The Choice: Steady Experienced Leadership vs. A Demagogue’s Easy Promises


Hillary Clinton told Americans last night that she is ready to lead with competence, and the necessary experience to be the captain of our national ship of state. On that score Donald Trump cannot possibly deliver us safe to shore. His ship is gaudy, pretentious; the swiftest sailor on a running sea under full sail. Yet, the keel is unsound, and his ability to know when to shorten sail or put more canvas into the wind has already been shown to be unsound. He has no knowledge of the sea, and the charts telling the captain where to steer are a mystery to him.

What will he do as captain when the glass drops to nothing, and after storm and sea, and rain he sees the rocks dead ahead? His crew already knows he is a Jonah to be avoided. It is they who’ll have to run out the guns should there be a fight.

Hillary Clinton accepted with humility her party’s nomination for President of the United States. She gloried in the history made last night as the first woman to receive the nomination of one of our major parties. Victoria Woodhull was our first woman to run for president, but that was a protest candidacy; she and Susan B. Anthony were arrested for voting when they attempted to cast a ballot with no right to vote in 1872.

Her speech was pedestrian when compared to those of even Michelle Obama, President Obama, and Joe Biden’s middle class guy pep talk. As one man who spoke at the convention, a 9/11 first responder who got to know Secretary Clinton as his U.S. Senator said, “She is not a show horse, but a workhorse.”

She far exceeded the vision of where Donald Trump wants to take the nation, and his 76 minute exercise in narcissism and apocalypse. Clinton raised herself over the bar we expect our presidents to be able to reach. She looked, sounded, and displayed herself as more than presidential enough.

Her speech indicated her leadership would be to try to heal the great division within the country, and like the Philadelphia of 1776 with 13 rebellious colonies whose leaders forged consensus to stand up to a King who’d become a tyrant, she made a thinly veiled jab at Trump’s demagogic tendencies.

“It is truly up to us,” Clinton told the nation, “we have to decide whether we all will work together so we all can rise together.” That national decision of the people was sharply and bitingly contrasted with Trump’s reliance on his leadership and performance alone to heal our wounds and get us through those stormy seas

Clinton countered with a hard blow landed on Trump when she said “and most of all, don’t believe anyone who says ‘I alone can fix it. . . . Americans don’t say ‘I alone can fix it’ We say: ‘Well fix it together.’”

Her very best line also fully crystalized the choice voters have in 2016:

Imagine him in the Oval Office facing a real crisis. A man you can bait with a Tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.”

She followed that stinging rebuke with her observation of what Jackie Kennedy said about her husband, President John F. Kennedy, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. President Kennedy worried that a war might be started “—not by big men with self-control and restraint, but by little men—the ones moved by fear and pride.”

As for her own National Security leadership, she reminded Americans that she has been to the front lines where our troops are fighting. She told the nation that in her stewardship as Secretary of State, and her Situation Room presence was for more than just the Osama-bin Laden mission. Hillary displayed not only a confidence based on extensive real experience grappling with security issues, she visually and in tone showed her spine and how resolute she is in protecting the United States.

Whereas Trump tells us he is excellent and his business dealing equal competence over that of our actual National Security Council and security advisors. In reality and factually we know or should, that business experience running the Trump Empire, such as it is, and beauty pageants or appearing on reality TV do NOT equal or even approximate the real experience necessary. Will Republicans who just love Trump come to that realization? We’ll know on November 8th and the day after.

Two products of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, and that of the other party in Cleveland the week prior, is that the convention run for Democrats was efficient, well managed and had as one of its emphases that liberal Democrats are every bit as patriotic as Republicans on national security. A fighting speech by a just retired navy admiral and a just retired Marine Four Star General, John Allen, who commanded our forces in the Middle East firmly endorsed Hillary Clinton as the Commander-in-Chief they want. Over a hundred high profile military men and republicans with national security experience, and who customarily vote Republican have openly said they will vote for Hillary Clinton. Several veterans were honored at the convention. It was not just Black Lives Matter and the mothers of the highest profile black men who were fatally shot while they were unarmed.

