Dignity Lost

A number of you inquired as to why I have not written in this blog for quite some time.  Thank you. The not so simple answer is that the news, social discussions, and just about everything else is consumed by our current presidential campaign.  More specifically, but not solely, it is consumed by the antics of the Republican nominee Mr. Donald J. Trump (R-Mar-a-Lago).  This is both depressing and scary. However, I thought that with the saturation of campaign news, there was little to nothing that I could add of substance so I wrote nothing.  However, after the events occurring yesterday in Washington D.C., I cannot help but write about it.  Mr. Trump’s performance (because, indeed that is what it was) summed up everything that is wrong with his campaign.  More on that in a minute.

There are a number of things I do not understand about both candidates.  I probably never will. However I think that history will not treat those of us voting this year well.  Among the many things that puzzle me is the glaring discrepancy between the “opaque” and “secretive” world of the Democrat’s nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the “open” and “straight forward” candidacy of Mr. Trump. What did I miss?

Secretary Clinton is under attack for her emails.  Not for what is in them, but for the fact that she used a different server and some of the material in them was deemed classified.  I cannot and will not defend her use of the server or anything else related to the issue.  I will say, however, that in my personal experience dealing with high-ranking members of the federal government, military and civilian, Republican and Democrat, I have seen similar activity.  I did not condone it then — indeed I tried where I could to keep it from happening — and I don’t condone it now.  But let’s be realistic. (I could also get into a nuanced discussion about why it happens.  I could also discuss how the State Department has a tradition of over classifying cables and other documents to get people to read them.  If it isn’t marked “Secret” or higher, no one will read it because of the sheer volume of material generated daily.  But that discussion will be for a different day.)  But let me repeat. I have heard little to no criticism of the contents — of actual decisions being made as revealed in those e-mails — just that they exist.

Likewise, I have heard significant criticism of the Clinton Foundation.  Mainly that the Clintons have “gotten rich” off the work done by the foundation.  Again, I have heard no criticism of the work that they do or how the money is distributed, just that if it involves the Clintons it must be crooked.  Too much money involved for it not to be.

Secretary Clinton released fifteen years of her tax returns.  Likewise much information has been released about contributors to her campaign and to the Clinton Foundation.

Secretary Clinton also put out information on her health that most physicians said was complete in giving a snapshot of her current health.

For Secretary Clinton, it is all out there — the good, the bad and the ugly — all of it is available for anyone with an interest to read it and crunch the numbers, review the decisions, see how it happened.

Compare that to Mr. Trump who, other than a synopsis of his health data — which several physicians say is incomplete in portraying his current health, especially given that one of his five deferments from the Viet Nam draft involved his health — has released nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  Zero.  No tax returns.  No information on the donors to his foundation.  No information on how that money is spent.  No information on how he funds his foundation.  The small amount of information that is available screams out to me that we need to know much more about all of it.

Apparently, he has not contributed to his own foundation in nine years.  Apparently, he has used foundation money to buy personal gifts for himself, including a portrait of himself for $20,000 and an autographed Tim Tebow helmet for $10,000.  And he really helped out the charity he charged $250,000 for the use of his mansion for one night.  He has already been fined by the IRS for making a political contribution from his so-called charitable foundation to the campaign of Florida’s Attorney General. He also held a fund-raiser for her.  It was then such a surprise that she decided not to investigate Trump University even though many citizens of her state complained that they were ripped off.  Talk about “pay for play!”  The list goes on.  And yet, Mr. Trump continues to take us for chumps and refuses to reveal any private information that every other candidate, including his own Vice Presidential nominee, has already done.  Shame on us for letting him get away with it.

More troubling are his business connections.  A recent issue of Newsweek magazine delineated the extent of his foreign business dealings and the fact that many of those deals could be made or broken by decisions he will make should he become the president.  There are serious conflicts of interest at play. And yet, there are calls for the Clintons to dissolve their foundation and nothing about Mr. Trump divesting himself of his business interests.  Why is that? He said that should he get elected, he will put his business into a “blind trust” run by his children.  That is not a blind trust and he knows it.  A blind trust is when a third-party — not a relative, not a former business partner — that has no monetary interest in the success or failure of the enterprise runs it.  Accordingly, he would have to sell all of his business interests around the world and turn the proceeds over to someone else to manage for him in order to make it a blind trust.  It will never happen.  I am not necessarily arguing that he should sell it all off, but I am arguing that we the voters should have a clear and unfiltered view of the consequences of our votes.

