Mr Trump and The Spineless Republicans

August 3, 2016


Mr Trump and The Spineless Republicans

by The Editorial Board

Americans, do you trust Trump with their Future?

Just when it seems that Donald Trump could not display more ignorance and bad judgment or less of a moral compass, he comes up with another ignominy or two. This weekend he denigrated the parents of a fallen American military hero and suggested that if elected he might recognize Russia’s claims to Ukraine and end sanctions.

Mr. Trump’s divisive views helped him capture the Republican presidential nomination. And even as he creates a political whirlwind with each utterance, leading members of his own party haven’t the spine to rescind their support. Sure, some have come out with strong criticisms, but none have gone far enough. Repudiation of his candidacy is the only principled response.

On Sunday on ABC, Mr. Trump’s comments on Ukraine demonstrated even less knowledge about world affairs than suspected. His remarks also reinforced suspicions that he is sympathetic toward Vladimir Putin, Russia’s authoritarian, anti-Western president.

Mr. Trump seemed confused about Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its efforts to wrest other parts of the country from Ukraine’s control. “He’s not going into Ukraine, O.K., just so you understand,” Mr. Trump said, apparently unaware that Mr. Putin sent troops there two years ago and that the international community still considers Crimea to be part of Ukraine. Russian troops have been seen, and sometimes killed, in Russian-speaking parts of Ukraine where an insurgency is fighting the Ukrainian government.

The United States and the European Union have condemned the land grab, which is at odds with post-Cold War commitments, and imposed sanctions that Mr. Putin is desperate to have lifted. Mr. Trump’s willingness to support Mr. Putin’s claim on Crimea and other parts of Ukraine, coupled with his lack of commitment to NATO, is good reason for Europe to fear for the future of the alliance if he becomes President.

There are other reasons to wonder about Mr. Trump’s friendly view of Mr. Putin. His campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was a political consultant for the pro-Russia political party in Ukraine and for a former president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was forced out of office by anti-Russian forces in 2014. Also, as Mr. Trump acknowledged, his supporters watered down language in the Republican Party platform to omit support for sending weapons to Ukraine.

Mr. Trump’s derision of the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan, a Muslim American who was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart after he was killed in Iraq by a suicide bomber, was deplorable and mystifying. Why would a presidential candidate mock the parents of a soldier who died in combat?

At last week’s Democratic convention, Captain Khan’s father, Khizr Khan, with his wife, Ghazala Khan, by his side, criticized Mr. Trump for proposing to ban Muslim immigration to the United States and accused him of having made no sacrifices for his country. Over the weekend, Mr. Trump implied that Mrs. Khan did not speak at the convention because her religion did not allow it, and he equated his “sacrifices” as a businessman to those of the grieving parents. On Monday, Mr. Trump kept at it, complaining on Twitter that Mr. Khan “viciously attacked” him.

Some Republicans, like the House speaker, Paul Ryan; the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell; and Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire released statements defending the Khans. Yet they still refuse to back off their support for Mr. Trump.

Young Donald J Trump (left) and Decorated  Hero John McCain

Few carry as much weight on military matters as Senator John McCain of Arizona, himself a decorated hero of the Vietnam War, who issued a statement Monday sharply criticizing Mr. Trump, saying, “It is time for Donald Trump to set the example for our country and the future of the Republican Party.”

 It’s hard to imagine, a year into the campaign, that Mr. Trump could ever set such an example. The truth is, it’s time for Mr. McCain and other Republican leaders to set an example for their party by withdrawing support for Mr. Trump.
A version of this editorial appears in print on August 2, 2016, on page A22 of the New York edition with the headline: Mr. Trump and Spineless Republicans.


There is something very wrong with Donald Trump

August 3, 2016

There is something very wrong with Donald Trump

by Robert Kagan, August 1 at 3:51 PM

Robert Kagan is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a contributing columnist for The Post.

One wonders if Republican leaders have begun to realize that they may have hitched their fate and the fate of their party to a man with a disordered personality. We can leave it to the professionals to determine exactly what to call it. Suffice to say that Donald Trump’s response to the assorted speakers at the Democratic National Convention has not been rational.

