Now to look backwards from today to the first campaign I ever worked on — that would be the 1956 Montgomery County, Maryland campaign of my best friend’s father, David Scull, for County Council. My task, at age 11, was to put his campaign business cards under cars’ windshield wiper blades in the immense parking lots of Silver Spring near Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road.
Okay, yes, that was a long time ago. And Mr. Scull lost although he won many more after that. And in the meantime, I have campaigned hard for voting rights for blacks in my native Maryland, on what I think was the Route 50 Bridge in Cambridge, for Gene McCarthy in the snows of New Hampshire in 1968 where we ragged student slobs stopped the LBJ machine cold. I also campaigned — of course — for Richard Milhous Nixon, The Peacemaker, in 1972. Also for Ronald Wilson Reagan in 1980 and 1984, and spoke for Right to Life everywhere and every year since 1973. In 2000, I addressed the Republican convention in Philadelphia on behalf of George W. Bush.
I am following the present campaign as closely as my intestines and nausea control centers will allow, and I hereby have come up with a few humble thoughts:
There has never been as vulgar and strutting a candidate in this nation’s postwar history as Donald Trump. I like his épater la bourgeoisie attitude about the media and political correctness, but he’s way too coarse and way too much of a bully for little me. I am used to milquetoasts like Bush 41 who talked like choirboys but actually flew combat missions against the Japanese Zero and had real courage, not that pitiful fake swagger that Trump carries around himself like a lycra animal skin. I am 71 now and I hope I never have to see a schoolyard creep like him again running for high office.
On the other hand, he’s made some excellent points about immigration and he’s to be thanked for that.
But his ideas about economics are horrifying. He wants a trade war with Mexico and China. Mr. Trump, suh, massuh, there never has been such a thing as a successful trade war. They don’t exist. No one ever wins a trade war. Consumers lose. Workers lose. Businesses lose. Tariff wars do not work. Take it from me who taught it to three generations in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. You may be able to bully your aides. You cannot bully China and Mexico and you don’t want to. If China wants to sell us goods cheaply and reinvest the money here, let’s thank them, not hate them.
Note also that Mr. Trump’s ideas of what is a statistic are wildly false. The unemployment number the government gives us is the right number: the number of people actively seeking work who do not have it. The fanciful huge numbers Mr. Trump tosses around are just plain fantasy. Yes, a great many workers have left the work force. Yes, that’s bad. That’s a whole different number from the unemployment numbers used since the end of the Second World War. Mr. Trump is comparing numbers he has made up with real numbers, real apples with clockwork oranges.
But the Democrats are just as wacky. Both candidates, Hill and Bernie, have attacked Wall Street viciously while putting out their paws for contributions. Both have taught us to hate the banks and to let the banks crumple up and die in the next crisis.
But we need banks and the absolutely worst thing we could possibly, conceivably do while the economy is running roughly is to even hint at allowing a bank to fail. That’s where great recessions come from. Bank credit is life and death for the economy. It should be the stated policy of this nation that we will never again allow a large bank to fail. Not ever. If the managers have committed crimes, indict them. But do not let credit wither and die. That’s just plain insanity and it terrifies me that both GOP and Democratic campaigners talk gleefully about allowing big banks to fail. That’s arson. That’s close to treason.
My final note for today on the campaigns. Americans obviously like us old folks better than I thought they did. I am 71. Bernie is 74 and drawing immense crowds. Trump is killing in the polls and he’s 68. So is Hillary 68 and odds on to be the candidate. (We were in law school together. I was the cool one. She was the nerd. Nothing’s changed except she’s a rich nerd. How did a civil servant get so rich…)
Cheer up, old Benjy. There is still some magic in our old silk hats. Gee, the college kids like us. They really like us!!!!
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