In a world of social media, sound bites, and the chaotic firebombing of information that hits us each day, it shouldn’t surprise us that media outlets resort to “click bait” article titles focused on provoking an emotion solicits the most traffic. Each click is an investment of our time, and in the high speed world we live, there is no greater currency than time itself. When faced with a choice of “How to Solve our National Debt” or “Trump says his Daughter is Hot”, there is little doubt what is going to drive more traffic. Sadly, our media outlets are Pavlovian and modify their behavior accordingly to get more clicks. As each outlet ups their game, the next outlet ups theirs and it isn’t long before a headline says, “Trump: ‘I can grab them by their pussy’”.
A statement so abhorrent, that Donald Trump’s own running mate not only condemned it immediately, but he also cancelled a campaign event the same day. Was it so abhorrent though? I don’t mean in the general sense, I mean in the context of the candidate that so many have rallied around for the past year. For the sake of brevity and not regurgitating everything that’s been in the media, I’ll include some samples of his statements at the end of this post. That said, how is this new news to anyone? It is not as though statements like this haven’t been made openly in his career, much of which has been very public.
For example, Donald Trump has been on the Howard Stern show over 20 times. One only needs to pick from any of these airings to hear language and tone that is eerily similar to this “October Surprise.” The most popular of which has him referring to his own daughter as a “piece of ass.” In fact, there are well over a dozen published instances that could be found on the first page of a Google search where Donald made demeaning or vulgar statements about women long before he ever even considered his candidacy. That isn’t even taking into account all of the statements he’s made or doubled down on after declaring his candidacy.
Is our process for vetting candidates that inadequate, or do we simply not care until it starts to “trend”? Has our ability to absorb and process information become so cluttered that we cannot see basic facts until someone else tells us to consider them? More importantly, can we not see them until someone we AGREE with tells us to consider them? For over a year, we’ve heard about Hillary Clinton’s emails and Benghazi. Her life has been poked and prodded to the point where know more about her than any other public figure in the world right now. Moreover, it is often the same information rehashed, perhaps with different narratives, but the facts remain the same. She has been dishonest, sometimes stupid, and her judgment in one instance cost the lives of four Americans.
This is not unprecedented though. George W Bush covered up “enhanced interrogations” until the news broke and he could no longer avoid it. He invaded an entire country on poor intelligence. There was no action taken, or even a formal investigation performed. His predecessor, Bill Clinton, was impeached for obstructing justice (rightfully so), but it was for an event that had literally nothing to with governing. And his predecessor lit the wick that started the entire terror campaign we are dealing with today. While it would be unfair and unjust to blame George H.W. Bush for the level of terrorism that has followed, we must at least hold him accountable for the environment he created that led to it.
My point is, die hard Republicans hold Hillary Clinton to an untenable standard while allowing Donald Trump to have immunity on statements and positions that would not be tolerated if put forth by anyone else. No one talks about Osama bin Laden and a dozen other key terrorist players being captured or killed under her watch. This was done just half way through her 4 year term, while George W Bush had over 7 years with no result other than invading a country that had no ties to attacks on American soil.
The intent here is not to make a case for Hillary Clinton. I’m sure many of you will have counterpoints for any point I make anyway. The question is, how is someone like Donald Trump still even in consideration? There is only one viable answer that I can derive from all of this. Die-hard Republicans want to make a point. A point that Hillary is wrong for America, she’s deceptive, eludes the law, and doesn’t deserve to be president. Here’s my suggestion. Whatever your party affiliation is, let’s all agree to concede that point. Hillary Clinton is not an ideal candidate for president. Check the box. Done.
Leaving the next logical question, is Donald Trump right for America, honest, law-abiding, and worthy of the prestigious office of President of the United States of America. The litmus test should be quite simple. Does he believe in the tenants of the US Constitution? No. Emphatically, and verifiably no. He quite literally wants to supersede specific language in the constitution. For example, the constitution states there should be no religious test. Not for office, or for consideration as a citizen. Banning all Muslims (a statement from his own press release) is not compliant nor in the spirit of our constitution.
Is he honest? Let’s only consider the public record during the time he has been a candidate. According to both politifact.com and factcheck.org, he has lied or made false statements over 70% of the time in comparison with Hillary Clinton’s false statements coming in at 25%. Many of Trump’s false statements have been verified by his own past statements or tweets. Which leads to the next question, does he abide by the law? The reality is that we may never be able to answer that question because he is surrounded by an army of attorneys that keep information about his dealings sealed. We don’t know how much he has paid in taxes, or if he keeps his funds off-shore. We don’t know the terms of his 4,000 plus lawsuits, many of which he lost or settled despite his claims. Furthermore, we can’t possibly quantify how many business dealings resulted in unethical practices where providers or suppliers weren’t paid, or were paid a fraction of the agreed upon amount.
Regarding the question of, is he right for America? That is subjective, and must be left up to the voters of this great nation. The challenge here goes back to the start of this article. Are American voters informed to make such a critical decision? How do we navigate through the myriad of information thrown at us? Especially if we believe the media has an inherent bias toward a party or ideology? It can become mind numbing to sift through and fact check positions. We know there are two to three significant red flags with Hillary; her emails, Benghazi, and her charity foundation. The media has kept a regular spotlight on these. How can we vet Trump objectively against these known shortcomings of Hillary? This is particularly difficult when the volume of Trump’s provocative statements often overshadows his previous statements.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume only 5 key issues should drive our decision. It could be that a singular position is binary and automatically excludes a candidate, or it could be a sum of the parts. Though the statements below are one-sided, I would posit that no counterpoint is required when looking at the material impact or risk of the position.
