Monday, April 18, 2016

Defeating Donald Trump is a Moral imperative.

"His imagination should not be married to power". With words of rare eloquence and passion Mitt Romney summed up why Donald Trump's candidacy threatens the bedrock of American democracy. Defeating Trump is not a political choice but a moral imperative and here's why.

Every election year we hear that this is the most important election of our lifetime but 2016 election is, without a doubt, the election of our lifetimes. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are riding a wave of discontentment fueled by voters anger against the so-called 'establishment' and 'status-quo'. Trump and Sanders are easily interchangeable but for the mendacity and racism that undergirds Trump's candidacy. Sanders and Trump's positions on trade and foreign policy, two of America's most important pillars, are absolutely alike. They both have stoked a resentment towards establishment candidates and the parties themselves that seek to be standard bearers of. Both have literally hijacked the parties they seek to represent. Yet, it is Trump who literally threatens the heart and soul of America and therefore defeating him is a moral choice.

"He tells it like it is" say his supporters. Nothing is further from truth. Trump says what voters want to hear and without filters. Trump has made a virtue of being politically incorrect and his voters swoon with admiration that he's tearing up the playbook. When he was booed at a debate Trump sneered, with contempt dancing on his lips, "all lobbyists and supporters of Jeb". He was right. Tickets for being in debate audiences were often sold to lobbyists, campaigns and volunteers. What no candidate would've had the chutzpah to state bluntly Trump gladly stated and dismissed unfavorable audience reaction. Like many things with Trump he is correct once and wrong many times over. His 'tell it like it is' was less about stating inconvenient truths and more about flinging offensive accusations, blatant racism and sexism.

Trump launched his candidacy by informing America that Mexicans are rapists and vowed that he'd deport millions of illegal immigrants. In a country where the politically correct term for an illegal immigrant is 'undocumented immigrant' Trump's offensive became refreshing candor. While it is liberalism run amuck to object calling an illegal immigrant by the word "illegal" it is beyond indecency to call a people as 'rapists'. It is naked bigotry and accepting it because he serves it alongside with a dish of boldness is exactly the stupidity that'll unmake a great country. What is worse Trump cites the controversial programs of the Eisenhower era to support the feasibility of deporting millions. That program was unmitigated humanitarian disaster and America, at large, will simply not tolerate it today. China has a wall that was built to fend of invaders and therefore building a wall will be panacea to America's immigration mess says Trump and, to the lusty cheer of his supporters, he adds that he'll make "Mexico to pay for the wall". Pressed on how he'd make Mexico pay for it Trump cites the trade deficits with Mexico as a leverage. Damn the consequences of a trade war.

Both Sanders and Trump rail against trade agreements like NAFTA as having robbed America's jobs. Trump in addition rants that American negotiators, unlike him, the author of 'The art of the deal', were weak and every other country practically took advantage of US. When I watched a documentary of Reagan negotiating with Gorbachev at Reykjavik I wondered if Obama, famously aloof, would ever do such a thing. The trans-pacific-pact is a grand achievement that serves important economic and strategic goals of US. Trump said that China, which is not a part of the deal, had the better part of the deal. Why bother with knowing the details when empty sloganeering with dollops of outrage is all the electorate needs?

Why should America , asked Trump, defend South Korea and Japan while their cars, not American cars, take the lion's share of American car buying. Both Sanders and Trump conveniently forget that Japanese cars, more expensive than American cars, are the choice of American consumers who benefit from better quality vehicles being available. A little realized fact is that Hondas and Nissans are now mostly made in America. And, they are sold in America by the same rights that GM enjoys in selling in China and India.

Trump shocked foreign policy orthodoxy when he suggested that South Korea and Japan acquire nuclear weapons of their own. A nuclear arms race in South Asia is the last thing the world needs. After apoplectic reactions ricocheted across the world Trump gave an incoherent back track.

Sanders and Trump rail against NATO, the most successful military alliance in human history. Yes, it has been a long standing complaint that Europe takes a free ride on American military expenditure but no one in their sane mind has suggested, precisely when Russia and China are threatening global peace, torpedoing the grand military alliance.

Building a wall, tearing up NAFTA, withdrawing from NATO would all be acceptable nonsense and even an artless blunt way of speaking about issues in an attention grabbing way. All of that while enough to disqualify him for the Presidency what make him dangerous is his non-policy related vitriol. Policy related insanity can be stopped by Congress and other institutions but the democratic institutions of any country, including a 200 year old republic, are no match to racist rhetoric.

ISIS is beheading hostages so it is OK to waterboard them or kill their families said Trump. When CIA chief said that his organization will not follow any illegal order even if it is the commander-in-chief issuing them Trump blustered that as President he has the right to issue any order. I was reminded of Richard Nixon's "when the President does it, it is not illegal".

I was watching Oliver Stone's largely fictional 'Nixon' and it dawned on me that Donald Trump is more dangerous than Richard Nixon.

