Unlike previous elections, many undecided voters are educated, savvy conservatives who have not committed to Donald Trump, a Wall Street Journal analysis reported. Like me, many of these voters are repelled by both candidates.
Donald Trump may not be perfect, the argument goes, he may say silly and offensive things, but he’s still better than Hillary Clinton. It’s true that the one thing that Donald Trump has going for him is that he isn’t Hillary, but that doesn’t mean that he is necessarily better than Hillary. As we learned from Barack Obama in 2008, “change” doesn’t always mean “better.” Let’s look closer at Mr. Trump to find out whether he truly is the lesser evil.
My problems with Trump can be boiled down to three areas: character, policy and judgment. It isn’t just that Trump says silly and insulting things. He seems to be a genuinely bad and untrustworthy person. On many levels, his character flaws are astonishingly similar to those of Hillary Clinton. His ideas are as flawed and half-formed as his character, often seemingly thrown out on a whim, only to be retracted or disavowed later. Likewise, Trump’s judgment is quick, brash and often wrong.
The most obvious character flaw of both candidates is their propensity for lying. Their relationships with the truth are so nebulous that they both lie about small, stupid, easily disprovable things. They lie even when they don’t have to. The Daily Wire compiled a list of 101 of Trump’s lies, hardly all inclusive, and, after analyzing his speeches, found that, on average, he lied every five minutes. In 2015, after half a year in politics, Politifact gave Trump the “Lie of the Year” award, not for one specific fib as it did for President Obama, but for lifetime achievement. The sheer volume of Trump falsehoods floods the zone of anyone trying to keep him honest.
Trump’s fundamental untrustworthiness is underscored by corruption that also rivals that of the Clintons. The most famous instance of Trump’s corruption is the Trump University case where Trump stands accused of being a literal con man who bilked novice real estate investors out of tens of thousands of dollars of their hard-earned money. That is not the full extent of his corruption, however.
Trump has a long history of using eminent domain, the government seizure of private property, to take homes from the poor to build or expand his luxury properties. In one famous case, Trump tried to use eminent domain to bulldoze the home of Vera Coking, an elderly widow, in order to build a parking lot for his Trump Plaza hotel and casino in Atlantic City. Trump lost that case in court.
The Trump Plaza was one of several Trump casinos that went bankrupt in the early 1990s, leaving investors and creditors on the hook for most of the losses. Trump’s casinos were funded with debt that left them unprofitable when most casinos were thriving. Trump also left a trail of unpaid bills from contractors and employees in his wake, according to an investigation by USA Today. Among the people he allegedly stiffed were bartenders, waiters and other hourly employees who sued Trump – and won – for unpaid wages.
In 1973, Trump and his father were named as defendants in a suit by the federal government for violations of the Fair Housing Act. The charge was segregating the company’s rental buildings by refusing to rent to minorities like Maxine Brown, a 33-year-old black nurse. A New York Timesinvestigation found a long list of racial complaints against Trump Management on file at the New York Commission on Human Rights. The Trumps settled and agreed to desegregate their buildings in 1973.
In spite of having illegal immigration as a signature issue, Trump also has a long record of violating immigration law at his companies. In the 1980s, Trump used illegal Polish immigrants on construction projects. Several former models have also accused Trump of exploiting them and hiring them to work without U.S. work visas. The women say that Trump Model Management taught them how to circumvent U.S. immigration and labor laws. As recently as last year, many Hispanic workers on at least one Trump construction project were reported to be illegal aliens.
Trump also has a corrupt foundation to compete with the corrupt Clinton Foundation. In a serious scandal that is just emerging, the Donald J. Trump Foundation made an illegal payment of $25,000 to Florida attorney general Pam Bondi a few days before she decided not to pursue a case against Trump University. Shortly after the decision, Trump held another fundraiser for Bondi at his Mar-a-Lago mansion. The Trump Foundation also gave $100,000 to a group that sued the New York attorney general who sued Trump over Trump University.