Why denigrate the parents of a soldier who died serving his country in Iraq? And why keep it going for four days? Why assail the record of a decorated general who commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan? Why make fun of the stature of a popular former mayor of New York? Surely Trump must know that at any convention, including his own, people get up and criticize the opposition party’s nominee. They get their shots in, just as your party got its shots in. And then you move on to the next phase of the campaign. You don’t take a crack at every single person who criticized you. And you especially don’t pick fights that you can’t possibly win, such as against a grieving Gold Star mother or a general. It’s simply not in your interest to do so.

The fact that Trump could not help himself, that he clearly did, as he said, want to “hit” everyone who spoke against him at the Democratic convention, suggests that there really is something wrong with the man. It is not just that he is incapable of empathy. It is not just that he feels he must respond to every criticism he receives by attacking and denigrating the critic, no matter how small or inconsequential. If you are a Republican, the real problem, and the thing that ought to keep you up nights as we head into the final 100 days of this campaign, is that the man cannot control himself. He cannot hold back even when it is manifestly in his interest to do so. What’s more, his psychological pathologies are ultimately self-destructive. (Disclosure: I was a guest speaker at a fundraiser for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton last month; I have no role with her campaign.)

[Robert Kagan: This is how fascism comes to America]

Trump is, in this respect, unlike a normal politician. A normal politician knows that no matter how much criticism gets under the skin, the thing to do is to smile and wave it off. You don’t have to mean it. You don’t even have to appear to mean it. But it is what you do, if only to avoid compounding the damage. Trump cannot make this simple self-serving calculation. He must attack everyone who opposes him, even after he has defeated them. He must continue talking about Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s father, even after Cruz has thrown in the towel. He must humiliate New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, even after Christie has lain down before him.

Many of Trump’s supporters admire him for his bold challenge to political correctness. But his political incorrectness may be only an unintended side effect of his malady. Some of the insults he fires back at his critics are politically incorrect: the racist and misogynist taunts. But others are just childish: making fun of someone’s height, or suggesting that someone’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination. It’s not really politically incorrect to say that a prisoner of war is not a hero because he got captured. It’s just a way of saying, I don’t care if you’re a war hero. You criticized me and now I’ve got to hit you. Trump’s insults are scattershot — only sometimes touching the raw racist and xenophobic nerves in society. The most important fact is that he is unable to control his responses to criticism. He must double down every time, even if it means digging himself deeper and deeper into the hole.

Imagine such a person as President. What we have seen in the Trump campaign is not only a clever method of stirring up the anger in people. It is also a personality defect that has had the effect of stirring up anger. And because it is a defect and not a tactic, it would continue to affect Trump’s behavior in the White House. It would determine how he dealt with other nations. It would determine how he dealt with critics at home. It would determine how he governed, how he executed the laws, how he instructed the law-enforcement and intelligence agencies under his command, how he dealt with the press, how he dealt with the opposition party and how he handled dissent within his own party.

His personality defect would be the dominating factor in his Presidency, just as it has been the dominating factor in his campaign. His ultimately self-destructive tendencies would play out on the biggest stage in the world, with consequences at home and abroad that one can barely begin to imagine. It would make him the closest thing the United States has ever had to a dictator, but a dictator with a dangerously unstable temperament that neither he nor anyone else can control.

One can hope it does not come to that. In all likelihood, his defects will destroy him before he reaches the White House. He will bring himself down, and he will bring the Republican Party and its leaders down with him. This would be a tragedy were it not that the party and its leaders, who chose him as their nominee and who now cover and shill for this troubled man, so richly deserve their fate.

The Politics of Thailand

August 2, 2016

The Politics of Thailand

The Generals who hide behind the throne

Thailand is ill-prepared for the death of its King

TO THE tourists who still flock to its beaches and golden temples, Thailand seems calm. But this is an illusion. Thai politics are as ugly as the country is beautiful—and could soon get uglier. The country’s beloved king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, whose 70th year on the throne was celebrated on June 9th, is 88 years old and gravely ill. The country is scared of what might happen when he dies (see article).

Were Thailand a normal democracy with a constitutional monarchy, the death of a king would cause national sorrow but not political instability. Alas, it is not. Two years ago the army seized power in a bloodless coup. An “interim” constitution grants the prime minister and junta leader, Prayuth Chan-ocha, almost unlimited power. Because the regime is illegitimate, it hides behind Thailand’s most revered institution.

