Trump is with­out sense or sen­si­bil­ity

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - Eu­gene Robin­son Columnist Eu­gene Robin­son’s email ad­dress is eu­gen­er­obin­son@wash­post.com.

The most re­veal­ing mo­ment in the pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates’ first joint fo­rum Wed­nes­day night came when Don­ald Trump told the world how much he ad­mires Vladimir Putin.

Never mind that the Russian strong­man in­vaded Ukraine and seized Crimea. Never mind that he sup­ports the butcher Bashar al-As­sad in Syria. Never mind that so many of his po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents end up mur­dered or im­pris­oned. Never mind that U.S. of­fi­cials sus­pect his govern­ment of try­ing to dis­rupt our elec­tion with cy­ber­at­tacks. In Trump’s star-struck eyes, all of this makes him “a leader, far more than our pres­i­dent has been a leader.”

Putin, you see, once paid Trump a com­pli­ment. “If he says great things about me,” Trump told mod­er­a­tor Matt Lauer, “I’m go­ing to say great things about him.”

There you have it, folks, the dis­tilled essence of Trump’s dis­grace­ful cam­paign. It’s not about im­mi­gra­tion or for­eign pol­icy or mak­ing Amer­ica “great again,” what­ever that means. It’s en­tirely about Trump and his rag­ing ego­ma­nia.

Trump is sin­cere when he ex­presses preen­ing self-re­gard. All the rest is just ver­biage tossed with a light vinai­grette.

The can­di­dates ap­peared se­quen­tially, not face to face, at the USS In­trepid mu­seum in New York be­fore an audience of mil­i­tary ser­vice mem­bers and vet­er­ans. The old air­craft car­rier, com­mis­sioned dur­ing World War II and re­tired af­ter Viet­nam, was an apt set­ting for hear­ing the can­di­dates’ po­si­tions on for­eign and de­fense pol­icy. But only one of them had any­thing mean­ing­ful to say.

Hil­lary Clin­ton went first and was im­me­di­ately hit with a bar­rage of ques­tions about her emails. Some com­men­ta­tors said af­ter­ward that she sounded de­fen­sive, but that line of crit­i­cism is ab­surd. How is one sup­posed to sound when pressed to de­fend one­self? Have we fi­nally reached the point when a woman is al­lowed to speak force­fully on her own be­half? Or do we still ex­pect, at all times, a de­mure smile?

As would be an­tic­i­pated from a for­mer se­na­tor and sec­re­tary of state, Clin­ton dis­played her knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence. The head­line, I sup­pose, would be this pledge: “We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again. And we’re not putting ground troops into Syria.” Those who worry she might prove too hawk­ish as pres­i­dent may feel re­lieved.

But the evening was re­ally about Trump, and the stakes are far too high for him to be graded on a curve. No, he did not rant and rave like a crazy man or threaten to nuke any­body. But nei­ther did he give the slight­est in­di­ca­tion he knew any­thing about the is­sues he was sup­posed to be talk­ing about. Read the tran­script and try to find one sen­si­ble and sub­stan­tive thing he had to say.

On top of in­sist­ing that Putin is a great guy, Trump den­i­grated the U.S. mil­i­tary’s high com­mand. “I think un­der the lead­er­ship of Barack Obama and Hil­lary Clin­ton, the gen­er­als have been re­duced to rub­ble,” he said. “They have been re­duced to a point where it’s em­bar­rass­ing for our coun­try.”

And there’s more: Trump re­peated his com­plaint that the United States should have “taken the oil” in Iraq, not­ing that “it used to be, to the vic­tor be­long the spoils.”

Yes, that was true in the time of Genghis Khan. To­day, un­der in­ter­na­tional law, plun­der is a war crime -- and not the only one Trump wants our mil­i­tary to com­mit. He has said in the past that our forces also should prac­tice tor­ture “worse than wa­ter­board­ing” against sus­pected ter­ror­ists. He would ask our ser­vice mem­bers to dis­honor the uni­form and all it rep­re­sents.

Trump de­fended a 2013 tweet about the prob­lem of sex­ual as­sault in the mil­i­tary in which he asked, “What did these ge­niuses ex­pect when they put men and women to­gether?” He said the so­lu­tion was to “set up a court sys­tem within the mil­i­tary.” Un­be­liev­able.

Face the truth: Trump has to be the most dan­ger­ously ig­no­rant ma­jor-party pres­i­den­tial can­di­date in his­tory.

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