Saturday, June 04, 2016

Trump v. Hillary

As predicted, the Trump nomination has split the GOP, at least for this presidential election cycle. Here are two pundits presenting the pros and cons:

Ramesh Ponnuru 

Say what you will about Donald Trump, but he has never lied to the families of dead servicemen. He has not committed himself to appointing to the Supreme Court left-wing justices who would protect a right to abortion found nowhere in the Constitution. He is not promising to raise taxes, or endorsing President Obama’s unconstitutional amnesty and pledging to expand it. And say what you will about Hillary Clinton, but she has never mocked someone’s disability, or tried to link a political rival to the JFK assassination, or encouraged political violence. She has not promised to launch a trade war. She has not said she would order troops to commit war crimes against innocent people. Trump vs. Clinton is a dismal set of election choices for Americans and especially for conservatives. So it is not surprising that conservatives are divided about what to do. Most are backing Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee. Others — especially among conservative writers, activists, and think-tankers — say they will never vote for him. This minority is further divided: Some say that they will vote for the candidate of a third party (maybe the Libertarians, or a new party), and some even say they will vote for Clinton.

Trump supporters cannot believe that some conservatives would rather see Clinton in office than support the Republican nominee — and that they deny that their lack of support for him amounts to effective support for her, and all her prospective works. These supporters admit, many of them, that Trump has serious flaws. But their uncertainty about what he would do in any given situation translates into a certainty that he would do better than she. They allow that Trump’s promise to appoint conservative justices to the Supreme Court cannot be wholly trusted. Getting them confirmed would take a fight, and he has shown very little interest in the issues, from the protection of religious liberty to the restoration of democratic authority over abortion, that it would involve. But any Clinton nominees, they note, are guaranteed to be left-wing activists. 

Anti-Trump conservatives, on the other hand, argue that a President Trump would do more profound and long-lasting damage to conservatism than a President Clinton would. Her liberal initiatives would elicit nearly uniform opposition from Republicans; his would split them. He would make the Republican party less conservative while simultaneously discrediting conservatism with large portions of the public, possibly for many years. For many of Trump’s critics, though, these concerns are not the decisive ones. If they merely disagreed with him on trade and entitlement reform, they would still strongly favor him over Clinton. But they think his morals and personality make him not merely flawed but unfit for the presidency. He is cruel, impulsive, petty, and insecure; he admires dictators; he undermines standards against political violence and bigotry. 

Some conservatives who work in foreign policy have already declared a preference for Clinton. In part that is because Trump sometimes makes Buchananite noises. But even people who disagree with Pat Buchanan on foreign policy have to admit that he has given some serious attention to the topic, as has Clinton. Trump acts as though bluster is all a president needs.

Robert P. George

"With malice towards none, with charity for all; with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right." As usual, Lincoln's advice is wise.

Friends, we are in a terrible fix here. And it is putting some of us at each other's throats. it must not be permitted to do that. Donald Trump is dreadful. Hillary Clinton is horrible. One called for the killing of the innocent family members of terrorists. The other promises to protect the killing of unborn babies up to the point of birth. One shamefully denies that John McCain is a war hero. The other shamelessly lies to grieving families about the circumstances of their loved ones' murders in Benghazi. Neither of the two is fit to be president. Either would be a disaster.

Faced with this appalling choice, some good people find it obvious that Donald Trump, vile though he may be, is the lesser evil. Others find it no less obvious that Hillary Clinton, odious as she is, is the lesser evil. For some of us, it just isn't obvious which of these two scoundrels would do greater harm in the long run. 

Robert P. George I don't know what additional bad things I can say about Trump. I've denounced his character, his immoral policy proposals, his vulgarity and oafishness---even the immodesty of his (current) wife. I've warned my friends and allies not to be tainted by association with him. I've declined to meet him. The only thing remotely "positive" I can say about him is that Hillary Clinton, who may be his opponent if she can escape felony indictment, is even worse.

Robert P. George The conservatives, as usual, are showing greater integrity than the liberals. (That was one of the factors that drove me out of the camp of the latter and into the camp of the former.) They are telling the blunt truth about Trump. Liberals are depressingly nearly unanimous in ignoring or trying to obscure the at least equally ugly truth about Hillary Clinton. Anyone who has been seriously paying attention knows that Clinton is corrupt through and through. There is no truth in her. She is utterly unfit to be president. Her policies and appointments would be catastrophic for the weakest and most vulnerable. What's partly driving this train is that elites (who are mostly liberal) identify with her culturally the way many ordinary people identify culturally with Trump. So she seems somehow more "reasonable," even "qualified to be president." She's not and she isn't. Just look at her record. (Of course, none of this alters the fact that Trump is also horrible. I just think that everybody should face the facts of our predicament.)

