If we all had a quarter for every time the words "trust" or "likeable" were used with regards to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in but a single news cycle, we would probably all have enough cash to purchase a brand new Prius. For make no mistake about it: whether or not we like or dislike, trust or do not trust either of these presidential candidates is of great moment . . . at least as talking points. We've all heard ad nauseam the five word phrase "I just don't trust her" applied to Secretary Clinton or the other five-word phrase "I really don't like him" said with regards to Mr. Trump. Indeed, their negatives are stratospheric.
I'm not sure when likeability first entered American politics as a major criterion for victory. I mean, think about it: how many people actually knew all that much about the personal habits, likes or dislikes let alone height, weight, demeanor or rhetorical cadences of say, George Washington, Andrew Jackson or Woodrow Wilson other than whatever myths or iconography their campaigns shared with the public?
Indeed, it wasn't until the mid 20th century that a presidential candidate - General Dwight Eisenhower - would have the great good fortune to be a national hero, and have a nickname that rhymed with the word "like." (Remember "I like Ike?") It would seem that from that point on the so-called "L factor" has come to play an increasingly important role in our politics. It reached its apex (or nadir, depending on who you are) in the 2004 election when the question became "Who would you rather have a beer with . . . George W. Bush or John Kerry?" Personally, I could give a hoot whether Clinton or Trump are abstemious or prefer Miller Lite, Dos Equis or King Snedley.
I want to know how they will handle a three-hour National Security Council briefing, interrupted by a photo op with the National Spelling Bee champ, an emergency meeting with the head of FEMA about a devastating flood in the Midwest or an earthquake in California and then on to a state dinner with, say, German Chancellor Angela Merkel or British P.M. Theresa May. To my way of thinking, that's one whole heck of a lot more critical then whether we can see ourselves downing an icy Rolling Rock with one, more than the other.
So much for likeability. As for trust, that is, as we used to say, "a whole 'nother smoke."
Throughout her nearly 40 years in the public eye - first in Arkansas and then in the world - Hillary Clinton has been knocked, pilloried and lambasted for everything from her early refusal to use her married name, to her lack of style, her "shrill aggressiveness" and her mendacity, duplicity and untrustworthiness. The last knock - that she cannot be trusted - is the major complaint one hears about her in public opinion samplings. When asked to put meat on the bones of this complaint or observation, most demur . . . it is more ephemeral or visceral than corporeal or factual. Yes, there are those who will cite "Benghazi," "emails," and occasionally even "White Water," "Morgan Guaranty" and "Vince Foster." I've also heard that she is too close to Wall Street, has changed her position on numerous issues, and "she stands for nothing." On occasion, I've asked people to tell me about "White Water" or who Vince Foster was and how he fits into her history of corruption and mendacity. Frequently what I get in response is a " . . . well, you know, she just can't be trusted." OK, I get it; she's made a lot of mistakes, gotten away with some and rarely issued public apologies or explanations. Then too, she has changed - or modified or "walked back" - positions on several issues . . . like marriage equality and the Trans Pacific Partnership (T.P.P.) But rarely have I heard her accused of being incompetent, unprepared, blustering, lacking intelligence or incapable of making hard decisions.
Just that many people do not trust her.
Now, in Donald Trump, we find a man, a presidential candidate who everyone can and should trust.
Donald Trump can be trusted to lie about almost anything. A brief handful of examples:
- On November 10, 2015, Mr. Trump, in speaking of Vladimir Putin, said "I got to know him very well because we were both on '60 Minutes,' we were stablemates, and we did very well that night." He has repeated this on innumerable occasions while campaigning. And yet, just this morning, Trump told George Stephanopoulos "I have no relationship with him. I don’t– I’ve never met him . . ."
- In a February 28, 2016 interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, the issue of David Duke came up. Trump flatly stated "I don’t know anything about David Duke.” The truth of the matter is that Trump not only has mentioned Duke in the past but actually repudiated him during a Bloomberg interview in August 2015. Fifteen years ago, when Trump was considering running for president as a Reform Party candidate, he named Duke a cause for concern. “Well, you’ve got David Duke just joined — a big racist, a problem. I mean, this is not exactly the people you want in your party,” he said.
- In today's interview with Stephanopoulos, Trump, speaking about the upcoming debate schedule flatly stated "I'll tell you what I don't like. It's against two NFL games. I got a letter from the NFL saying, 'This is ridiculous.'" And the lie? Responding to Trump's claim, a spokesperson for the NFL said "While we'd obviously wish the debate commission could find another night, we did not send a letter to Trump."
- In a May 3, 2016 interview with Fox News, Trump flatly stated that Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s ". . . father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald being, you know, shot. I mean the whole thing is ridiculous. What is this, right, prior to his being shot? And nobody even brings it up . . . What was he doing — what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting? It’s horrible."
Donald Trump can be trusted to be both insulting and insensitive as well as blustering and boorish. A few examples:
- Trump has repeatedly stated "I know more about ISIS than the generals," and that with him as POTUS, he would quickly solve the problem by " . . . bombing the sh.t out of them."
- In speaking about foreign policy, Trump has frequently said he has "a good instinct" and thus consults with himself first on these matters.
- Responding to Khizr and Ghazala Khan's contention that unlike their son, who was killed in action in 2004, Mr. Trump knows nothing about sacrifice, Trump said "“I think I've made a lot of sacrifices. I work very, very hard . . . I've created thousands and thousands of jobs." He also chastised Ghazala Khan, saying she looked “ . . . like she had nothing to say. She probably, maybe she wasn't allowed to have anything to say. You tell me.”
- Just the other day, Trump - who has been repeatedly stirring up crowds by telling them that Hillary Clinton should be behind bars because of the email scandal, had the consummate temerity to say "Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing . . . . I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” While I may not be as smart as Donald Trump, this strikes me as an open invitation for Russia - which is definitely not an ally - to invade American cyberspace
- Then there are Trump's comments about Mexicans ("rapists . . . murderers . . . drug dealers"), women ("pigs") his own daughter ("If she weren't my daughter . . . oh boy!") Senator John McCain ("He's no hero") and the judge in the Trump University case who he claimed was incapable of being unbiased due to his Mexican heritage . . .
Put all this together, plus literally dozens upon dozens of other blustering misstatements, untruths, flat out lies and defamatory nicknames and you have a man you can trust . . . to be spectacularly unqualified to be President of the United States.
Copyright ©2016 Kurt F. Stone