Its propagandists do all they can to fizz up adulation of the monarchy; for example, by building colossal statues of seven Thai kings. And the regime has applied Thailand’s strict lèse-majesté laws with ferocity, arresting people for the slightest perceived insult to the dignity of the king, his family or even his pet dog. Those deemed to have defamed his majesty face up to 30 years in prison. This creates an atmosphere in which critics of the government, too, can be bludgeoned into silence.

Whereas Mr Prayuth rambles self-righteously on his weekly television show, opposition parties are gagged and parliament stuffed with the junta’s allies. The regime has hauled critics to army bases for “attitude adjustment”. It has charged Thailand’s former Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, with neglect-in-office, and may hand her ten years in jail. The army’s latest ploy is a new constitution, which would allow fresh elections but keep the next government subservient to a nominated senate and a handful of junta-stacked committees.

New Constitution

It hopes to win public approval for this plan in a referendum on August 7. Just to make sure, it has trained bureaucrats to “explain” the charter to voters, but it forbids civilians from campaigning against it, on pain of a ten-year prison sentence.

The generals insist that their actions have been for the good of Thailand. Their coup in 2014 ended months of pro- and anti-government street protests, which had turned violent. Locking out Ms Yingluck, they hint, keeps a dodgy family out of power. Ms Yingluck backed an amnesty bill that could have allowed her brother, Thaksin, another former prime minister, to return from exile in Dubai. The army had deposed him in 2006, arguing that his administration was corrupt.

Indeed it was, but probably no more so than most Thai governments. The army’s excuses for seizing power are wearing thin. Thailand has seen a dozen successful coups since the 1930s and a new constitution on average every four years. The army typically installs conservative governments that favour the urban elite. That has entrenched inequality and infuriated the rural poor. Mr Thaksin won two elections by wooing poor voters with free public health care and subsidies for farmers. He may have left the scene, but his supporters are still there.

The Crown Prince 

The army has long defended its coups by claiming to have the king’s support. After taking power, coup-leaders have always trekked to the palace to receive royal assent. But if King Bhumibol is succeeded by the crown prince, who is unpopular, the claim of royal approval will count for less. Elites fret that the succession will disrupt long lines of patronage which for generations have shovelled wealth and influence their way. They fear that anti-government activists will seize the chance to push for big changes in how the country is run.

Little time, much to do

With luck, the succession will pass peacefully. But securing long-term stability will require reforms that the army may not like. Royals should speak out against the lèse-majesté law (which King Bhumibol has already once condemned, in 2005). The generals must allow Thais the freedom to debate the new constitution. A better one would be more like the 1997 charter, so far Thailand’s best. If and when the soldiers return to barracks, they will need pruning: their idle ranks include more generals and admirals than America’s armed forces, which serve a superpower nearly five times as populous.

Politicians must rethink, too. Thailand’s middle classes may find Thaksinite populism abhorrent, but they have failed to provide poorer Thais with an alternative. The Democrat Party, the establishment’s main political outfit, has been squealing about the generals’ stifling rule. But for years it has put off the groundwork needed to win an election, betting instead that friends in the army or judiciary will help it. Any lasting solution will require decentralising power to the provinces.

Untangling this mess will take years, but it is not impossible. If the junta blocks reform, allies such as America should impose financial sanctions and travel bans on its leaders and their cronies. Thailand needs a civilian government that is accountable to voters and the law, not to the men with guns.

1MDB Not An Overnight Monster; Likewise “Malaysian Official 1”

August 2, 2016

1MDB Not An Overnight Monster; Likewise “Malaysian Official 1”

by Dr. M. Bakri Musa, Morgan-Hill, California

Prolific Public Intellectual, and Author, Dr M. Bakri Musa

Now with the National Security Act of 2016 operative, criticisms of MO1 would be that much more difficult and treacherous. Again, that NSA did not appear overnight. It took decades in preparation, going back to the constitutional amendment of 1994 which made possible for laws passed by Parliament to dispense with Royal Assent.

That constitutional amendment, as well as the rotting institutions, is water underneath the bridge. No point wallowing in it. Yet many are still obsessed with the blame game and relish indulging their status as Mahathir’s victims. They are more interested in settling old scores or getting even on earlier slights instead of helping solve the current problem. Some let their hatred and contempt for Mahathir get in their way of rational thinking. What’s the point? All Malaysians are now victims of MO1’s greed, except for the equally corrupt few recipients of his “cash is king” mode.–Bakri Musa

The colossal corruption scandal that is 1MDB is not an overnight monster; likewise its principal rogue, “Malaysian Official 1” (MO1).

