WASP, grew up to become a filthy rich yuppie. They're like Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford in "The Way We Were." Without the romance. Thank God.
    2. There are some things they agree on. Seriously. Trump flirts with extremism but on many practical questions his instincts are moderate. Both candidates pledge to preserve Social Security. Both have found nice things to say about Planned Parenthood. Both think it's time to spend more on infrastructure. Both probably think Bernie Sanders is nuts.
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    3. They've been on television since television was invented, or thereabouts. I was born in 1982. Clinton entered the Arkansas governors' mansion in 1979; Trump was making headlines for his real estate deals in the early 1980s. There hasn't been a year of my life in which one of these two wasn't explaining to Barbara Walters why they're misunderstood/innocent of all charges/fighting back/still happily married. Their lives are rolling episodes of "The View."
    4. They're members of the 1%. Both rail against the iniquities of modern capitalism ... and both of them have made a heap of money out of it. Clinton is thought to be worth about $15.3 million -- an income boosted by speeches given to Goldman Sachs that were so boring that attendees say they can't remember what was in them. No one's ever said that about Donald Trump. His precise net worth is disputed: There's evidence he inflates it — a lot. But a man who flies everywhere in his own branded aircraft probably doesn't dine out on food stamps.
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    5. They color their hair. Sexism works both ways. Yes, women have to put up with the pay gap, but at least Clinton can fess up to using dye. Men, by contrast, try to pretend that they're just naturally cherry red. The evolution of Trump's hair is fascinating: from blond to ginger to gray and all the way back to a kind of dirty mustard. His bathroom sink must look like an artist's palette.
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    6. They're New Yorkers. Clinton has the politics: liberal, big machine. Trump has the machismo attitude. Of the two, however, Clinton distinguishes herself by knowing how to eat a pizza. With the fingers, not the fork.
    7. They have marital issues. Clinton has had to suffer Bill's adultery. Trump's "publicist" says he's irresistible to women, including a young Madonna. And he had an extramarital affair with Marla Maples when he was married to Ivana Trump. The same year Trump sued his ex-wife for a tell-all book, 1992, Clinton was on "60 Minutes" to say she was standing by her man.
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    8. They face investigations for potential misconduct. Clinton for alleged use and abuse of government email. Trump for setting up Trump University, for which he is facing three lawsuits that argue the program defrauded thousands of people of millions. Former students say they were told they'd be meeting the head professor himself only to be invited to have their photo taken with a cardboard Trump cutout. Someone should write a piece of speculative fiction in which both candidates wind up running for office from jail.
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    9.They share a lot family history. Clinton's grandparents were British Isles stock. Trump's paternal grandparents came from Germany and his mother was raised on an island in Scotland. So both the candidates are mostly the descendants of 19th century WASP arrivals but, and this is interesting, they both have daughters who married Jewish men -- Ivanka Trump even converted. Incidentally, you know the federal judge, Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over the Trump University case, and who Trump calls a "hater" because of his Mexican heritage? Curiel's father arrived in the United States in the 1920s. Trump's mother landed in 1930. Now who seems more American?
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    10. They are loathed by large swathes of the population. Trump has a net negative of -33%. Clinton only does slightly better with -21%. Both are widely regarded as untrustworthy. The only point of contrast might be how well voters judge that they lie. Clinton's fabrications are well polished: One senses that she could be trusted to lie on the world stage and not embarrass us. Trump's fabrications are more transparent but also more fun. He lies loudly. The magic beans he sells are "gonna be huuuuuge."
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    Yes, there are a lot of differences between Clinton and Trump -- and the election probably provides the starkest choice in terms of personality and outlook in decades. But their similarities suggest that in many ways this election is business as usual.
    Clinton claims to be on the side of the little guy, but is far too rich and cozy with Wall Street to be a populist. And Trump talks about jobs, greatness and China -- but made his billions in ways that some call unethical.
    Look beyond the rhetoric and America still seems like a country run by the rich for the rich.