- National Security – Several dozen former GOP national security advisors including George W. Bush cabinet members signed an open letter that Donald Trump’s positions create significant national security issues and would put our country and citizens at risk. All stated that they would not vote for him.
- Climate Change – Over 100 of the world’s top scientists, including Stephen Hawking wrote an open letter stating that Donald Trump’s position on climate would create irreversible damage to our globe which could lead to uninhabitable circumstances. Note that 55 countries have ratified an agreement to commit to reducing carbon emissions (including China) and Trump wants to rescind our participation.
- Economy – Dozens of economical leaders both foreign and domestic have stated that Donald Trump’s tax plan would add over $10T in debt during his term, and the number is likely higher. The majority of his policies would only impact the middle class through “trickle down” economics, which has never been verified and takes years or even a decade to materialize if it is even possible.
- Abortion – A huge issue among Conservatives. Donald Trump has no consistent position. He has either reversed his position, or modified it significantly multiple times in the last few years. He has even gone so far as to say women who have abortions should be prosecuted. Whatever your view is of abortion, the instability of his view will not advance the cause of either side of the argument.
- Immigration – The flagship of Donald Trump’s platform is to build a wall and deporting (or not deporting) illegal immigrants. His views on what to do with illegal immigrants are as inconsistent as his views on abortion, so I’ll leave that one alone. His wall is estimated to cost $25B and will require dealing with natural obstacles like the Rio Grande and manmade obstacles like homes and golf courses that are on the border. Assuming all of those challenges can be overcome, we know (with certainty) that existing barriers like fences have been tunneled under, destroyed, and in other cases navigated over. There has been no evidence that his proposed wall would be any different than existing barriers, and many experts believe it is largely just a symbol which will likely provide minimal protection at best.
The only possible position of the five stated above that even a faint argument can be made for is abortion. For those who are opposed to it, there might be a long shot hope that he will appoint justices that could overturn Roe v Wade. However, the likelihood is objectively slim, but I concede that for those where this is their number one issue any hope is better than none. The wall is largely moot, and will only serve to fulfill a belief. The other three issues are binary. All three of his positions are untenable and a direct detriment to our country and the world. Decades, if not a century of progress, could be undone in a single term if these positions were to be advanced. That is not my opinion, that is the researched finding of the world’s foremost experts in each given area.
So what? I’m not voting for Hillary, no matter what! Despite many American’s desire to see a third party candidate become viable, it is pragmatically impossible to happen this cycle. You have two choices. Period. This election, more than any in the past requires true introspection. Are you voting with your emotion, perhaps to make a point? Or are you voting from an informed and researched position with the intent of at least minimizing further damage to our great country? We have trained our human minds to have this inherent need to be right, and we seek immediate gratification in doing so. Whether it was taking a test in school, picking a stock, winning an argument, or something else. In some cases, we can get that validation or verification immediately. When we do, our serotonin rewards us with pleasure. The challenge is when that verification has a long runway, and that gratification may never be obtained. So we create the right answer in our mind and defend it, often blind to the realities and facts that surround us.
How else could a candidate with no foreign policy experience (and a demonstrated lack of understanding), no governing experience, and history of statements that would make Jerry Springer look like a viable debate opponent become a candidate for president? There is a bright side though. We’ve demonstrated that the two party system can be challenged, that a dark horse can break through a a political infrastructure designed by a small subset of powerful people to handpick candidates. Donald Trump did that, and he should be applauded for it, as it could be a major milestone for our electoral system. But it isn’t a reason to elect him president, and certainly not to simply make a point.
America has never “just” been a country. For many around the world, it is an idea. An idea built around freedom and the dream that an immigrant child could grow up to be a captain of industry, or even president. The foundation of that idea is not built on anger, isolationism, exclusivity, or elitism. Go to Ellis Island and read the words at the base of the Statue of Liberty. We come from a history of tired and hungry people who rose against adversity and became the greatest nation in the world. We’ve faltered at times, and even created atrocities. Each time though, we’ve come back stronger, smarter, and more responsible as we’ve taken stock in our role as leaders in the world. The office of the president represents that symbol across the globe. So while it will continue to mystify me that Trump’s latest statement (among all of his past statements of anger and bigotry) is the one that has created the most doubt among his supporters, I have to ask. Especially if you’re a father. Do you really want the person representing all of that to be someone who believes he is so famous and important that he can “grab a woman by the pussy” if he wanted to?
As promised, a small subset of statements and incidents during Trump’s campaign that have been a common theme of his candidacy:
- “She was bleeding from here everywhere” – Referring to Megyn Kelly after a primary debate she helped moderate
- Referred to Mexicans as “rapists and drug dealers” when discussing illegal immigrants
- Stated he would kick out all illegal immigrants regardless of family or employment status
- Criticized a female opponent based on her looks
- Advocated for the killing of families of terrorists, as well as torture of captured combatants, both outlawed by the Geneva Convention
- Supports pulling troops out of allied countries unless they pay their share of the defense; this includes pulling troops out of South Korea
- Insulted John McCain for being captured as a POW despite avoiding military service himself
- Engaged in a continued online argument with the Khan family who lost their son in military action
- Referenced his desire to use violence against other Americans multiple times including punching someone to not so veiled threats about having others shot
- Mocked a disabled reporter for asking a question he didn’t like
This list could go on in near perpetuity, but the theme is the same. Belittle those that disagree with him, regardless of background or accomplishments, and make statements with overt ignorance of policy or law.