(A slight pause for a tip of the hat to intrepid reporters, usually print journalists, who are out doing the good ol’ fashioned drudgery of hitting the pavement, asking questions and tracking down records.  We may not know as much about either candidate if there were not people ready to do so professionally.)

So Secretary Clinton is devious and hides stuff but Mr. Trump does not?  That may be his ultimate con job on the American people.

All of this came together for me yesterday and reinforced what a tragic mistake it would be for Mr. Trump to become our next president.  First, he scammed most of the cable news channels into covering his “major announcement” live, and then stood them up for nearly an hour.  Then, he used the opportunity to advertise the “greatness” of his new hotel in the Old Post Office building, a landmark building in Washington D.C. that is now emblazoned with his name.  Finally, his “major announcement” was that “President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period.”  Wow. Just wow.  After five years of a racially based slam on our duly elected president, Mr. Trump walks off without another word. Except for the most unbelievable part of all.  According to him, it was Secretary Clinton’s fault that the whole birther movement began and he, The Donald, was able to finally fix it. No matter that the appropriate birth certificate was shown years ago and oh by the way, since his mother was an American citizen, Barack Obama would also be an American citizen no matter where he was born.  As usual, Mr. Trump takes no responsibility for his own actions and falsely blames any problems on someone else. The usual traits of a great leader.

Here is why this is the Trump campaign in a nut shell.  His primary purpose for the “news conference” (no questions were taken from the press) was to tout his new hotel. Yet another display of his ego and the fact that his desire to make money off of any and all opportunities is his number one priority.  Not the country.  As an after thought, he also included that our president might actually be an American. With malice of fore-thought he then blamed it all on Secretary Clinton.  A bold face lie that has been debunked so many times we do not even have to pretend that it could possibly be true.  Given his demeanor and the whole atmospherics around this “huge” announcement (some have come to call it his I’m-a-hostage-and-they-are-making-me-say-this statement) he was clearly giving a wink and a nod to his birther supporters that he may have to read the script to get elected but we all know that President Obama really isn’t “one of us.”

This is why I am baffled that so many people still support Mr. Trump.  I have said before that I am no fan of Secretary Clinton, but given the choice between the two, there is only danger ahead if Mr. Trump is elected.  Although I generally disagree, I get the arguments about how she cannot be allowed to appoint Supreme Court justices, or that we need to shake things up, or that the economy is recovering too slowly, or a dozen other arguments that cause people to hold their collective noses and vote for Mr. Trump.  But there is far more at stake. As the conservative columnist Michael Gerson stated more eloquently than I can in an opinion piece last week, Mr. Trump is giving validation to racism in America and unleashing the worst parts of our society. The birther issue is just a sample of the un-American and un-Constitutional issues Mr. Trump espouses. Michael Gerson points out that in his words and actions Mr. Trump gives main stream support to racially tinged extremism that in turn validates the positions of white nationalists.

Time and again in conversations with those who claim that they will vote for Mr. Trump I hear something along the lines of “I don’t agree with everything he says, but…” and then go on to disavow his extreme statements and actions but give a reason to vote for him.  “I don’t agree with 30% of what he says, but we cannot have Hillary Clinton in the White House” is a common refrain.

Here’s my problem.

The 30% (I would say it is more like 80%) that people say they disagree with Mr. Trump about are exactly the things that make us the country we are.  We cannot have a functioning economy for all, we cannot have a fair judicial system, we cannot address difficult issues like immigration, we cannot function as the United States if at the heart of his campaign is a dark and dangerous refrain of “us” against “them” and a disregard for the values and traditions of our nation that make us already great.

Mr. Trump will leave a lasting legacy behind. Unfortunately, it will be one of hate and a nation that lost its dignity.