A sickening refrain I hear from his supporters is that he'll be more presidential once he gets the nomination or the presidency. We're told by his admirers that all this vulgarity and pugnacity is for show and that unbeknownst to us there is a gentleman to boot within Trump's persona that is waiting to taking front seat once he sits at the Oval office. This is absolute cockamamie bullshit and Nixon was proof of it.

Richard Nixon believed and practiced slash and burn politics. Nixon, the president, it turned out, was no different from Nixon the candidate. Speaking of his democratic opponent, a lady, Nixon said "she's pink down to her underwear". In office Nixon referred to Indira Gandhi, a leader he loathed, will even worse epithets. Trump wants to make it easy to sue for libel and give the First Amendment a knock. Richard Nixon's henchmen cast the press as enemies and went at the press with gusto. Race baiting was par for the course for Richard Nixon and Trump follows suit. In office Nixon was no different.

During the heated presidential race of 2008 rumors flew about Sarah Palin's youngest child and about the pregnancy of her teenage daughter. Obama unequivocally said "family is off limits". When a supporter spoke of Obama as a Muslim McCain objected and said "No" to the supporter. Campaigns have played nasty about families but never before has it been done directly by the candidate himself. In fact candidates go to great lengths to distance themselves from the troops who malign opponents, just to appear presidential. Hypocritical as it may seem we little realize that the sense of shame that makes candidates behave so is the last remaining defense against a president become the attack dog himself.

When a Super PAC released half-naked photos of Trump's wife Trump, after threatening to 'spill the beans' on Ted Cruz's wife, retaliated by sending tweet of an unflattering photo of Ted Cruz's wife alongside a stunning photo of his wife. All lines of decency has been breached by Trump. To add to it all, he, without any evidence, accused the Ted Cruz campaign of having coordinated with the Super PAC, a federal crime, to release those photos of his wife from a photoshoot she did in her days as a model. Accusing an opponent of federal crime and then disgracing his wife for her looks shows that Trump, in pursuit of the office, will not only slash burn but practically adopt a Hannibal like scorched earth policy.

Let us assume for a moment that Trump indeed becomes presidential after getting the nomination should we then forget and forgive these transgressions. Absolutely no. If we did that we'd have only condoned the attitude of unleashing a spectrum of despicable behaviors in the pursuit of office. A victory does not and never should it validate abandoning principles in it's pursuit. Never in human history has anyone achieved victory dishonorably only to behave honorably in office. Dishonorable candidates have been worse in office. Richard Nixon is a stark reminder of that.

Both Sanders and Trump are proving to be sore losers when it comes to how they talk of possibly losing the nomination thanks to the labyrinthine rules of the primary processes in each party. While the primary processes of each party can do with some reforms it is churlish when candidates complain of the process when they lose. Sanders's supporters, equally mercenary like and very willfully blind to logic like Trump voters, threaten revolting against the nominee if it's not their candidate. A key difference is that Trump, unlike Sanders, is openly threatening violence at the convention. Whatever the merits in Trump's complaints be, threatening violence unless he gets his way is a dangerous attitude that even Nixon did not show.

The 1960 election was a nail biting close one and charges of voter fraud against JFK, especially in Chicago, flew thick and fast and yet, even Richard Nixon, shied away from contesting the election. While Al Gore tried every constitutional method to change the verdict in Florida there came a point where even he yielded in the larger interest of the nation. To both Nixon and Gore the country was above party and the presidency was above satisfying personal ambition. Don't expect such grace from Trump. He'd rather leave the country dismembered than subjugate his volcanic ego. This is not portrayal of strong leadership but dangerously naked megalomania.

Politicians have always had contentious and even confrontational relationships with journalists and media houses. During a campaign stop in 2000 Bush was overheard on an open microphone, which he did not know was open, referring to New York Times journalist Adam Clymer unflatteringly and Dick Cheney agreeing. What they'd say behind closed doors Trump will do on twitter for all world to see. Trump's conduct of hurling abuses at Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly has been the most interesting sub-plot of this election. From accusing that her tough questioning of him during a debate was because she was menstruating ('she has blood coming out of her wherever')to ranting that he's overrated he has made it a personal crusade between himself and her. Again, that Bush would be careful to say something in what he thought was a private moment and not in public is not hypocrisy or being weak. Spouting off whatever crosses one's mind in a moment is not how ordinary citizens conduct themselves in their daily lives with their spouses, colleagues and kids, let alone presidents or candidates running for the highest office of the land. Now, think about whether Richard Nixon said anything close to Trump's tweets about Washington Post or Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

Who was the last American presidential candidate who talked on a debate stage about the size of his hands and that of his genitals? Who was the last candidate who relished giving his opponents offensive nicknames? Lying Ted. Low energy Jeb. Short Marco. Crooked Hillary. Would we condone our kids behaving like that? Why should we accept from a presidential candidate what we would not accept from our kids? We teach our kids that being a bully is not being strong. How do we accept schoolyard taunts from a candidate? Today it is his political opponents and tomorrow it very well could be Angela Merkel or David Cameron. Presidents and Prime Ministers speak colorfully of their counterparts in private meetings but when such comments are leaked a full blown damage control will be unleashed. Again, and again, by obliterating what people do in private and in full public glare and by promoting it as 'telling it like it is' we are promoting a bully.