The loss from 1MDB, though in the billions, is at least quantifiable. Not so the besmirching of Malaysia’s good name by its leader MO1 being labelled the world’s most corrupt kleptocrat by the US Department of Justice.

So hideous and unprecedented was MO1’s conduct that I believe he (or maybe she) was born corrupt. Or to use Mahathir’s words in his The Malay Dilemma, it is in his (MO1’s) genes to be corrupt.

I go further. Even if you are inherently (that is, genetically predisposed to be) corrupt, you would not necessarily be so if you were to be brought up along the straight path. So the only conclusion is that MO1 in addition to being born corrupt was also nurtured by a corrupt family.

That is a near-blasphemous statement to make in Malaysia. The memory of the father of MO1 is still held in high regards by most Malaysians. Most but not all. For those not lucky enough to be born of the right heritage to benefit from the father’s new enlightened policy, the image is less pristine.

In trying to defend his (and his spouse’s) current wealth and profligate ways, MO1 once claimed that he was blessed with a bountiful inheritance. Offended by that statement, one of his siblings took the unusual step of publicly contradicting him, claiming that their father died while not quite in poverty was definitely not wealthy. At least that family has one honest member.

This MO1 has a long history, both personal as well as official. As for the personal, let’s just say that he is a smooth talking Malaysian Bill Clinton, minus the brilliance, intellectualism and charisma. There is little need to pursue that prurient path.

As for the official, as Minister of Education back in the 1990s he approved over 500 permits for private colleges during a two-year period. That was more than one application a day! You would need a lot of grease to make the normally sluggish Malaysian bureaucracy go that fast and smooth. He must have received plenty of grease to slide by all those applications.

A measure of the ministry’s “thoroughness” was that many of those colleges closed shop after their students had paid the exorbitant fees, stranding the students and disappointing their parents.

As Defense Minister he gave his buddy and Altantuya murder accomplice (Razak Baginda) millions as “commission” to buy a billion-ringgit used submarine that could not submerge. We may yet know more about that scandal as the French are reopening that corruption case. As for his buddy, he too shared MO1’s personal morality. All that is now cleansed, in the eyes of the Malaysian brand of Islam, with their trip to Mecca.

Now with MO1 as Finance Minister, should Malaysians and the world be surprised then that 1MDB is the consequence?

One person however vile, corrupt, or greedy could not possibly execute a heist on the scale of 1MDB. MO1 must have had many enablers. Not only that, the nation’s institutions must also have been sufficiently weakened and their personnel emasculated not to have noticed the massive looting. The rotting of Malaysian institutions and the breeding of those enablers too did not happen overnight.

The heads of Bank Negara, Anti-Corruption Commission and the Police, as well as the Auditor-General and Attorney-General during the looting of 1MDB were individuals appointed by other than MO1. The exception is the current Attorney General, that failed former UMNO operative. There may be some poetic justice if not perverse irony in that a few of those enablers now face the threat of being charged for treason, for not protecting MO1 vigorously or enough.

I draw a difference between those enablers versus the UMNO ministers, divisional chiefs, fawning bloggers, and UMNO Youth “red-shirts” who mindlessly defend and sing praises of the balantly corrupt MO1. These latter characters are carma types, pimps, whores and serfs; they are paid handsomely to pleasure MO1. Destroy 1MDB and MO1, and with their lifeline cut off, watch them convert to be MO1’s and UMNO’s severest critics.

Now with the National Security Act of 2016 operative, criticisms of MO1 would be that much more difficult and treacherous. Again, that NSA did not appear overnight. It took decades in preparation, going back to the constitutional amendment of 1994 which made possible for laws passed by Parliament to dispense with Royal Assent.

That constitutional amendment, as well as the rotting institutions, is water underneath the bridge. No point wallowing in it. Yet many are still obsessed with the blame game and relish indulging their status as Mahathir’s victims. They are more interested in settling old scores or getting even on earlier slights instead of helping solve the current problem. Some let their hatred and contempt for Mahathir get in their way of rational thinking. What’s the point? All Malaysians are now victims of MO1’s greed, except for the equally corrupt few recipients of his “cash is king” mode.

