Choosing the president
There’s nothing new under the sun, as Ecclesiastes reminds us, but this presidential election campaign comes close. Rarely if ever have both parties nominated candidates who invite so much anger, frustration, indifference and even contempt.
One candidate is painted by a one-party media as a depraved billionaire without an ethical core, a shady businessman, an abuser of women and a corrupter of the capitalist system that accorded him great wealth and unusual privilege. The other candidate is a creature of politics gone rotten and rancid, the ultimate “wife of,” a woman of some political accomplishment and much corruption who only barely escaped prosecution and prison for betraying the nation’s security secrets.
Nevertheless, within a fortnight one of these candidates will be elected president of the United States and become the undisputed leader of the free world. Election Day, traditionally a day of celebration of the ultimate exercise of democracy, will this year be a day of lamentation for what might have been, what should have been, what could have been.
Donald Trump is an unexpected candidate, who arrived on the scene almost two years ago just as the Republican Party set about choosing from a remarkable wealth of prospective nominees, including governors, senators, a distinguished neurosurgeon and titans of business and doctors of the economy. Mr. Trump dominated the field from the beginning.
Bereft of the erudition and polish expected of a candidate for president of the United States, he offered instead entertaining bluster and an abrasive personality that quickly persuaded millions of Republicans that he could, and would, challenge the politically correct orthodoxy that was smothering the will, the spirit and stifling the industry and enterprise that made America the envy, the hope and the inspiration of the world. Through a long and exhausting season of brutal primaries he won more votes than any Republican candidate had done before him.
These voters were enthralled that at last the Republicans had produced a candidate eager to go to take-noprisoners war against the Democrats, persuaded that he would not retreat, as Republican candidates often do, to the comfort of their mantra of “vote Republican, we’re not as bad as you think.”
Millions of his followers forgave his vulgarity and coarseness of manner because they understood that sometimes a rough justice is required to correct long-settled injustice. Harder to forgive is Mr. Trump’s frequent losing focus on the stump and straying from message, the inevitable weakness of a candidate with no experience in the rough and tumble of a presidential campaign. He occasionally forgets that he’s not running against a judge of Mexican ancestry whom he regards as unfair to him, a beauty queen who allowed herself to gain a few unnecessary pounds, or the selfrighteous Republican elites so eager to give comfort and assistance to his opponent. He’s running against Hillary Clinton, whose record over 30 years is one of greed, avarice and irresponsibility. He sometimes forgets that “it’s Hillary, stupid.”
But as the campaign moves into the homestretch, Mr. Trump demonstrates renewed energy, and has fought Hillary Clinton, the elites and an ever-more angry media to a draw, as measured by several usually reliable public-opinion polls. The big newspapers and television networks, confident of Democratic victory but desperate in their anger that Donald Trump is still standing, cry that the race is over. But it’s not, and their desperate rage demonstrates that they know it.
Donald Trump, imperfect though he is, has all the right enemies: the pundits, the “social scientists,” the Beltway insiders, the academics and the righteous mongers of failed policies. Hillary Clinton has all the wrong friends — the pundits, academics and insiders hoping to hitch a ride on a new gravy train. The stink from her 30 years in politics, which a generous observer delicately calls “a thick fog of impropriety,” touches and stains everyone around her. New WikiLeaks disclosures of her email traffic reveal how it was President Obama and his Justice Department, not the FBI, who made the decision not to prosecute her, as others before her were mercilessly prosecuted for leaking security secrets.
President Obama said he learned of her private email server “from the newspapers,” but the new WikiLeaks disclosures reveal that the president himself used a private alias to send emails to Hillary, fearful that any charges filed against her would have implicated him.
Hillary Clinton has left an unbroken trail of corruption from her 16 years in Arkansas forward to the White House. Scandal after scandal has marked the trail, from firing the White House travel office staff to give their jobs to her friends, to looting the White House of furniture and furnishings on the family’s departure from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
During her husband’s administration, when Hillary was occasionally regarded as a “co-president” by virtue of Bill’s famous invitation to “buy one, get one free,” there were IRS audits of the Clinton “enemies,” the collection of files on other presumed “enemies,” the sale of American technology secrets to China through American companies that had donated millions to Clinton causes, the enabling of Bill’s abuse and worse of a procession of women at the White House. Finally, there are the continuing disclosures of emails that describe the breadth and depth of scandal and betrayal.
“Unfortunately,” Marco Rubio told a television interviewer earlier this week, “both under her husband’s presidency, her time in the Department of State, her campaign for the president [in 2008], and now, there’s this cloud of constant scandal and things that distract us from the core issues.”
Even friends who try to say something nice about her do it warily. The New York Times and The Washington Post, her chief enablers in the mainstream media, endorsed her as expected, but with telling caveats. “Mrs. Clinton’s occasional missteps, combined with attacks on her trustworthiness,” The New York Times said, “have distorted her character.” The Washington Post wrote between the lines with even darker ink: “No election is without risk. The biggest worry about a Clinton presidency, in our view, is the sphere where she does not seem to have learned the right lessons, namely openness and accountability.”
The stakes are exceptionally high. The direction of the U.S. Supreme Court, given her hostility to the First and Second Amendments, and perhaps the very security of the nation, hang in the balance. The strength of a democracy is the confidence that the people will, with God’s help, cut through the clutter of lies, deceit and obfuscation and make the right choice of leader. The choice this year is difficult, but a casual examination of the evidence persuades millions of Americans that there can be but one choice. We are confident the people, in their native wisdom, will make the right choice, in word and deed, loud and clear.