The Trump rhetoric is seeping into the public conscience and already reports are coming out that school kids are adopting his rhetoric. In Wisconsin, a Fox news report says, at a high school girls soccer match "a group of students yelled 'Donald Trump' and 'Build the wall' at rival Latino players". The report says that similar incidents occurred in high school basketball games in Indiana and Iowa. The report adds that an analysis by Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks racial incidents, showed that 'of 5000 comments from teacher across the country' a staggering '1000 of them mentioned Trump as a factor in spreading racial and religious tension'.

Trump nonchalantly cites FDR's internment of Japanese-Americans in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor as precedence for treating Muslim-Americans differently. Are Americans concerned about terrorists using refugees as cover to infiltrate? Of course, yes. But to pander to fear and to fuel it by proposing an embargo on Muslims is sheer bigotry. In a moment of sweet irony now even democrats, including Obama, are citing how George Bush conducted himself very carefully after 9/11 and went to great lengths to show that America is not at war with Islam. Muslims serve in US military and CIA and Muslim neighborhoods in US have cooperated with FBI is combating terror.

I recently visited Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and saw a moving exhibit about letters that Japanese-American fathers wrote to their sons who joined the all-Nisei 100th infantry battalion. A father wrote, "do your best for your country (America). Die if you must. Live, if you can, but whatever you do, do not bring haji (shame) to the family. Your country, the honor of your family comes first". Let us remember that the most famous and longest running incidents of espionage in FBI and CIA were carried out by white Americans.

Mitt Romney was hounded all through 2008 for being the CEO of Bain Capital, a private equity firm that specialized in Leveraged Buy Outs. He was pilloried endlessly for the layoffs at firms that Bain took over. Romney always nervously explained how he created jobs 'net-net'. Private equity firms are literally the last resort of failing firms and therefore in the inevitable restructuring that follows. Watching a passionate and eloquent  Romney making the case for why Trump should not be elected many muttered "we'd not be here if only he had shown such passion and eloquence in getting himself elected". Where Romney was shy to explain the virtues of private equity Trump supplied bombast and bravado when asked to explain the bankruptcies of his firms. Trump thumped his chest and said that as businessman he was smart to use the available legal options for shutting down non-profitable businesses. The audience cheered as he added that having used the loopholes he's knowledgeable to fix American economy. Oy vey, why not elect Bernie Madoff and the long list of corporate crooks? America, with good reason does not 'elect' CEOs and with even better reasons does not 'select' CEOs to be Presidents.

Romney himself unwittingly provides the best evidence of the dangers of accommodating a little evil in the hope that it is just objectionable and nothing serious. Trump endorsed Romney in 2012 for the presidency. At that time Trump was notorious for what is called 'birther' nonsense, questioning that Obama was not qualified to be president because he was not, contrary to all evidence, a natural born US citizen. When such basic indecency is tolerated as a passing fad we should not be surprised when it mutates into something monstrous as mendacity without limits. Trump hit back at Romney saying that if he had asked Romney to "drop down" on his knees for that endorsement in 2012 Romney would've gladly done so.

The United States Holocaust Memorial quote's a text from Pastor Martin Neimoller to illustrate the dangers of accommodating evil because it is directed at somebody else.

"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-
Because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out-
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me-and there was no one left to speak for me"

If Romney had repudiated Trump when he was insulting the President of the United States as unqualified he could've occupied an unsullied moral pedestal from which if he had issued his condemnations they would've had a unrivaled moral strength.

I vividly remember how Lal Krishna Advani stoked the fires of religious separatism in pursuit of political office. In office as Deputy Prime Minister Advani's conduct was irreproachable but the Frankenstein's monster he had unleashed continues reverberate and create tremors in the Indian polity. Nixon created the EPA, the darling of today's leftists; wanted to implement universal healthcare, an obsession for Sanders today; created history by opening relationships with China and yet he's rated as the worst president in US history for the many wrongs he inflicted on humanity and democracy and all his wrongs stemmed from Nixon's own twisted megalomania married to power. America and the world can ill afford another Richard Nixon.

Donald Trump may become the nominee of the Republican Party or even, god forbid, the President but he'd have done so without my vote. I owe this to my conscience and to my daughter.


Anonymous said...

Just curious: why do people always conflate a stand against illegal immigration with racism?

Anonymous said...

You are a hypocrite
Kissing Clinton, what is she going to do?
You are still in FOB attitude after all these years, who cares about your vote, and you are writing to people who are ignorant about US politics.

anilkurup59 said...

As usual a well analysed post. I guess your points are pertinent posers to Trump and a genuine question,"Is America that dumb to elect this charlatan President?".

The anonymous comment here ask why illegal immigration is qualified with racism?
That has a point. Dont you think so?

Anonymous said...

Exactly my question. Why do people think it's about illegal immigration when it's about racism. Why do they conflate these two issues?