The most attractive candidate in the US presidential joust is that elusive personage None of the Above.
The situation is hardly unique to America: such is the universal beauty of universal franchise.
Yet this November’s choice has to drive every sensible person to despair.
Hilary first. Her major selling point is that she’s the first woman standing for presidency. Now who cares if a statesman is male or female (I’d draw the line on ‘other’)? Alas, since Americans have twice demonstrated their willingness to extend affirmative action to presidential elections, there’s no reason to think they’ll feel differently about ‘gender equality’.
If shunning Obama was construed as latent racism, not voting for Hilary may be seen as misogyny and even, if numerous claims are to be believed, homophobia. Such is the deep thought that goes into choosing the leader of the free world, as US presidents like to be known.
Then there’s ‘experience’. Americans attach inordinate importance to it, forgetting that experience may be that of failure as well as success. Hilary’s falls into the first category.
As Arkansas’s First Lady, she acquired the sobriquet ‘The Lady Macbeth of Little Rock’, which hardly betokened unreserved affection. The Clintons’ tenure there was marked by a string of corruption scandals, and Hilary was regarded as an equal participant in the couple’s shenanigans.
Her time in the White House was spent largely on bullying her husband’s mistresses and supporting his Freudian claim that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. In that limited endeavour she enjoyed only a variable success, with the sleaziest news bursting through the wall of Hilary’s threats.
Then on to the US Senate, where she was deservedly described as “one of the most liberal members”. Hilary also supported the catastrophic invasion of Iraq, though illogically opposing the subsequent ‘surge’.
Yet it’s her disastrous record as the Secretary of State that torpedoes the whole issue of experience. Hilary was enthusiastic about throwing American weight behind the iniquitous effort to replace nasty but secular Middle Eastern regimes with nastier Islamic ones.
She directly contributed to an “orderly transition to a democratic participatory government in Egypt”, meaning supplanting the secular Mubarak with the jihadist Muslim Brotherhood. And Hilary promoted military intervention in Lybia, which makes her directly responsible for the on-going bloodbath.
She also advocated supporting the variably cannibalistic Syrian rebels, which, in light of current events, hardly requires additional commentary.
In handling Putin’s Russia, the other major threat to the world, Hilary wasn’t always as firm as she pretends. Nowadays she’s anti-Putin, mainly because Trump seems to love him. But in 2009, following Russia’s aggression against Georgia, she engaged in a cheap spectacle of presenting Russia’s foul-mouthed foreign minister with a red ‘reset’ button. Not surprisingly, Putin later chose a different button to push.
Add to this her cavalier treatment of classified material, which could easily land a lesser light in prison, and the picture is complete – or almost so, for I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump’s campaign had a few other choice bits in store, there to come out should Hilary take the lead.
Now Trump is a loudmouthed populist who makes conservative noises, as conservatism is understood in America. A populist says whatever people want to hear, which seldom produces a consistent message. Hence Trump has done the weathercock by having changed his positions on 17 major issues, which is of course an essential part of his experience.
For some unfathomable reason, many see Trump’s fiscal success as a strong qualification. Hardly. He’s a conniver constantly looking for investors, whom he also tells whatever they want to hear. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t: Trump and his enterprises have been involved in 3,500 legal cases, and four of his businesses have filed for bankruptcy.
Trump is proud of that record: “I do play with the bankruptcy laws – they’re very good for me,” he once said. Considering that many of his businesses are casinos in the Mafia-controlled Atlantic City, some observers wonder what other laws Trump may play with.
His protectionist pronouncements apart, Trump’s views on domestic policy are commendably conservative: tax-cutting, reduced social spending, immigration controls – including, unfashionably, Muslim immigration. Then again, it would be odd to expect one of America’s richest men to favour, say, a higher corporate tax.
Nor is Trump likely to confront Putin, and again his affection for the Russian dictator may not be entirely disinterested. Trump’s son Don was frank about it: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets… We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”
Paul Manafort, Trump’s political guru, previously worked as adviser to Putin’s Ukrainian stooge Yanukovych. Manafort was accused of facilitating Yanukovych’s prodigious money laundering, though the court case was dismissed. The moment Trump appointed him, Putin’s press began to hail the Donald as the world’s best hope for peace.
Carter Page, Trump’s foreign policy adviser, is an investment banker, with Gazprom his major partner. Page complains that he suffered losses as a result of Western sanctions against Russia. Not surprisingly, Trump said the other day that he’d “look into” ending those sanctions.
Trump softened the Republican platform’s promise to come to the Ukraine’s aid should Russia pounce. He also stated that he wouldn’t necessarily come to Europe’s aid under similar circumstances, which could spell the end of NATO.
Trump is playing the isolationist card as part of his populist suit, when, for example, correctly accusing Europe of not pulling its military weight. “Why should we pay to defend those who won’t defend themselves?” he keeps asking, assuming that the question is rhetorical.
But it isn’t: overseas influence has to be bought, as Britain discovered when running out of funds to bankroll her own empire. America has been pursuing imperial ambitions for over a century, and this costs. Nebertheless the isolationism message has never quite succeeded with Americans, who sense viscerally that seeking to control a global empire is their country’s raison d’être.
As someone who often proceeds from aesthetics, I find Trump brash, boorish and vulgar, which must give him an edge with the kind of voters he hopes to attract. (As an offshoot of his vulgarity, he tends to marry the kind of floosies a gentleman would only see as one-night stands at best.)
Hilary, on the other hand, is just as vulgar, but she pretends not to be, seeking to please the kind of voters she hopes to attract. America does have more vulgarians than pseuds, but the latter control the media. So it’ll probably be a close-run thing.
The strongest argument in favour of Trump is that the neocons sputter spittle at the very mention of his name. So he must be doing something right.
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