Troubling Times Ahead

As I ponder current events, I find that I am deeply troubled by what is taking place.  It is troubling on so many levels, from today’s tragic terrorist attacks in Brussels Belgium — which appear to be part of a concerted attack on Western Europe — to the emergency closing of the Washington D.C. Metro system for 24 hours last week due to serious safety concerns — yet another stark reminder of our deteriorating infrastructure.  And of course, I find the current political season to be the same old dreary one that we have experienced over the last several years — only worse.  Normally, I am a pretty optimistic individual, but that pool of optimism is quickly drying up.  As many of you know, I often look to history to keep things in perspective, and believe it or not, we have had some dark days in our nation’s history that used to make the current one pale in comparison.  Now I cannot help but wonder if future historians will look at this era as one of the darkest.

As troubling as recent world and domestic events may be, I am deeply concerned about the tone and pronouncements coloring our presidential primary campaigns.  As I said before, it is difficult to believe that out of our entire population, the remaining five candidates are the best that our country has to offer. All five are flawed in some way.  That said, it appears that our future president is one of those five.  More specifically, all wishing aside, it is nearly certain that next year at this time we will have either a President Trump or a President Clinton.

I try to be even-handed, while expressing my opinion, in my posted pieces.  I find it impossible to be even-handed when thinking of a President Trump.  In his words, it would be a disaster. He has no real policy other than vague assertions that we should believe him that he will solve every problem because he is such a great negotiator.  Where he does offer some specificity, as rare as that may be, his policies are non-sensical or likely to cause serious damage to our nation as we know it.  He, along with Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), have certainly tapped into a vibrant and energized element of our society that is totally dissatisfied with business as usual.  Got it.  Unfortunately, other Republicans and Democrats were slow to “get it” or never wanted to get it.

However, to me Senator Sanders is far less dangerous than Mr. Trump.  The Senator is way off base in his economic policies.  They are mostly feel good proposals that if enacted would bankrupt our country and end up making the economy worse than it already is.  His appeal emanates from frustration with the economic collapse of 2007 and 2008 where everyday workers and investors feel they were had by the Wall Street titans and that the average citizen has no chance of competing in a rigged system.  In this he may be right as reflected in the fact that all these years later, no one from Wall Street has been held personally accountable for the mess they created.  To get a sense of how that system works, try reading The Big Short (or take the short-cut and watch the recent movie version of it).

Mr. Trump is far worse.  Forget for the moment (as difficult as that is) his lack of truthfulness and his narcissistic, rabble rousing, profane, violence inducing, hateful comments about other religions, ethnic groups and women.  And forget for the moment his not so veiled threat of “riots” if he does not get the nomination. Let’s instead just take a sampling of what he proposes to do as president.

He has repeatedly said that he would “change the law” covering his ability to sue individuals that criticize him.  Suing people is apparently his hobby.  More to the point, if you listen to what he proposes, he plans to stifle our most fundamental right — the freedom of speech enshrined in our Constitution as the First Amendment (maybe he finds it hard to believe that it is even more important than the right to carry weapons). He is notoriously thin-skinned and lashes out at anyone that criticizes him.  He is obsessed. As president, he would get criticism almost on a daily basis — it’s what we do to our presidents.  What actions would he initiate as he acts out against those critics?  It appears our right to free speech would be explicitly inhibited, or at least implicitly stifled through repeated investigations of dissenters.

Today during an interview on NBC in reaction to the attacks in Brussels he was asked if he would use “any means necessary” to get information from those already arrested.  He said yes.  To make sure that they understood him, the interviewers asked directly if he meant torture.  He said yes.  And not just “enhanced interrogation techniques” such as waterboarding.  He said torture.  To be sure, he said that he would “have to follow the law” which now precludes torture, but cavalierly added that he would change the law to allow it.  Remember that he has already announced that he would kill the families of terrorists, regardless of whether they were aware of their relative’s activities or not.

