Monday, May 23, 2016

Are Trump and Clinton in a dead heat?

That's what the headline in The Daily Beast said linking to a new ABC/Washington Post poll showing the Donald leading Hillary, 46 to 44 percent.

Oh, no!

But wait. All the betting markets still show Mrs. Clinton with a sizable lead over Trump. So, what? you're probably thinking. Well, I follow this stuff more than any normal person should. And in my experience the betting markets are far more reliable than the polls. Not perfect, but better. While polls go up and down with every piece of news, gaffe, etc. the bookies seem to keep their heads when all about them are losing theirs.

But if you're really worried about Donald Trump becoming president of the United States -- and who wouldn't be? After all, this is serious! -- and you find, more and more, that otherwise sensible people you know are being tempted to vote for what they consider to be the "lesser of two evils," remind them of what Mitt Romney said back in May (all emphasis mine):

Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University. He's playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat.

I don't find myself agreeing with Mr. Romney too often, but he was spot-on about Trump. And if you know a Republican-leaning person who's warming to the Donald you may want to quote Romney:

But wait, you say, isn't he a huge business success that knows what he's talking about? No he isn't. His bankruptcies have crushed small businesses and the men and women who worked for them. He inherited his business, he didn't create it. And what ever happened to Trump Airlines? How about Trump University? And then there's Trump Magazine and Trump Vodka and Trump Steaks, and Trump Mortgage? A business genius he is not.

Remember, if Trump had just invested his inheritance in index funds he'd be far wealthier today. Think about that: the Donald would have been better off doing crossword puzzles all day than in investing in real estate these last several decades.*

I am far from the first to conclude that Donald Trump lacks the temperament to be president. After all, this is an individual who mocked a disabled reporter, who attributed a reporter's questions to her menstrual cycle, who mocked a brilliant rival who happened to be a woman due to her appearance, who bragged about his marital affairs, and who laces his public speeches with vulgarity.

Dishonesty is Trump's hallmark: He claimed that he had spoken clearly and boldly against going into Iraq. Wrong, he spoke in favor of invading Iraq. He said he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey celebrating 9/11. Wrong, he saw no such thing. He imagined it. His is not the temperament of a stable, thoughtful leader. His imagination must not be married to real power.

We will only really know if he is the real deal or a phony if he releases his tax returns and the tape of his interview with the New York Times. I predict that there are more bombshells in his tax returns. I predict that he doesn't give much if anything to the disabled and to our veterans. I predict that he told the New York Times that his immigration talk is just that: talk. And I predict that despite his promise to do so, first made over a year ago, he will never ever release his tax returns. Never. Not the returns under audit, not even the returns that are no longer being audited. He has too much to hide. Nor will he authorize the Times to release the tapes. If I'm right, you will have all the proof you need to know that Donald Trump is a phony.

Mr. Trump is directing our anger for less than noble purposes. He creates scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants, he calls for the use of torture and for killing the innocent children and family members of terrorists. He cheers assaults on protesters. He applauds the prospect of twisting the Constitution to limit first amendment freedom of the press. This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.

Romney says this is a "Time for Choosing." And he's right. You probably won't get too many chances in your life to Do The Right Thing on a national scale. This is probably the time. If Trump gets elected (and I still think he won't), and you voted for him, you'll have to look yourself in the mirror for the rest of your life with that knowledge. You'll have to say that when it was your time to "answer the bell" you failed.

Don't do it; vote for the one person who is truly qualified to be the Leader of the Free World. You don't have to "like" her; this isn't about having a beer with someone. It's about electing a president. And it's probably the most important thing you'll ever do in your life. Don't blow it.

* To be fair, here's a different take on the subject. (But, as Mr. Romney pointed out, without Trump's tax returns we'll never know what he's really worth.)

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