Clinton or Trump: Choosing the lesser of two evils

Having two candidates who play fast and loose with the truth provides the American people with a difficult challenge.

Hillary and Donald: Dumb and dumberer on trade / Image by Donkey Hotey
Hillary and Donald: Dumb and dumberer on trade / Image by Donkey Hotey

WASHINGTON, July 22, 2016 — This unusual presidential election cycle brings us two candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, whom most voters consider untrustworthy. There is abundant evidence to bolster their negative assessments.

Trump nails convention speech and America’s mood

FBI Director Comey made it clear in his testimony before Congress that Clinton’s use of a private email server was entirely inappropriate for a Cabinet member with access to the nation’s highest-level secrets:

Any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position … should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.

The Washington Post wrote,

From what’s come to light, it seems clear that Mrs. Clinton and her aides used the private email server to preserve control over her messages, neglecting their responsibility as public servants … Rather than toss off this experience with a back of the hand, Ms. Clinton needs to learn from it.

Clinton repeatedly lied about what she had done. Before Comey’s testimony, she said that she didn’t handle any classified information through her private email account. According to Comey, “110 e-mails in 52 e-mail chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received.”

Clinton appeared on the Charlie Rose show and was asked about Comey’s statement that she had been “reckless.” Clinton responded that Comey had never said that.

His statement is available on tape for all to see.

Clinton fabricated the story she gave to the families of those killed in Benghazi. While she was secretary of state, the Clinton Foundation solicited millions of dollars from governments who sought favor from Washington.

Clinton received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Wall Street banks in speaking fees, but she refuses to tell the public what she said. Sen. Bernie Sanders suggested it must have been Shakespearean to command such enormous fees.

Many in Washington view those fees as a form of payment for past and future services.

Hillary Clinton’s attempt to morph into Abraham Lincoln

From Whitewater to her efforts to demonize the women with whom her husband was involved, Clinton’s record does not inspire trust or credibility.

In Donald Trump we have a candidate whose relationship with the truth seems slight. He claims to have seen thousands of Muslims celebrating on New Jersey rooftops after 9/11, but no one else did. He says he opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning, but he said on the Howard Stern show that he supported it..

His character shows in his pattern of insulting others, from mocking a disabled reporter to saying that Sen. John McCain was not a hero because he was captured in Vietnam to suggesting  that Sen. Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

His boasts about his business career are questionable. He refuses to release his tax returns. Trump’s casinos in Atlantic City failed even when the rest of the city continued to thrive. He used company money to pay off personally guaranteed loans, and after the 1995 creation of the public company Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts, he used company funds to bail out privately-held casinos.

The company has filed for bankruptcy five times.

Trump repeatedly cites his best-selling book, “The Art Of The Deal.”  When he announced his candidacy in New York, he declared, “We need a leader who wrote ‘The Art of the Deal.'” In fact, the author of the book was journalist Tony Schwartz.

In an interview with the New Yorker, Schwartz says,

I put lipstick on a pig. I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is. I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.

Schwartz, who spent a good deal of time with Trump while writing the book, says, “Lying is second nature to him. More than anyone I have ever met, Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given movement is true, or sort of true, or ought to be true.”

In “The Art of the Deal,” Trump even lies about his ethnic background, declaring that his father was born in New Jersey to Swedish parents. In fact, he was born in the Bronx to German parents. Decades later, of course, Trump lied about President Obama’s origins, claiming it was possible that he was born in Africa.

Trump echoes Lincoln’s warning to Americans

In his acceptance speech at the Republican convention in Cleveland, Trump painted a dark portrait of America with doomsday statistics about murder, crime and chaos which are simply not true. He said, “The number of police officers killed in the line of duty has risen by almost 50 per cent, compared to this point last year.”

Police in the line of duty deaths for 2016 (to date) are 68, compared to 2015’s total of 123 for the year according to National Law Enforcement resources.

In his speech, Trump said that homicides had increased by 17 per cent in America’s 50 largest cities. While technically true, this ignores the much larger picture. Short-term volatility fails to present an overall picture of security. According to FBI data, violent crime has fallen consistently over the last 25 years. Raymond Paternoster, a University of Maryland criminologist, told Politifact that homicide rates have “declined steadily” since the early 1990s.

Having two candidates who play fast and loose with the truth provides the American people with a difficult challenge. Many are considering voting for a third party candidate or not voting for president at all.

Others are attempting to determine which of these two candidates represents the lesser evil. It is not for no reason that the Republican Convention was boycotted by the party’s two living former presidents and some of its most recent candidates for president.

One thing that seems lacking in our current political environment is respect for our two-party system and the idea of a loyal opposition. Demonizing our opponents makes the business of government increasingly difficult to conduct.

During the years of Ronald Reagan, for whom many Republicans express admiration, there was an understanding that America could work only if the parties worked together. His relationship with Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neil is an example for today.

And President Obama, had he sought out and worked with congressional Republicans from the beginning, might have had a different outcome.

Many who call themselves conservative today would do well to remember the words of Edmund Burke in his speech on conciliation with America:  “Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom, and a great Empire and little minds go ill together.”

As the 2016 campaign proceeds, Americans will have time to ponder the question of who—Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump—represents the lesser evil.


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Allan C. Brownfeld
Received B.A. from the College of William and Mary, J.D. from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law of the College of William and Mary, and M.A. from the University of Maryland. Served as a member of the faculties of St. Stephen's Episcopal School, Alexandria, Virginia and the University College of the University of Maryland. The recipient of a Wall Street Journal Foundation Award, he has written for such newspapers as The Houston Press, The Washington Evening Star, The Richmond Times Dispatch, and The Cincinnati Enquirer. His column appeared for many years in Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. His articles have appeared in The Yale Review, The Texas Quarterly, Orbis, Modern Age, The Michigan Quarterly, The Commonweal and The Christian Century. His essays have been reprinted in a number of text books for university courses in Government and Politics. For many years, his column appeared several times a week in papers such as The Washington Times, The Phoenix Gazette and the Orange County Register. He served as a member of the staff of the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, as Assistant to the research director of the House Republican Conference and as a consultant to members of the U.S. Congress and to the Vice President. He is the author of five books and currently serves as Contributing Editor of The St. Croix Review, Associate Editor of The Lincoln Review and editor of Issues.