Part I: Presidential Character
You don’t have to be a porno addict nowadays to get your fill of Internet filth. Just follow the American election.
The candidates are abhorrent.
Their conduct alternates between pathetic and loathsome.
The two-party system – two “big tents,” each with liberal and conservative factions – has broken down. Permanently.
No matter who wins, America will never be the same.
And Israelis don’t seem to get it. To Israelis, America’s their rich Uncle Sam, sometimes cantankerous, but who always comes across. Those days are gone. And it matters for Israelis to understand what has happened, and why.
Which is why I’m writing this series. A four-parter. Today, “Presidential Character.”
Come Sunday, Part 2, “Citizen Character.”
Then Tuesday, Election Day, Part 3, “So What?”
Finally, next Thursday, after it’s (hopefully) all over, Part 4, “So What.”
I hadn’t intended to write this. For several months, this blog has been inactive, due to illness. But as a mostly-housebound pensioner Oleh, I’ve had time to study and to ponder. As an historian of American culture, a former college professor, journalist, author and think tank denizen, a twenty-year Beltway veteran, my background is relevant. I started out as a Goldwater Republican in 1964, a high school student whose advocacy didn’t win me many Jewish accolades. Thirty-eight contentious years later, I left the party and the movement. Good-bye to all that, and all that was happy to say good-bye to me.
Now on to something important.
Presidential elections are never about “policy.” They’re often about issues, and always, one way or another, about character. “Is he presidential timber?” – a 19th century question that, circa 1992, morphed into “Paper or Plastic?” and “Just Hold Your Nose and Vote.”
The emphasis on character is proper. Once you get to the White House, you have no time to learn or to meditate. Too much, mostly bad and often unexpected, is coming at you too fast. You go with what got you there, whatever that might be.
Many presidents initially considered lightweights, from Abe Lincoln to both Roosevelts, Harry Truman, even Ronald Reagan, have done OK. The geniuses – Jefferson, Wilson, Obama – maybe not so. The one man so far to come to the presidency with a serious business background (plus government experience), Herbert Hoover, flopped mightily. But all the truly great presidents, whatever their personal backgrounds and quirks, brought “something else” to the job.
Neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Trump displays any “something else” potential. What you see is what you get, and what you get is ugly, indeed.
Mrs. Clinton may well be the most hated member of the most hated generation in American history. All her life, she has exuded that noxious Baby Boomer combination of Best and Brightest entitlement, moral arrogance, all-purpose petulance and “Looking Out for Number One.” What, exactly, has she accomplished in her long public life, commensurate with positions held and influence wielded? Words. Words. Words. Slick, vague, manipulative words.
She has, however, managed to accumulate a net worth of at least thirty million dollars: not bad for someone who hasn’t held a full-time private sector job since the 1980s, when her husband was governor of Arkansas and she was a partner in the Rose Law Firm, working (presumably) lawyerly hours and tending to her duties as First Lady and mother in her spare time.
Whether she got her money “honestly,” via book deals, lecture fees, etc., or took it in cash under the table, is irrelevant here. She’s bought and paid for, the limousine liberal/Wall Street Democrat par excellence . . . with nothing to offer save more of the corrupt same, and no evident capacity to lead.
As for Mr. Trump, I reprint here, with permission, part of writer Erin Solaro’s take on Mr. Trump. Erin’s been an occasional fill-in for me. Full disclosure: We’re also married.
But first to sum it up, so far.
Since 2001, America has endured arguably its two worst presidents, ever. I expect, no matter who wins, another failed presidency. I would be delighted to be wrong. But it ain’t likely. So we have before us a choice of failures. And it matters, life-and-death matters, to choose the right one.
Erin on Trump (Ellipses Omitted)
“A man for whom the term “super-predator” might justly have been coined.
“Who admits his compulsion to physically and verbally attack women and girls, from his ex-wife and their daughter, to employees and children.
“Whose cruelty debauches and corrupts every man around him, starting with his sons and on to his defenders.
“For whom defrauding contractors, customers and charitable donors is a central business practice.
“Who lies so often that his own lawyers have had to work with him in pairs so they can keep an honest record.
“Who brags of profiting from the immiseration of his fellow citizens and cheats on his taxes.
“Who is beholden for more than half a billion dollars to oligarchs and others of a foreign power that he has invited to meddle in elections on his behalf.
“Who encourages his supporters to engage in election fraud.
“Who demeans and disparages his fellow Americans, incites his followers to violence against their fellow citizens and armed insurrection against the federal government.
“Who talks like a dictator, inciting the assassination of his opponent, threatening to jail her and sue those who credibly accuse him of legitimate crimes, promising to repeal laws and accept only the electoral results he likes. . . .
Next: Part, 2, “Citizen Character.”