Yesterday, he said that NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the basic building block of our foreign policy and the collection of our closest allies) was no longer relevant and that he would consider withdrawing from it.  A few days ago he was asked who his foreign policy advisers would be were he president and he famously said

“I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.  I know what I’m doing and I listen to a lot of people, I talk to a lot of people and at the appropriate time I’ll tell you who the people are.  But my primary consultant is myself and I have a good instinct for this stuff.”

An ego that has no bounds.  To be fair, yesterday he announced a list of five advisers that are, shall we say, less well-known than one would expect.  But at least one, George Popadopolous lists being a representative to the 2012 Model U.N. in Geneva as one of his qualifications, so he’s got that going for him.

I could go on, the list is endless and as I have written about before, Mr. Trump may actually be resurrecting the Know Nothing Party.  I resisted writing about Mr. Trump because he has over saturated the media and there is not much more to say that has not already been said.  Every outrageous thing he says or does is covered and nothing seems to slow his drive to the Republican nomination.

Equally confounding are the Republican leaders that say they will support Mr. Trump as the nominee even as the call him a “con man” a “charlatan” and other monikers that one would think might keep them from supporting the bully.  Apparently “winning” for Republicans is more important than the country’s well-being.  Well done, Senator Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) for saying that Mr. Trump is a danger to our nation and that you will never support him.  If only others that purport to disavow his statements would take a similar stand.

To date, there has been no substantive debate in any forum of Mr. Trump’s proposed policies or ideas on solving real problems other than vague assertions that it will be “great.”  This is no way to find that person most qualified to be president.  If there can be no substantive debate on the issues (and I do not doubt that Mr. Trump is an intelligent person, he is just woefully uninformed and to date has demonstrated no desire to learn), then we will see a campaign that is about as dirty as our country has seen in over a century.  Our only hope is that there will be no more debate over the size of Mr. Trump’s hands and what that means for his other physical attributes.

The reason that I am primarily writing about him (Senator Sanders is also unrealistic, but he is not unhinged) is two-fold.  I am very concerned about two classes of people who are emerging from this campaign.  Let me explain.

Mr. Trump appeals to a segment of society that has been well documented by the media and by the Trump campaign itself.  I do not need to talk about the fringe elements of his supporters.  I will say that I am not surprised that we have such people in the United States, but I am surprised that there are so many.  My concerns are about different groups of people.

I am increasingly coming across people who I know and respect, intelligent people, with high paying jobs, good upright citizens that say they plan to vote for Mr. Trump.  Their reasons vary but generally amount to a frustration that “regular” politicians need to be given a message that business as usual no longer cuts it and he seems to be the person that can really shake things up.  Usually they go on to say that former Secretary Hillary Clinton may be a better candidate, but they foresee that if the Republicans continue to control the Congress  that there will be four to eight more years of partisan fighting and gridlock and our nation’s needs will not be addressed.  Therefore, they will vote for Mr. Trump.  Scary. When asked about all his pronouncements that inherently trample the Constitution and are, frankly, un-American, they often reply that “he won’t really do that.”  Well, I say, I guess that means he is lying.  The response is often that all politicians lie to get in office and that he will “change” if elected.  Personally, I find no logic to this position because if he is not a politician, which is why they say they like him, then how come they think he will act like a politician once in office?  And if they think he will be like other politicians, then why vote for him?  Most importantly, we cannot take the chance.  He may actually do what he says.  The man seems to have no limits.

Equally concerning to me, are other bright, upstanding citizens that say if their only choices are Mr. Trump or Secretary Clinton, then they will not vote.  This is extremely dangerous.  Their protest will be a vain, misguided undertaking.  Someone will be president, like it or not.  Besides being an abdication of their duty as a citizen, they will most likely end up with a president they like less than the other person. Anecdotally, those that might otherwise vote for Secretary Clinton, but are rightly troubled by the baggage she carries, are the most likely to say they will not vote.  If that occurs, say hello to President Trump.