Numerous reports indicate that Trump has invested little in his charity foundation yet has profited handsomely from it. The Washington Post found that Trump used the Trump Foundation’s charitable funds as his own piggybank. Trump used charity funds to settle a legal dispute with the city of Palm Beach, Florida. The agreement had stipulated that Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club would pay for the settlement. Trump also used charity funds, which were almost entirely donated by others, to buy portraits of himself and advertise his hotels.
If that were not enough, Trump is accused of having ties to the mafia resulting from his use of mob-owned firms in construction projects and his days as an Atlantic City casino operator. Trump also took $150,000 from a September 11 fund earmarked to help small businesses recover from the attack. Trump said that the payment was for helping victims of the attack, but the New York Daily Newsfound that the funds were issued for “rent loss,” “cleanup” and “repair.”
Trump and Hillary both share a lack of character that is disturbing to see in a possible president. Further, the scale of corruption is not an indication of who is more corrupt. As Jesus said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10). One bit of corruption makes a person completely corrupt.
Left of center
Even if Trump’s character is just as bad as Hillary’s, who has no shortage of corruption and incompetence charges herself, it might still be tempting to vote for Trump if he could be trusted, under close supervision, to enact a broad agenda of conservative reform. What does Trump stand for?
Several issues stand out where most reluctant Trump supporters say he is preferable to Hillary Clinton. Unlike Hillary, they say, Trump won’t threaten the Second Amendment or raise taxes. He’s better on religious liberty and abortion, they argue. Is he?
On many issues Trump is incoherent and the Second Amendment is no exception. CNN chronicles his “evolution” on gun control. Prior to running for president, Trump supported assault weapons bans and waiting periods. Even today, Trump takes the Democrat position that people on TSA watch lists should be banned from buying guns. In contrast, Hillary supports expanding background checks and reinstating the same assault weapons ban that Trump supported before he ran for president.
On taxes, the Trump campaign has advanced a plan that would cut income taxes, but at the same time he has left open the possibility of another tax increase, saying last May,” “I am willing to pay more, and you know what, the wealthy are willing to pay more.” Trump has refused to reveal exactly how much he does pay in taxes. In August, he revised his tax plan with higher rates than he had proposed in the primary. Clinton has proposed a bevy of tax hikes that would fall primarily on wealthy Americans and businesses.
Often not discussed as taxes are Trump’s tariffs, huge tax increases on trade. Trump bragged that his views on trade were “very similar” to those of Bernie Sanders. Trump’s massive tariffs on trade with Mexico, China and Japan and the possible destruction of NAFTA, one of the most successful trade agreements in history, would be devastating. Trump’s trade policy would make items more expensive for American consumers and businesses. One study found that Trump’s tariffs would cost Americans more than $11,000 per year. This is much more than they would save from income tax rate cuts. The Wall Street Journal, the most conservative paper in the country, found that Trump’s trade policy would likely start a trade war and fuel a recession that could cost 5 million jobs.
On religious liberty, Trump was the sole Republican of the final four not to pledge to sign the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) to protect gay marriage dissidents from federal action. Trump was critical of Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, for her faith-based refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses. When asked about protections for Christian businesses in a meeting with evangelical leaders, Donald Wildman said, “Either he doesn’t understand it or he doesn’t agree with us and he doesn’t want to tell us that.” Trump’s main focus in the battle for religious liberty seems to be allowing churches to endorse candidates without losing their tax-exempt status.
On the subject of abortion, Trump is particularly incoherent. As late as March, Trump was praising abortion provider Planned Parenthood and was the sole Republican to resist cutting funding for the group. Trump may have set a personal best for flip-flops when he took five different positions on abortion in three days. Most recently, two months before Election Day Trump reinvented himself as a staunch abortion opponent.
On spending and the debt, Trump said just last month that “this is a time to borrow.” Trump would use those borrowed funds on an infrastructure stimulus spending package that is twice as big as the one that Hillary proposes. Entitlements are the largest driver of deficit spending, yet Trump refuses to consider entitlement reform.