Yes, Mahathir let possible for all those things to happen during his watch. However, he has been off the stage now for well over a decade. Surely Malaysians could rise above and rectify his mistakes. Why blame the man? He is over 90 now. No glory in beating up an old man. Besides he is trying very hard to undo his errors. Help him succeed, and once that is achieved you could then engage in a post-mortem and assign blame.

It takes more than a little bit of humility to admit to one’s error. It takes an even greater courage to rectify it. Mahathir admitted that appointing that dud Abdullah Badawi was a mistake. Being instrumental in Najib’s ascend was also Mahathir’s mistake. Mahathir was successful in correcting his first. Malaysians should now help him correct his second–get rid of Najib.

“Why blame the man? He is over 90 now. No glory in beating up an old man. Besides he is trying very hard to undo his errors. Help him succeed.”–Bakri Musa

Malaysia would be the ultimate beneficiary, not Mahathir. He doesn’t need the trophy. If 1MD and MO1 are not destroyed, both will destroy Malaysia. Then all Malaysians will be the victim.

How the stupid party created Donald Trump

August 1, 2016

by Max Boot

“…the joke’s on the Republican Party: After decades of masquerading as the “stupid party,” that’s what it has become. But if an unapologetic ignoramus wins the presidency, the consequences will be no laughing matter.

Even if we can avoid the calamity of a Trump presidency, however, the G.O.P. still has a lot of soul-searching to do. Mr. Trump is as much a symptom as a cause of the party’s anti-intellectual drift. The party needs to rethink its growing anti-intellectual bias and its reflexive aversion to elites. Catering to populist anger with extremist proposals that are certain to fail is not a viable strategy for political success.”–Max Boot

It’s hard to know exactly when the Republican Party assumed the mantle of the “stupid party. It is not an accusation that could be hurled against such prominent early Republicans as Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Elihu Root and Charles Evans Hughes.

But by the 1950s, it had become an established shibboleth that the “eggheads” were for Adlai Stevenson and the “boobs” for Dwight D. Eisenhower — a view endorsed by Richard Hofstadter’s 1963 book “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life,” which contrasted Stevenson, “a politician of uncommon mind and style, whose appeal to intellectuals overshadowed anything in recent history,” with Eisenhower — “conventional in mind, relatively inarticulate.”

The John F. Kennedy Presidency, with its glittering court of Camelot, cemented the impression that it was the Democrats who represented the thinking men and women of America.

Rather than run away from the anti-intellectual label, Republicans embraced it for their own political purposes. In his “time for choosing” speech, Ronald Reagan said that the issue in the 1964 election was “whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant Capitol can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.”

Richard M. Nixon appealed to the “silent majority” and the “hard hats,” while his Vice President, Spiro T. Agnew, issued slashing attacks on an “effete core of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals.”

William F. Buckley Jr. famously said,I should sooner live in a society governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the 2,000 faculty members of Harvard University.” More recently, George W. Bush joked at a Yale commencement: “To those of you who received honors, awards and distinctions, I say, well done. And to the C students I say, you, too, can be President of the United States.”

Many Democrats took all this at face value and congratulated themselves for being smarter than the benighted Republicans. Here’s the thing, though: The Republican embrace of anti-intellectualism was, to a large extent, a put-on. At least until now.

Eisenhower may have played the part of an amiable duffer, but he may have been the best prepared President we have ever had — a five-star general with an unparalleled knowledge of national security affairs. When he resorted to gobbledygook in public, it was in order to preserve his political room to maneuver.

Reagan may have come across as a dumb thespian, but he spent decades honing his views on public policy and writing his own speeches. Nixon may have burned with resentment of “Harvard men,” but he turned over foreign policy and domestic policy to two Harvard professors, Henry A. Kissinger and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, while his own knowledge of foreign affairs was second only to Ike’s.

There is no evidence that Republican leaders have been demonstrably dumber than their Democratic counterparts. During the Reagan years, the G.O.P. briefly became known as the “party of ideas,” because it harvested so effectively the intellectual labor of conservative think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation and publications like The Wall Street Journal editorial page and Commentary. Scholarly policy makers like George P. Shultz, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick and Bill Bennett held prominent posts in the Reagan administration, a tradition that continued into the George W. Bush administration — amply stocked with the likes of Paul D. Wolfowitz, John J. Dilulio Jr. and Condoleezza Rice.

