By Mark Scheinbaum
MIAMI (4 May 2016)—Friends and relatives are not seeking my wisdom but their own reassurance of confusion when they keep asking me: Trump or Clinton?
As much as I loved the Brewster’s Millions, “none of the above” might not be a viable choice this year.
Heading into the 2016 Indiana Primary and now with strong victories by Donald Trump on the GOP side and Sen. Bernie Sanders for the Democrats, the first thing that came to my mind was that Sanders can clinch a win for The Donald.
If Sanders tried for independent ballot lines, a la Ross Perot, he would capture many independents, siphon millions of Clinton votes, and insure an electoral plurality to Trump. But, this is not likely to happen, if for no other reason than the arcane election rules which have already allocated ballot slots in most states.
So, here is my problem. Donald Trump has strengths, and problems.
If a time warp sent us back to summer 2015 to watch a steadfast, arrogant, on target, often “creative” interpreter of facts and history grab microphone after microphone, folks would call it a “brilliant strategic and brilliant nomination campaign.” As the late baseball player and broadcaster Joe Garagiola wrote about growing up in a tough St. Louis neighborhood with his lifelong pal Yogi Berra, “For those who hate you, no explanation is possible. For those who love you, no explanation is necessary.”
With all his personal and business blemishes there have been huge successes. He is a promoter. Ronald Reagan was a promoter. Bill Clinton was a promoter. Give him the baton and let him conduct a personalismo and charismatic administration which he wants you to believe will be much better than that of the political hacks in Washington, but certainly no worse. This is a big leap of faith but one millions of primary voters believe.
His trade policy is simplistic but compelling. Don’t suck from the breast of USA infrastructure, free public education, libraries, police and fire protection, tax incentives and credits from the people of Syracuse, Jackson, Baltimore, or Oakland for 40 or 50 years and then claim your success is tied to plants in Nogales, Tegucigalpa, Shanghai, and Manila in order to survive. For a CEO to play to shareholders with the claim we now owe Cleveland or Lansing nothing legally, is to negate the moral and ethical reality that you owe the United States and its taxpayers everything.
But: It plays well at Trump rallies. It plays well to many voters.
Yet the lack of understanding of the complexities of bureaucratic vs. corporate management raises many questions. Keeping mostly hard working Mexicans from arriving in San Diego might be a local crime issue but is not much of a national security threat. Keeping Islamic terrorists from sneaking into the USA from Mexico while posing as Mexicans, well, that is a bit more complicated and serious.
If a President Trump brings non-lobbyists and non recycled previous cabinet members into the White House, Trump as with many others could rise to the office and surprise his critics. But his lack of patience for criticism, his penchant for holding a grudge, and an ego larger than the Goodyear Blimp which throws accuracy and facts to the wind, creates a revisionist History According to Trump that would make even Stalin drool with envy.
But we have heard this stuff before. John F. Kennedy would take orders from the Vatican; Barry Goldwater would launch atomic warfare, Barack Obama will close Guantanamo tomorrow, Gerald Ford is too clumsy….
A Trump presidency is not going to destroy America.
Hillary Clinton presents some special problems for the electorate in general and some loyal Democrats in particular.
At first it might seem the worst kind of intellectual dishonesty to evaluate Secretary Clinton in tandem with the campaigns and administrations of hubby Bill Clinton. But dynasties in U.S. politics, be they named Roosevelt, Kennedy, Bush or Clinton have a way of fogging the objective evaluation of each individual member of the clan.
In the case of Hillary one might always wonder about one aspect of the deeply personal tragedy of the Lewinski White House Sex Scandal, and if it provided a “tell” of sorts to a Hillary under stress and her overall personal and political agenda.
The whole thing smells a bit too much like a loyal wife of a young state attorney general and governor, presidential candidate and victor, and “power behind the throne” who would do anything and perhaps everything to self-promote her name, career, and agenda.