Liberal Democrats actually cheered and wept and waved flags with vigor. No one knows why they behaved this way. One pundit I think may have it when he said that the taunting by conservatives that they do not love their country was a gauntlet thrown down on Monday when conservative social media claimed there were not enough flags on the floor. There were, and the Clinton Campaign was brilliant in permitting Democrats to show that they too have just as much patriotism as the most conservative Republicans always have.

Trumps dystopian language in his acceptance speech, his assertion that our military is a disaster, and that America must be made great again ran headlong into speaker after speaker who said and demonstrated why America has been great, is great and will be greater still.

The entire Republican foreign policy and national security competence edge they have had has been stolen out from under them. Trump handed a gargantuan opportunity for Democrats to claim that part of the Republican superstructure and to make it their own; they have. Trump appeared small and little and so pessimistic about America that it led Clinton to say recalling Ronald Reagan:

“He’s (Trump) taken the Republican Party a long way . . . from ‘Morning in America’ to ‘Midnight in America’… He wants us to fear the future and fear each other.”

The other significant thing the Clinton Campaign accomplished at the convention was her adoption of virtually all of Bernie Sanders’ agenda. The 15 dollar minimum wage, expansion of Social Security and further legislation limiting what Wall Street can do with people’s life savings. The week featured constant fence mending and heartfelt and real movement on a Democratic Platform that was made more progressive by Sander’s showing and support in his campaign. Should Clinton continue to work with the movement Sanders ignited, she will earn the trust of that movement, and we’ll all feel the Bern. Pew Research Polling six times on the willingness of Sanders supporters to vote for Clinton shows near 90 percent will do so. They know the incredible importance of this election.

The liberal and progressive bent of the programs Hillary Clinton unveiled and inspired by Sanders will not attract any large segment of Republicans. Hatred of Hillary runs too deep, and pundits and those inside the beltway are already calling her programs too progressive and class warfare. This, even though if enacted in whole or in part they will benefit nearly all Americans The top one percent and their corporations will be asked to finally pay their share of taxes like everybody else. That is how Democrats will be able to pay for what they have proposed.

Thus far, despite obvious lapses that shows Donald Trump to be fully unprepared to assume the office of President of the United States, with all that implies have not moved the polls at all. His irresponsible rhetoric appealing to the worst in humanity, where punishing minorities and foreigners for stealing the America of Jim Crow and unfettered whiteness, Trump remains with a solid lead over Hillary Clinton. Trump is firmly aligned with the zeitgeist of the times, and he is buoyed by the winds of a dystopic world with all the immorality of a Mad Max film. He does not align with the moral arc of that universe that bends long, but bends toward justice. Hitler never was. Mussolini never was. Cesar and Napoleon tried to be and failed as the moral arc and their strong man rule repel each other as in magnetic poles do.

We must bridge the divide and as so many speakers at the DNC of 2016 have told us not to build walls. Nevertheless, Trump was nominated and Republicans have a great deal to answer for. The rightward turn of the party as the party of ignorance, fear, exclusion, in a cocktail mix of racism, xenophobic nativism, where performance art covers the cupidity of the chief performer may be insurmountable. Human beings when appealed to in that place we find our worst instincts find it easy to reflect the performer.

President Barack Obama said the choice is over what sort of people we are, and will become. Trump’s mob appeal to violence and hate has great power. Yet power for its own sake recoils on those who wield it. We are poised to enter the dark and a world that is void, and perilous in the greatest unforced error made by the American electorate in our history. Those are the stakes. We may yet pull back from the brink. We will get no “do overs” should Trump prove to govern like he has campaigned. We have already seen what one huge mistake in foreign policy, and war or peace has done in the aftermath of 9/11.