In recent years, however, the Republicans’ relationship to the realm of ideas has become more and more attenuated as talk-radio hosts and television personalities have taken over the role of defining the conservative movement that once belonged to thinkers like Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz and George F. Will. The Tea Party represented a populist revolt against what its activists saw as out-of-touch Republican elites in Washington.

There are still some thoughtful Republican leaders exemplified by House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who devised an impressive new budget plan for his party. But the primary vibe from the G.O.P. has become one of indiscriminate, unthinking, all-consuming anger.

The trend has now culminated in the nomination of Donald J. Trump, a presidential candidate who truly is the know-nothing his Republican predecessors only pretended to be.

Mr. Trump doesn’t know the difference between the Quds Force and the Kurds. He can’t identify the nuclear triad, the American strategic nuclear arsenal’s delivery system. He had never heard of Brexit until a few weeks before the vote. He thinks the Constitution has 12 Articles rather than seven. He uses the vocabulary of a fifth grader. Most damning of all, he traffics in off-the-wall conspiracy theories by insinuating that President Obama was born in Kenya and that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination. It is hardly surprising to read Tony Schwartz, the ghostwriter for Mr. Trump’s best seller “The Art of the Deal,” say, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life. Trump even appears proud of his lack of learning. He told The Washington Post that he reached decisions “with very little knowledge,” but on the strength of his “common sense” and his “business ability.”

Reading long documents is a waste of time because of his rapid ability to get to the gist of an issue, he said: “I’m a very efficient guy.” What little Mr. Trump does know seems to come from television: Asked where he got military advice, he replied, “I watch the shows.”

Mr. Trump promotes a nativist, isolationist, anti-trade agenda that is supported by few if any serious scholars. He called for tariff increases that experts warn will cost millions of jobs and plunge the country into a recession. He claimed that Mexican immigrants were “bringing crime” even though research consistently shows that immigrants have a lower crime rate than the native-born. He promised that Mexico would pay for a border wall, even though no regional expert thinks that will ever happen.

Mr. Trump also proposed barring Muslims from entering the country despite terrorism researchers, myself included, warning that his plan would likely backfire, feeding the Islamic State’s narrative that the war on terrorism is really a war on Islam. He has since revised that proposal and would now bar visitors from countries that have a “proven history of terrorism” — overlooking that pretty much every country, including every major American ally, has a history of terrorism. Recently, he declared that he would not necessarily come to the aid of the Baltic republics if they were attacked by Russia, apparently not knowing or caring that Article 5 of the 1949 North Atlantic Treaty obliges the United States to defend any NATO member under attack.

Last week, Mr. Trump even invited Russia’s intelligence agencies to hack the emails of a former secretary of state — something impossible to imagine any previous presidential nominee doing. It is genuinely terrifying that someone who advances such offensive and ridiculous proposals could win the nomination of a party once led by Teddy Roosevelt, who wrote more books than Mr. Trump has probably read. It’s one thing to appeal to voters by pretending to be an average guy. It’s another to be an average guy who doesn’t know the first thing about governing or public policy.

The Trump acolytes claim it doesn’t matter; he can hire experts to advise him. But experts always disagree with one another and it is the president alone who must make the most difficult decisions in the world. That’s not something he can do since he lacks the most basic grounding in the issues and is prey to fundamental misconceptions.

In a way,the joke’s on the Republican Party: After decades of masquerading as the “stupid party,” that’s what it has become. But if an unapologetic ignoramus wins the presidency, the consequences will be no laughing matter.

Even if we can avoid the calamity of a Trump presidency, however, the G.O.P. still has a lot of soul-searching to do. Mr. Trump is as much a symptom as a cause of the party’s anti-intellectual drift. The party needs to rethink its growing anti-intellectual bias and its reflexive aversion to elites. Catering to populist anger with extremist proposals that are certain to fail is not a viable strategy for political success.

Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, was a foreign policy adviser to the presidential campaigns of John McCain, Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio.

Presidential Elections 2016– Should Hillary Fear Optimism

August 1, 2016

Presidential Elections 2016– Should Hillary Fear Optimism

If the last two weeks of our political life have seemed extra long, it is because we have gone through not two but four political conventions.