What Bill Clinton did or did not do with his genitals is more of a consenting adult issue than a political legacy issue. Marital infidelity and emotionally battered wives are not unique to Washington. Yet, Hillary was the spouse who even in the quasi-State, quasi-juridical world of the District of Columbia, had to stay silent on a larger issue of women’s rights: the de facto, if perhaps not the de jure violation of a female intern’s working conditions by her boss. Even if a stalking female intern sets her aim on roping or compromising a married superior, the superior is the responsible party. Hillary Clinton faced with these circumstances in any public venue would have denounced the male.
But chastising her husband, divorce, or public declarations on the legal and ethical aspects of any young female being attracted to, lured to, or sexually active with a powerful and influential male boss, was not part of the White House catharsis many of us recall. What we do recall is a Clinton work ethic where UN Ambassador Bill Richardson (among others) were called away from critical international issues to assuage the concerns of the young woman, offer her safe career haven and job choices, and basically rally the old Democratic hacks around the campfire of fraud and deceit.
The Clinton political style was replicated in Vice President Al Gore taking charge of questionable fund raising activities in phone banks possibly illegally domiciled actually on Executive Branch property, and when facing inquiries again the Clinton machine obfuscated and trivialized the alleged offenses.
A pattern emerged which sent the First Lady, an electoral novice, into a vacant Senatorial race in New York State in the best tradition of the Kennedys and old-time Yankee carpetbaggers of the Old South.
Some friends think that a lack of interest in what happened in Benghazi in the middle of the night, or who takes what secret emails home to review in a non-secure manner indicates blind support for Hillary Clinton. But perhaps if it is a punishable crime for bureaucrats not to know or respond to crises around the world at any moment, or to never violate classified rules—well, just perhaps the jails would be so crowded that even minor pot offenders serving hard time might have to be pushed back into the street. It is unlikely any of these allegations will rise to indictments before November elections.
But those who feel squirmy and uneasy by the many points made by Bernie Sanders about Inside the Beltway Politics Clinton Style, will mull over many aspects of a Hillary Clinton presidency,
As with her husband who at first denounced special interests, a transition team for Hillary would likely have the Robert Reich, Ira Magaziner, and Robert Rubins vying for positions for friendly friends and friendlier lobbyists. Half a generation ago Ross Perot tried to break this cycle, and a generation ago Rep. Shirley Chisholm tried the same thing as a black woman, and both failed.
What Trump and Sanders both got right is that “business as usual” in the normal GOP and Dem circles is, well, business as usual.
So, The Court of Public Opinion is now in session.
The American electorate is actually easily misdirected with issues of abortion, gun rights and responsibilities, free trade agreements, offshore tax havens of the super and not-so-super wealthy, and health care which half the country hates but hardly anyone refuses to use. Single-issue voters are the subject of lots of polling and media attention. But personalities, gut feelings, and sometimes very personal variables take hold in the voting booth.
In a year of flawed candidates and wasteful—almost to the point of a fiscal perversity—campaigns, it is Donald Trump who has one flaw which should not be excused or forgiven. It is the Scapegoat Flaw.
“Pssssst, Donald. Pssst! Over here, listen up…”
Trump can try to levy a Western Union surcharge where 12 cents or 2 per cent of every wire transfer of funds back home to Mexico is a tax to build his “wall,” but the flaw remains.
No Mexicans, Guatemalans, or even Salvadorian illegals—or legals—were the proximate cause of the fall of the House of Lehman, or the worst stock market crash in 80 years. Countrywide, Bear, Goldman, Merrill, AIG et al were not shaken by an excess of gardeners from Tegucigalpa invading Phoenix or Austin.
Foreigners, including those who were smuggled into the USA to do the jobs neither you, your kids, or your grandkids want to do, are not moving their corporate headquarters to P.O. Boxes in Bermuda, the Caymans or the British Virgin Islands.
It is horrible enough to see the occasional druggie or deviant from another country kill or maim an innocent victim in the United States, without making broad declarations, generalizations, and stereotypical remarks about ALL members of any race, nationality or religion.
In this environment, the political hackdom of Hillary is more tolerable and probably more palatable to the nation and the world, than a dumbed down prejudiced view of the world from The Donald.
Political Scientist and former UPI Newsman Mark Scheinbaum is an investment executive based in Miami.