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Republican US presidential nominee Donald Trump listens as Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton answers a question from the audience during their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, US, October 9, 2016.(Photo by: REUTERS)
Comment: The US election's two-headed monster
America’s decline, as evidenced by the poor choices in this election, bodes ill not only for Israel, but for all the decent, freedom-loving peoples in the world.
Among the best pictures making the rounds of the Internet these days is the one with Hillary and Donald angrily facing off against each other during their debate. The caption reads simply: “Two more good reasons to make aliya!” This is what in Yiddish we call a bittere gelechter, a bitter joke. Funny at first blush, but pretty tragic when you think about it. This most bizarre of presidential campaigns has not only captivated the planet’s attention for months, it has dramatically diminished America’s image in the world. The vast majority of people I know – myself included – will be voting in 10 days for negative reasons only, asking themselves just one question: “Who do you dislike the least?” And there is plenty of dislike to go around.

Trump, one would have thought, posed a formidable challenge to Clinton.

After all, he defeated a slew of opponents in the Republican primaries, with rousing crowds cheering him on, while Hillary struggled to subdue Bernie Sanders, considered a far-out screwball by most of the political establishment. Trump had name recognition, unlimited funds and had held no previous office – a major plus for voters fed up with politics-as-usual and desperate for a change.

But Trump has consistently stuck both feet in his mouth, having an extraordinary knack for always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. He is horrendously weak on the major issues confronting America – security, health care, crime and the economy chief among them – and has failed to even present a team of qualified advisers who might have compensated for his lack of knowledge.

Debates generally favor the underdog.

JFK, for example, turned the tide against front-runner Richard Nixon by virtue of his clear victory in the 1960 debates – the first to be televised in American history – but the current debates have only made Trump look worse. Dodging the issues, resorting to insults and name-calling, stalking Hillary from behind and making bizarre faces – Trump’s popularity has plummeted with each session.

Not to mention the “grope” video and the parade of women supposedly harassed and pawed by Trump that are being systematically released by Godknows- who.

At the same time, we face the frightful prospect of putting another Clinton into office for what could be eight more excruciating years. Hillary does not inspire confidence. She has been linked to half a dozen scandals, has a reputation of playing fast and loose with the truth and is hardly a moral role model herself.

She remained with husband Bill – one of only two American presidents ever to have been impeached – through all his cheating and philandering. Bill actually committed the sins that Donald only brags about, and Hillary may even have helped enable them. Where is the self-respect for a woman who tolerates such sexual misconduct in her own home? The conclusion many draw is that she was so bent on gaining political power that she sacrificed pride and principle to get there.

Worst of all, Hillary will undoubtedly perpetuate the Obama doctrine down the line. She will be soft on Iran and hard on Israel, which used to be America’s greatest friend. Her advisers – no friends of Israel, they – will counsel her to maintain an “even-handed” policy in the Middle East, code words for leaning hard on the Jewish state to make all the concessions. This is exactly what husband Bill did during his term, pressuring Israel incessantly to give away the farm, while hosting Yasser Arafat in the White House more than any other foreign “leader.”

Eight years ago, when Obama first took office, a leader of Democrats in Israel told me: “Obama is hugely popular across the world; wait and see how he will improve Israel’s image internationally and stop the Israel-bashing at the UN.” Well, I waited, and I still haven’t seen it; Israel’s position is arguably worse today – see the recent vote on Jerusalem – than when Obama took his oath. And it won’t get any better with Hillary.

America’s decline, as evidenced by the poor choices in this election, bodes ill not only for Israel, but for all the decent, freedom-loving peoples in the world who are continually under siege by radical and fanatic forces. The challenges will grow, and the consequences will be catastrophic, unless qualified leaders are there to step into the breach.

What we desperately need is a process that in the future will carefully vet potential candidates, requiring them to demonstrate an acute knowledge of world affairs and domestic issues, and will thoroughly investigate their past before they earn the right to run for the world’s highest office. Few candidates may survive this process, I grant you, but those who do will hopefully energize, rather than embarrass us.

Until them, Simon and Garfunkel’s refrain will remain the bottom line: “Laugh about it, shout about it, when you have to choose; Any way you look at it you lose.”

The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana and a member of the Ra’anana City Council.
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