Robert P. George I could not disagree with you more. I can't fathom why you see it that way (unless it is the cultural factors I mentioned--having grown up in West Virginia I do not feel the same cultural affinities). She is more personally corrupt even than Trump; more mendacious (which one would hardly have thought possible); they are both Ivy League products, for what that's worth; if she knows anything about the law then she is even a worse scoundrel than I imagined since she breaks it with impunity; as to her knowledge of the Constitution her ignorance of (or disrespect for) it rivals that of Barack Obama; and what dignity would a person who, for crass political reasons, lied to the relatives of Benghazi victims about the circumstances of their loved one's murders, bring to the Office of President? None. You are certainly right that Donald Trump is a horrible person and would be a dreadful president. He is profoundly unworthy of the office. But please look at the facts straight on. Hillary Clinton would be at least as bad, perhaps worse. Let's not try to make the choice before us less dismal than it is. It is truly appalling.

Robert P. George David Goldman, who is a pretty good candidate for the title of most brilliant person on Facebook, says of Hillary Clinton that the only way he could vote for her would be if Hitler or Goebbels were resurrected and were the only other candidate on the ballot. He says that if it were Goering he would have to think about it. It's hyperbole, of course, but it makes clear his perception of just how appalling Hillary Clinton is.

Robert P. George Michael, look, if you are determined to support Hillary Clinton, for whatever reason, fine. It's a free country. And you're right that Donald Trump is a dreadful person and would make a terrible president. But you shouldn't look for validation from those of us who perceive just how corrupt and dangerous Hillary Clinton is. And you should admit to yourself that your choice is a tragic one, because even on the most charitable reading of the PUBLIC record of her life she's awful.

Robert P. George You've got two choices, Michael. Either (1) Hillary is remarkably ignorant of the law (despite that Yale Law degree you put so much store by), or (2) Hillary is actually knowledgeable about the law and breaks it with impunity. You choose. Both are possible explanations of the data, and I'll give you either one.

Robert P. George Sorry to disappoint you then. I loathe Donald Trump. I've said every bad thing about him I can think of. I will have nothing to do with him. But I will not pretend that Hillary Clinton is anything other than what she is. And, as difficult as this is to imagine, she is, if anything, even worse than he is. God help us.

Robert P. George By the way, I wouldn't put too much stock in those fancy degrees and academic honors. I have boatloads of them. They tell you nothing about a person's character and precious little about their wisdom. My grandmother had an elementary school education. That's it. But she had more common sense and better judgment than most people I know (and I know lots of them) with Ivy League Ph.D.s. She also knew how to learn what she needed to know. People like that have an awful lot to offer.

Robert P. George I don't trust him as far as I can throw him (nor do I trust her) but he's got better positions on some issues than she has; he's likely to make better judicial and administrative appointments than she is (more because of his circumstances than his beliefs or commitments); for all his lying, he has (so far as I am aware) never told the public or grieving family members a lie as base as Hillary's lie about the Benghazi victims having allegedly been murdered by a mob enflamed by a movie (and I can give you a catalogue of other lies, too, if you like). And there's more, but I'm losing my grip on the point of this exercise. I repeat: Donald Trump is very bad. I will have nothing to do with him. I wish you would say the same thing about Hillary Clinton. But, look, examine your conscience and follow it. That's all any of us can do. Try to factor our everything but a concern for the truth.

Robert P. George Scott, I think that people like to be told that they're right. And many who are (for very good reasons!) uncomfortable with Trump, yet realize that Hillary is a bad person, feel more comfortable supporting her, despite her wickedness, because she is culturally more like them. Trump is vulgar and oafish. He is appealing to people whom a lot of elites regard as---let's be blunt about their attitudes---"white trash." And it annoys or at least puzzles them when someone who is outwardly so much like them as I am insists that it is not only Trump who is horrible, but Hillary too---perhaps even more horrible. Just compare the lying that the two candidates are equally guilty of. Trump lies flamboyantly and crassly ("McCain is not a war hero.") Hillary lies coolly and with a straight face ("We're going to get the film maker whose irresponsible actions led to these deaths.") To certain elites, Trump's lying just seems worse---precisely because it is crass and flamboyant. Sometimes they feel like they have to tell lies. But they don't lie like that! They lie the way Hillary does when they feel they have to lie or that a lie is justified or excusable. Somehow it doesn't seem as bad.

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