(June 29, 2016)– There are many reasons to vote against Donald Trump. Let me cite the most obvious.
He’s an ignoramus whose knowledge of public issues is more superficial than an occasional newspaper reader’s. He casts his intellectual laziness as a choice, a deliberate avoidance of expert views that might contaminate his ill-informed opinions. He excused his failure to consult professionals before commenting on the Brexit vote by dismissing foreign policy advisers in general, including his own. “None of them are any good,” he said, as he likened running the world’s most powerful government and its foreign policy to opening a golf course.
He’s a charlatan, preposterously posing as a business genius while cheating investors, subcontractors, and his own customers. He’s rich because his father left him a great deal of money. He couldn’t turn a profit with a casino, for crying out loud. The epitome of someone who is famous for being famous, his business model consists mostly these days of selling his surname to a group of (often foreign) investors, who slap it on some vulgar monstrosity that consumers naturally associate with a vulgar reality TV celebrity.
He possesses the emotional maturity of a 6-year-old. He can’t let go of any slight, real or imagined, from taunts about the length of his fingers to skepticism about his portfolio. So shaky is his psyche that he’s compelled to fits of self-sabotage to defend his self-regard, as was the case in his racist, politically devastating attacks on U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel. He views the powers of the presidency as weapons to punish people who’ve been mean to him – reporters, rival candidates, critics. “They better be careful,” he warns.
He’s unhinged by criticism from women, most particularly female journalists. Who knows what that’s about, but whatever the cause of his misogyny, minor exchanges provoke it. It needn’t take an insult or criticism; sometimes just a lack of fawning deference will have him spewing abuse at the offending woman.
He’s a bigot or is pretending to be one in order to win votes from people who hold “others” to blame for the country’s problems and theirs — other races, other religions, other classes. He asks nothing of his supporters’ patriotism. Just elect him and he’ll keep out the Mexicans and the Muslims, start trade wars with China and Japan, confiscate Middle Eastern oil and hey, presto, America’s great again. He doesn’t appeal to a single honorable quality or instinct in our society. He exploits fear and incites hatred. They are the emotions that impel him. He wants us to make our way in the world as he does: selfish, insecure, angry, scapegoating, small.
His election would endanger the security of the United States and our standing in the world. The widely respected geopolitical analysis firm, the Economist Intelligence Unit, declared his election a top 10 global threat. I believe President Obama has been the worst foreign policy president in my lifetime. But he’s Winston Churchill compared to Donald Trump.
Trump encourages the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and hints at encouraging their use. He welcomes relationships with the world’s worst tyrants, even homicidal madmen like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. He seems to hold rivals in higher regard than allies. He professes admiration for Vladimir Putin, maybe our most determined and dangerous adversary. The current administration has proved half-hearted in its opposition to the ruthless Russian autocrat’s troublemaking. But Trump seems almost to take Putin’s side.
Last month in Scotland, Trump celebrated the Brexit vote as if it were his idea, even though weeks earlier he didn’t appear to know what the term referred to, and despite the fact that Scotland had voted overwhelmingly to remain in the E.U. Even Putin, who believes the U.K. leaving the E.U. will weaken Europe’s ties with the U.S., showed more decorum in discussing the decision. When Vladimir Putin appears more of a statesman than the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, something has gone seriously wrong in American politics.
Trump doesn’t advocate a realist view of the world in which human rights and the global progress of American political values are a secondary concern. He repudiates those values and American world leadership. He calls for murdering the children of jihadists, stealing other nations’ resources, torturing prisoners, ending alliances based on shared values as much as mutual interest, fighting economic wars with former trading partners, making common cause with nativist movements in other countries, and letting the world descend into cataclysms of violence and oppression and terror.
As long as no one is making a sucker out of America – and by America he means Donald Trump – he’s doesn’t see why we would want to spend time and capital in helping make the world safer, freer, more just and prosperous.
Whatever Hillary Clinton’s faults, she’s not ignorant or hateful or a nut. She acts like an adult, and understands the responsibilities of an American president. That might not be a ringing endorsement. But in 2016, the year of Trump’s s campaign, it’s more than enough.
Editor’s note: Mark Salter is the former chief of staff to Sen. John McCain and was a senior adviser to the McCain for President campaign.