Cleveland had two conventions. One featured Republicans who have decided to voice support for Donald Trump’s candidacy without echoing any of his distinctive themes. That’s the convention where Chris Christie made the standard Republican case that the Obama-Clinton foreign policy has been too timid and too unsettling to our allies, where Paul Ryan spoke once again about his party’s commitment to limited government and where the typical speaker praised Mr. Trump as though he were a normal Republican nominee.

The second convention in Cleveland featured Mr. Trump himself. Unlike the speakers at that first convention, he promised to spend money on infrastructure, shred trade agreements, cut back on immigration and get our allies to pay more for defense.

The Democrats put on two shows in Philadelphia as well. Half of the convention was devoted to keeping Bernie Sanders’s voters inside the tent. Some of these voters are hard to please. (“They’re both center-right candidates,” I overheard one protester saying outside the convention hall, and others held signs denouncing “Clintrump.”) Senator Elizabeth Warren, former President Bill Clinton and Senator Sanders himself were among the politicians deployed to protect Hillary Clinton’s left flank. Their message was neatly summarized by Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio: “She’s a progressive who gets things done.”

When the convention focused on party unification, it dwelt on abortion, immigration and gun control — in each case without a great deal of nuance to appeal to those who are moderate or conservative on these questions. But the later in the night and the later in the week it got, the more the convention shifted toward the bigger task of courting a broader audience.

This was the convention of generals, of invocations of Ronald Reagan, of chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” The old liberal fear of lapsing into jingoism appeared to have disappeared. Substitute country musicians for pop stars, and you would have thought you were at a Republican convention of old. The parties had in several respects traded places. Mr. Trump, more than Mrs. Clinton, portrayed American workers as victims of a rigged system. The Democrats, more than the Republicans, talked about faith, American history and national unity. Mrs. Clinton warned that besides Trump and Clinton, e pluribus unum is on the ballot.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. (above), President Obama and the nominee herself all welcomed conservatives and moderates with misgivings about Mr. Trump to find a new home in the Democratic Party — or at least, as Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, urged, to stay long enough to vote for Mrs. Clinton. Michelle Obama’s fine speech implicitly made the same argument.

That argument was, inevitably, characterological rather than ideological. “He loses his cool at the slightest provocation,” Mrs. Clinton said of Mr. Trump in what deserves to be the most quoted passage of her speech. “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.” Democrats characterized previous Republican nominees as too right-wing; not this time.

Both parties had split personalities at their conventions because neither party has been enthusiastic about its candidate, to an unusual degree. That lack of enthusiasm manifested in different ways in each city. Republicans gamely ignored a party division they fervently hope is temporary. Democrats tried to portray Mrs. Clinton simultaneously as a true progressive and a nonpartisan unifier.

Because each nominee has intraparty opponents, each nominee sees a chance to court the people who lost the other side’s primary. While accepting the Republican nomination, Mr. Trump said that he would attract Sanders voters because of their shared opposition to decades of American trade policy. Democrats, whose politicians are more unified than the Republicans, pursued a more systematic strategy of peeling off anti-Trump Republicans.

Part of what makes Mr. Trump’s conquest of the Republican Party so impressive is that it came at the expense of several of its factions. But that also means that voters in several parts of the usual Republican coalition might be tempted to defect this year, or at least to sit this election out.

Economic conservatives are unhappy about Mr. Trump’s indifference to shrinking the size of the government and alarmed by his offhand reference to withdrawing from the World Trade Organization. Jennifer Pierotti Lim, a founder of Republican Women for Hillary who spoke on the last night in Philadelphia, works for the United States Chamber of Commerce.

Many Republican foreign-policy intellectuals have come out against Mr. Trump, too, appalled by his stance on NATO, his friendliness to Vladimir V. Putin, his willingness to alienate Muslim allies and his ignorance of the world. Mr. Trump has worked hardest at cultivating his relationships with religious conservatives, and he has been fairly successful. Yet many of them still don’t trust him to expend political capital for their causes, which do not engage him. He said nothing about abortion in his acceptance speech, breaking decades of precedent.

As much as the Democrats of Philadelphia invited Republicans to join them, though, they did little to make themselves attractive to them. The Democrats insist on hurtling to the left on issue after issue.

