This is the most challenging presidential election ever for people of conscience. The first instincts are to rationalize away the personal shortcomings of your presidential candidate and get behind your team. When the magnitude of the Trump offense (or conversely, the Hillary offense) expands again, the answer is to sit it out - concentrate on other races; think about what you will tell your kids; tell yourself, to coin a phrase, "What Difference Does It Make?" That may work on domestic policy, but not internationally.
On domestic issues the direction of the country is a compromise between the president and the Congress and having Hillary in the White House with a Republican House and potentially a Republican Senate would represent four years of muddle with somewhat moderate union-friendly Democratic executive appointees doing battle with Republican budgets, oversight hearings, and occasional policy dictates. It would look a lot less like the first two Obama years when the Democrats controlled everything and gave us Obamacare, a hugely corrupt "Stimulus Plan", and trillion dollar deficits; and it would look more like the years of gridlock which have followed. That is not satisfying for the Republican base; it would be a missed opportunity to roll back regulations and move toward balanced budgets; it would be a missed opportunity to accelerate the growth of the economy and fix healthcare; it would be a missed opportunity to restore the balance between public safety and civil rights. But all of that would be temporary. If deficits are controlled the damage can eventually be reversed.
Not so internationally. There are two good reason to believe that a Hillary Clinton presidency would be an unmitigated disaster:
1. Hillary Clinton was a primary architect of the policies which have caused more pain and suffering in the world than any period since World War II.
2. In the calculus of Democratic Party internal politics, she has determined not to criticize Barack Obama (except to note that Obama's doctrine of "don't do stupid stuff" is not an organizing principle for foreign policy), and Bernie Sanders has avoided foreign policy except for criticizing Clinton's vote fore the Iraq War.
Let's take a quick survey with conjecture about what a Republican president might do differently from Obama / Clinton:
- Everything starts with the Middle East with the unlearned lesson about deposing tyrants that we do not like and leaving chaos in the wake - Iraq; Libya; Syria. Support the Muslim Brotherhood over Hosni Mubarak in Egypt prior to the counter-coup. Lead from behind in combating the JayVee ISIS. Trump would be less frequently engaged, but more forceful. There might be more tyrants, but there would be more stability. If that offends you, hold the thought.
- The United Nations sets the number of refugees globally at a record of some 65 million in 2015, over half of which came from Syria, Somalia, and Afghanistan - two of which which were relatively peaceful when the Nobel Committee gave the incoming US president their Peace Prize. If there is any introspection in the Obama / Clinton brain-trust, it has not made its sway into the news and Madam Secretary has offered no solutions to the human disaster which she helped create.
- Mitt Romney was famously ridiculed for claiming that Russia was our number one international threat. Hillary knew better and presented Foreign Minister Lavrov with the red "Reset" button, erroneously labeled "overcharged." That was before Putin carved up the Ukraine and bombed our proxy army in Syria, and before NATO launched the largest military exercises in decades in Eastern Europe. Some of the execution belongs to Obama and Kerry, but the vision and groundwork belong to Clinton. Trump thinks that he could negotiate with the Russian czar - that would be a fun discussion to watch.
- In the broad sweep of history, the main feature of the Obama/Clinton years may be a nuclear North Korea and soon-to-be nuclear Iran. The only answer on North Korea (aside from some key assassinations) is to get China to lead on stopping proliferation in their neighborhood - Clinton and Kerry failed; maybe Trump could do better. Clinton supports the "peace in our time" deal with the ayatollahs; Trump would tear it up - maybe too late, but the current path leads to a nuclear Middle East within a decade.
- One could add a Trump "eyes wide open" approach to the immigration of young Muslim males from jihadi countries, Obama and Clinton welcoming Cuba back into the world community while the Castro brothers retain their dictatorship, and the massive refusal to enforce our immigration laws.
Actually, on foreign policy where the executive branch plays the singularly dominating role the choice between Clinton and Trump makes a great difference. It is ironic that Trump beats Clinton on management of the economy while she wins on foreign policy where she can paint Trump as mentally unstable - and ignore her inability to name any accomplishments during her disastrous gig at the State Department.
With an X-rated warning to more genteel readers, this week's anti-Brexit video offers a warning as to the developing tone of the US presidential election.
bill bowen - 6/24/16