‘Sometimes there’s a stink you just can’t wash off, kinda like a venereal disease . . . That’s the problem Trump’s got.”
It can't get much worse than that, a quotation in The Economist attributed to a Republican Congressman.
Polls are showing that stinking mess tied with Hillary.
If there is such a thing as "momentum" in politics, it doesn't look good for the lady who will be the Democrats' nominee. A month ago, she was a clear leader in Clinton vs Trump surveys.
In the bluster that marks a political campaign, and perhaps this one more than most, the truth in what is said is elusive. However, Hillary has a number of negatives that fit Donald's style.
He is treating her sloppy management of e-mails as one of the greatest crimes of history. And he's calling Bill's philandering, apparently overlooked by many Americans when he was President, as one sign of Hillary's weakness.
I can't claim that the notes I've been receiving from Americans are typical of public opinion, but they provide insights into what are widely perceived as lousy choices.
One of the more colorful ---
For those of us old enough to remember the better days of the US, it makes one wonder about the future."To vote for any of these three is anathema and reason to vomit after walking out of the voting booth come November. . . . I would not trust any of the(m) . . . to clean my house, much less to become my President they are all just not trustworthy or serious . . . "
The 16 years of GW Bush and Barack Obama is best summarized by the Saudi king sending an underling to greet Obama when he landed.
In Muslim parlance, that's about as much of an insult as that quotation above about Trump from one of the senior politicians in his party.
Hardly encouraging are Hillary's actions as Secretary of State in promoting US participation in the destruction of the Qaddifi regime in Libya. Among the sub-headings in lengthy report by the New York Times is, "Very Simple Dreams."
One doubts that anything wiser will come from Donald Trump, known for a total lack of government experience, a mixed record in commerce, and an incomprehensible collection of one-liners expressed in the campaign.
Since the US was left as the only country standing at the end of WW II, with a monopoly on nuclear weapons, all the important places have either followed the US lead (i.e., Western Europe, Japan, Israel, South Korea), or maneuvered carefully to avoid provoking the US to take extreme action (i.e., the Soviet Union, Russia and China).
The Korean war was the sole example of what could be called a US success in using its military capacity. Yet even that ended with a President having military experience deciding that the status quo ante was the best that could be achieved.
Western Europe, Japan, South Korea, and Israel have benefited from US aid and a military umbrella.
Now we're hearing from some of the clients the fear/expectation that the American umbrella would be folded under threat instead of used.
From Reagan onward, efforts in the Middle East have been more tragic than helpful. The list begins with the US contribution to the arousal of violent Islam by recruiting Muslims to fight the Russians in Afghanistan, then the destruction of tough but effective regimes in Iraq and Libya, lack of accomplishment in Afghanistan, confused activity in Syria, and contributing to chaos in Egypt, with much of that under the banner of bringing democracy to Islam.
The application of those admirable principles to the Middle East outside of Israel has offended Muslim regimes, and impressed westerners who understand the region as beyond folly derived from ignorance..
America remains rich and powerful, even though its own society has the worst examples of poverty, limited education, and violence among Western democracies.
The chaos resulting from a lack of world leadership has been apparent since Arab Spring became winter.
Prominent is the continued killing of civilians in Syria by the Assad regime, its Russian allies, and Islamic militias, conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, mostly over Yemen but also apparent in Syria, Egypt's struggle with awakened Islamic violence among the Bedouin of the Sinai, civil wars in Iraq and Libya, a lack of anything that could be termed government in Afghanistan, and significant challenges to security in parts of Africa down to Nigeria.
We can expect a continuation of American retreat from hot spots beyond its borders. The historical record suggests that things will still be good at home for Americans who can do well for themselves in a setting of individual freedom, and taxes that provide protection for the money of the most well-to-do. Only the unfettered optimists expected great domestic change from two terms of Barack Obama. Cynics say that only an unBlack African-American could rise to the top of American politics, and that he has done what was needed by someone like Donald Trump to become President.
Israel will have to maneuver to protect itself from violence throughout its neighborhood that may spill over its borders, and extremism likely to infect Palestinians who are chronically restive.
Current discussions as to who killed the Hezbollah strongman point to the complexities in the Middle East. Candidates include Israel, Saudi Arabia, and a variety of militias with fluid conceptions of their enemies. The man killed was known for his sexual appetites, and among the guesses is that he set his sights on the wrong man's wife.
Europeans will maneuver to protect themselves from millions of Muslim refugees, while trying to extract those from the flow who can help them manage economically in the context of low birth rates among European Christians.
There's nothing to produce optimism about the future of America as a world leader. American wealth and power will continue to have influence, even without firm and wise hands at the tiller. The more adept of other government will be investing in the politics of the US as well as other countries.
The world was simpler in 1945.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem