“A man may see how this world goes with no eyes,” as the Bard put it. The leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination is an advocate of government-run health care, a proponent of massive tax increases, and hadn’t heard of the nuclear triad until questioned about it during a debate. The probable Democratic nominee is, as William Safire famously put it, “a congenital liar” whose tenure as Secretary of State produced a spate of scandal and skulduggery that would have made Richard III blush. How this world goes, in other words, is straight to Hell in a hand basket.
Exaggeration? Think about it. Next January, either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be endowed with more power over world affairs than any Roman emperor enjoyed. Shakespeare, dead 400 years last Saturday, described the inevitable evolution of such power into a “universal wolf.” What would he say about handing over that ravenous beast to Trump, whose madness has no method, or Clinton — Lady Macbeth without the charm? The Bard would certainly recognize their historical corollaries and probably mutter something about the “vicious mole of nature” that infects them both.
And Shakespeare knew nothing of thermonuclear weapons. In his day, the engines of war didn’t include a device that could incinerate the “sceptred isle” before lunch. And, though he was no stranger to international commerce, he would have had difficulty imagining a nation with the kind of economic power wielded by the U.S. We don’t enjoy such blissful ignorance. It is all too easy to visualize the havoc Trump would wreak on the world economy if permitted to implement his destructive trade proposals. And, as to the image of Clinton’s vindictive hand hovering over the nuclear button …
All of which raises the inevitable question: Can’t we do better? In a country with a population of more than 320 million, how is possible that we must choose between these two characters? There are only actually three basic requirements that a candidate must meet to become president: He or she must be a natural born citizen, at least thirty-five years old, and have been a resident of the United States for a minimum of fourteen years. But there are other un-codified qualifications, chief among these being a real talent for duplicity. You must be, as Richard III describes himself, “subtle, false and treacherous.”
This is where most normal human beings would fail to make the cut in a presidential race. Except in a very few cases, successful candidates for President must be able to repeatedly look the voters in the eye and lie “with such volubility that you would think truth were a fool.” A normal individual is unable do this day after day, month after month, without serious psychological strain. Even the Bard’s most notorious malefactor felt guilt: “My conscience hath a thousand several tongues, and every tongue brings in a several tale, and every tale condemns me for a villain.”
Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton have such bouts with their consciences. For the latter, the most notorious example of utter indifference to her own “false and treacherous” behavior came in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee concerning her serial lies about the fatal terrorist attack on our Benghazi embassy and the resultant murder of our ambassador and several other embassy personnel. When pressed by GOP Senator Ron Johnson about her statements during and after the attack, Clinton angrily retorted, “What difference, at this point, does it make?”
Donald Trump is equally untroubled by what Richard III calls his “coward conscience.” No matter how many lies he tells about his true positions on Obamacare, abortion, taxes, and the deficit; no matter how many people he bilked with the Trump University scam; no matter how many Democrat talking points he brays while claiming to be a Republican, he obviously believes what he says when he says it. He’s the political corollary to the pathological liar played by Jon Lovitz on SNL. And, when anyone calls him on it, he claps “upon two or three probable lies.” Yea, that’s the ticket.
There is, of course, still a remote possibility that Trump may not be the GOP nominee. At least one observer is sure that Cruz will carry the Republican banner this fall. And, while Cruz is no stranger to “vaulting ambition,” he is almost pathologically honest. This is why he has so many enemies among establishment Republicans. They consider him to be something of a serpent’s egg, “which hatch’d, would as his kind grow mischievous,” but hate him less than Trump. And, unlike the Donald, Cruz has a fighting chance of beating Hillary in November, even after a messy contested convention.
And, make no mistake about it, Hillary will be the Democratic nominee. After the Sanders charade ends, his ostensible supporters will rally to her flag and vote in their usual monolithic fashion. Democrats don’t suffer from Hamlet-like ambivalence at election time. Many distrust her, but remain convinced that a Republican in the White House is the ultimate evil. They will vote their ticket without hesitation. On the Republican side, there is no such solidarity. The #NeverTrump crowd isn’t kidding. They would rather lose than cast a vote for such an obvious Trojan Horse.
This is why I’m not feeling so good. If not for its circular firing squad, this would be a winnable election for the GOP. And, as bad as Trump is, he can’t be worse than Mrs. Clinton. I don’t want to wake up November 9 with the media celebrating her victory as I “trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.”