Pro-lifers are less welcome than ever in the party, which is now more firmly committed not to the maintenance of the status quo on abortion but to the elimination of restrictions on taxpayer funding for abortion that have been in place for decades.

At the Democratic convention four years ago in Charlotte, N.C., Bill Clinton spoke about the federal government’s long-term debt problem. That candor was absent in Philadelphia, where speakers, including Hillary Clinton, talked about expanding Social Security instead of fixing the shortfall it is already projected to have.

The retreat from free trade, meanwhile, is a bipartisan one. Republicans who are concerned about their party’s drift toward protectionism will not be drawn toward Mrs. Clinton and her running mate, Tim Kaine, who have repudiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership. President Obama hasn’t, but at the convention he didn’t speak up for it or for trade generally — even though there is some evidence much of the public remains favorable to trade.

Some middle-of-the-road voters who find Mr. Trump alarming nonetheless share some of his stated concerns about crime, the Islamic State and immigration. Democrats did little to reassure them that they shared those concerns. They ignored the preliminary evidence that the violent crime rate, while still well below its peak rates, has started to increase again. Mrs. Clinton affirmed our existing strategy against the Islamic State, but her remarks stood out at the convention, where the topic was rarely mentioned, especially by progressive favorites. The Democrats also made it clear that they viewed illegal immigration almost exclusively through the eyes of illegal immigrants themselves: If it has costs, or enforcement of the laws against it has benefits, they weren’t mentioned. You don’t have to think it wise to “deport them all” to find this treatment of the issue cavalier.

Mrs. Clinton said that she loved talking about her plans for public policy. But she did less of it than Democrats usually do, perhaps because the convention’s dual political imperatives — reassuring both the left end of the party and the general public — made it impossible to make a coherent case for an agenda. One might have expected the Democrats to use center-left policies to attract white working-class voters who are unhappy with their lot and considering Mr. Trump. They didn’t make this pitch very prominently, except for when Bill Clinton promised vaguely to take coal miners on a ride to the economy of the future.

Making college free for the middle class was a repeated applause line in Philadelphia: “Bernie Sanders and I will work together to make college tuition-free for the middle class and debt-free for all!” said Mrs. Clinton. But not all people are going to get a college degree. They got two sentences from her, and less from her allies.

Instead of reasons for hope, the Democrats offered these voters bromides about optimism: America’s best days are always ahead of it, etc., etc. These bromides came with a liberal spin, the genius of America being defined as its closer and closer approximation of egalitarian ideals. The idea that American patriotism consists of loyalty to a future country clearly speaks to many of our citizens. Will it be enough in an anxious era, when Americans are deeply dissatisfied with their politicians? And when Mr. Trump is offering a more pointed explanation of that dissatisfaction than the Democrats are?

The Democrats’ optimism about the country is tightly related to their optimism about their own political fortunes, which is based on demography. They represent growing demographic groups — including nonwhites and the unchurched — rather than shrinking groups like the white working class. But that optimism is unlikely to prove contagious among that group.

And the Democrats’ rhetorical optimism is vulnerable to events in a way Mr. Trump’s is not. Terrorist attacks and high-profile crimes may not make Americans find new virtues in Mr. Trump, but they will validate his campaign message and make the Democrats’ look naïve or worse. Mrs. Clinton said in her speech: “There is no other Donald Trump. This is it.” That’s right: We know his campaign will focus on her alleged incompetence and crookedness. What we don’t know is how well she will be able to adapt to Mr. Trump’s unusual pursuit of the presidency.

The fall campaign will feature two candidates whose parties have little faith in them and who in turn are to varying degrees uncomfortable with their parties’ platforms. A more detailed discussion of the policy choices facing the country will have to wait for another presidential campaign, with more serious candidates than Mr. Trump and stronger candidates than either him or Mrs. Clinton.

“What the world needs now is love, sweet love,” Broadway stars sang at the convention. The Hillary Clinton Democrats showcased an impressively broad coalition, stretching from those who have won military honors to those who have won Tony awards. But what the world doesn’t need now — what won’t prove sufficient to stave off Donald Trump — is a forced optimism.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor at National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on July 31, 2016, on page SR1 of the New York edition with the headline: Why Hillary Should Fear Optimism.

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