Hitler’s Third Reich was all any Donald Trump could ever hope to achieve. Nevertheless, the thousand years Reich lasted a mere 12 years. Do we want to play the role of Hitler’s Third Reich with our own iteration of a dangerous demagogue? For that is the choice we make in that little voting booth in November. We cannot recall either the dogs of war and strife, nor can we make Donald Trump greater than the sum of his pathetic ungifted parts for the job he seeks. We can imagine he is great but we delude ourselves. We are saying thus far that we want to be entertained, in our own sort of Coliseum where the winner is the schoolyard bully, instead of the champion for what is right and just.

I am focused instead on just how steady a hand we will have on the nuclear launch codes and our military arsenal; what sort of real character our President will have next January. The devil you know is better than the devil you do not know fully enough. And there are a whole great series of unknowns with Trump.

Career public servants often are less glamorous then TV reality stars. Their elegant sleights of hand are not often visible. Rigged systems have to be improved for the better by a skilled technician rather than a flashy “braggart” as the President said two nights ago. It’s like an old West Virginia miner in a pit of coal gas, where the merest spark or wrong move could set things ablaze. The hard worker and steady hand will always outperform a showy coward. Trump’s rigged system is the business world. He has gone bankrupt six times, and almost uniformly stiffs just about everybody he contracts business with.

Hillary has been less transparent, and with her relative aloofness from the public eye has become the clay with which her worst cynical critics have molded her. She is neither as good as the many people who know the woman behind that façade say she is, nor is she anything like those who despise her have charged her with. She has been in public service and in public life since 1971. She has been the most closely scrutinized American in our history, save perhaps for Washington and Lincoln.

She is the most investigated American with so little result we must give pause and wonder if most of her scandals have been mere witch hunts; they have been. And she has always had to struggle against the undercurrents of lower expectations and the culturally embedded double standards and limits of what a woman in politics can be. Trump has been given a free gender pass arising out of millennia of social norms.

He is the person who gets us all in despair and in fear of our shadow selves. She is the woman who is thought less capable because of her gender. She is the first woman to get this far in American life in any field. She is making history no matter the outcome. Her feminine nurturant qualities are unparalleled, far above most women. She is tough and resolute as a female bear protecting her last cub. She will bring many gifts yet unseen in American leaders. We too easily forget Angela Merkel in Germany, Maggie Thatcher in the UK, a Milwaukee product, Golda Meir, who migrated to Israel and led the nation, most under siege in the Middle East, successfully. Too many of us do not realize we are among the very few nations on Earth who have yet to elect a woman to high office.

Probably the determining factor I will take into the voting booth is to remember the dictum of Jesus of Nazareth, one of the most inspiring founders of a religion humans know, and who placed love at the center of all he is and was. He told his disciples that “by their fruit ye shall know them.”

Hillary Clinton is a flawed candidate. She over a long career has made mistakes as even the very best humans do. Look at how long it took Lincoln to find the general that could help him preserve the Union in a great civil war. Hillary has pushed too hard at times, not hard enough at others, has been wrong before, but not deceptive as our President Bush on some polices, most notably in Iraq. She has been there for so many people all over the nation who know her real value as a leader and champion. They know overseas even more than at home how essential she can be.

She does not stiff people. She listens. She wishes to serve. Yes, she is ambitious. But no President is worth anything if they are not. She is perpetually in the public arena where her hat is in the ring and all is on the line. She is the most experienced leader we have among us all just now. We don’t get to wait for others to fully emerge.

Trump’s fruit from the moment you hear him, lay eyes upon him, and hear from the people he worked with reveal nothing but a dying vine and bitter fruit. Do we want to rely on that? Think very carefully about the power your vote will have for you, your parents and grandparents, and your children. Customarily, both parties have an acceptable candidate. Not so this time. There is absolutely no precedent for the kind of person we have in a man so close to extreme power.

Our founders most feared a man on horseback when they created an executive branch in one person. At first it was a Caesar. Later it was a Napoleon. Now it is the Kim Jung In, Sadaam Hussein, or Vladimir Putin, three men Trump admires so much. Obama and Clinton prefer Lincoln.

You hold the dice of destiny in your hands. Make a good throw in that voting booth and in marking your ballot this November.

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