America’s Problem: Leadership sans Confidence
Absent a major political tsunami between now and the end of the summer, one can safely assume that Donald Trump will be the Republican Party’s candidate for president of the United States and that Hillary Clinton will be the standard bearer for the Democrats. Both individuals will then spend the time after their respective party’s conventions telling all who will listen that they are best prepared to lead the United States for at least the next four years, if not longer. Sad to say, but both of them fail miserably when measured by the most important aspect of leadership, namely their inability to inspire confidence.
Trump, the misogynist who wants to block all Muslims from entering the United States; who repeats time and time again that the way to stop illegal immigration from Mexico is to build a wall that he will make Mexico pay for; who claims that he can nullify every trade agreement that exists between the US and other countries; and whose knowledge of the intricacies international diplomacy is distilled by him into one word, that diplomacy is just about making a “deal.” None of this inspires confidence.
Add to that his clear misstatement of facts on a regular basis and the outlook becomes of even more concern. In one speech he said that America will cancel its trade agreements with Japan because “they don’t buy anything from us anyway.” But the fact is that last year the US exported over $60 billion worth of goods and service to Japan…..and that is a long way from not buying anything. And what about his plan to keep businesses from leaving America by taxing their production? That’s what he said he would do about Carrier Corp. who decided to close their US operation and manufacture air conditioners in Mexico. His solution to keep them in the US? Add a 40% import duty to whatever Carrier exports to the US. Really? Will that keep them in the US? Does this kind of thinking inspire confidence? Hardly.
On the issue of his relationship with Israel and even the Jewish community in the US which columnist Peter Beinart recently labelled “the most vulnerable minority in America,” it is almost comical to watch Trump deal with that. At a recent meeting with American Jewish leaders in New York he felt compelled to get Jews who hold senior positions in his business to be present in the room. Why? To show that he is unbiased in hiring? Or to say “see I love Jews, look they even work for me.” And if that fails he falls back on the fact that his daughter converted to Judaism and married Jared Kushner, as if he had anything at all to do with that. It certainly does not add to his bona fides.
As for Clinton, while some say she is the most qualified person ever to run for president in the history of the US, polls indicate she has incredibly low statistics when it comes to trust. From the firings of White House travel office employees in 1993 to the 2015 email scandal that still haunts her campaign, Clinton has a history of deflections, deception, and untruths. Her supporters will explain that she has been the victim of outrageous attacks from extremist Republicans, and there’s some truth to that. Vince Foster killed himself; he wasn’t killed. Whitewater was a screwy land deal, not a scandal. But the sleazy acts of a vast right-wing conspiracy don’t give Clinton a free pass.
Even admirers of Clinton worry about her credibility deficit. In Nevada, as in Iowa and New Hampshire, Democratic voters who cared most about backing a candidate who’s honest and trustworthy or one who cares about people like them overwhelmingly supported Sanders, according to exit polls. Those looking for experience or electability overwhelmingly backed Clinton.
As for her concern about our needs as Jews and Israelis, my opinions are informed by looking at where she comes from. Clinton grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois, a bedroom suburb just northwest of the Chicago city line. The northern boundary of that community was Dempster Street which ran 10 miles east to west from Evanston to Des Plaines. Just north of Dempster Street was an area of unincorporated Cook County which has a Des Plaines address. Sometime during the late 1970s Park Ridge successfully annexed the 10 square block area of unincorporated Cook County from Dempster Street north to Golf Road, save for one half of one block in the middle of the annexed area. That half of one square block contained a synagogue and the city fathers of lily white Park Ridge could not cotton to have a synagogue in their town, the town where Clinton grew up. So, no surprises there about some of her less than positive ideas about Israel given where she was raised.
From the standpoint of someone like me who grew up in America and spent the first 40+ years of his life there, the evolution of American politics into a choice between two people, neither of whom inspire confidence, is simply devastating. While I still get a special feeling when I see the stars and stripes fluttering in the breeze at the US Consulate here in Jerusalem and at the US Embassy in Tel Aviv, the America that made me feel that way no longer exists. The fact that Trump and Clinton are the best America can produce is clear testimony as to why America’s position as a light unto the nations now burns ever so much more dimly.