For those who would like to see pro-business regulatory reform, Trump does not look promising. He has advocated more banking regulation by reviving the New Deal-era Glass-Steagall Act, which prohibited banks from diversifying into insurance. He also unveiled a plan to require businesses to offer paid maternity leave, a tax-and-spend plan to be paid for through state unemployment taxes.
On the economy, Trump did a full flip-flop with a half twist when he suddenly decided to back another progressive position and call for an increase to the minimum wage. Trump advocates an increase in the federal minimum wage to $10 per hour. In the past, he has advocated a minimum wage as high as $15 per hour while also arguing that “wages are too high.”
Trump dislikes other treaties in addition to NAFTA. He has threatened to reconsider American defense alliances with both NATO countries and South Korea. In spite of Trump’s criticism of Obama’s not-a-treaty with Iran, he has no plans to scrap the nuclear deal. When it comes to fighting ISIS, Trump’s call for attacks with aircraft and drones and the establishment of a coalition are essentially the same strategy that President Obama has employed.
What makes Trump especially dangerous…
Trump is a liar and a man of poor character. He also does not exhibit core principles and tends to default to leftist positions. So does Hillary. But wait, as they might say in a Trump University infomercial, there’s more! Donald Trump displays several difficulties that are so uniquely bad that they should disqualify him from the presidency, even if the only other alternative is Hillary Clinton. Many of these problems stem from Trump’s poor judgment.
When most people think of Trump’s lack of judgment, they think of things like how he mocked a disabled reporter or set about with the character assassination of the parents of a fallen American soldier. In reality, his errors in judgment go far beyond such trivialities to attacks on civil liberties and statements that would be matters of war and peace if he were president.
Those who dislike President Obama’s abuse of his executive authority to bypass Congress, should expect more of the same from Donald Trump. Trump has said that Obama “led the way” on Executive Orders and that he is “going to do a lot of things” with executive actions.
Trump’s embrace of conspiracy theories also sets him apart from other politicians. Trump has advocated theories ranging from birtherism to 9/11 trutherism to the bizarre claim that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination. Trump is either very gullible or cynically exploits believers in conspiracy theories for publicity. Perhaps both.
It may be Trump’s poor judgment that garnered his endorsement from ISIS. Yes, the terrorist group ISIS has expressed support for Trump according to multiple sources cited in “Time.” One ISIS supporter said, “The ‘facilitation’ of Trump’s arrival in the White House must be a priority for jihadists at any cost!!!” [emphasis his]. “I ask Allah to deliver America to Trump,” wrote another.
From the Middle East to Mexico, where Trump refused to rule out the possibility of going to war over payment for his wall, Trump’s errors of judgment are the product of willful ignorance and a bully mentality. Interestingly, the bully backed down when he actually met Mexican President Nieto face-to-face, only to launch a salvo of bombast when he was safely back across the border in Arizona.
The final two problems between Trump ‘s judgment are egregious. Either one should disqualify a candidate even without the consideration of any other issue.
First, Trump’s affinity for Vladimir Putin is naïve and dangerous. Trump’s admiration for Putin is seen in his campaign staffing and may have impacted his proposed foreign policy on Ukraine. Trump has surrounded himself with pro-Putin advisors such as Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Michael Flynn. There is strong evidence that the Russians are trying to influence the election on behalf of Trump. Donald Trump has an obvious blind spot when dealing with Vladimir Putin and Russia that could be dangerous. In fact, Trump’s affinity for Putin is already making the precarious situation in the Ukraine worse.
Finally, there is the fact that Trump has openly advocated political violence on numerous occasions. In my near-half century, I cannot remember a single candidate who has encouraged his supporters to “rough up” political opponents as Trump did. Trump also made a veiled threat that there would be “riots” if Republicans contested his nomination at the convention. Violence has been mostly absent from American politics since the 1968 riots at the Democratic convention in Chicago. Until Trump. For that reason alone, he cannot be trusted with power.
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are both poor choices. They are both progressive. They are both liars. They are both corrupt. The both have poor judgment. They would both be destructive for America.