Editor’s Note: This is the second of two essays on the 2016 presidential election. The first part appeared in the October print edition of The Observer and can be read online here.
BY HAROLD V. SARE
Donald Trump initiated his campaign for president by arguing that President Obama was not eligible to be president because he was born in Kenya. He maintained that fallacious claim over a five-year period and only recently stated in a few words that “the president was born in the United States. Period.”
In that same disclaimer he lied, saying that Hillary Clinton started the issue over the president’s birth in 2008, and he said, “I finished it.’
To this day many Republicans [approximately 40%] still believe that President Obama was born in Kenya, and that he is a Muslim. President Obama has produced his birth certificate from the state of Hawaii and he has demonstrated that he not a Muslim. Such false charges were an effort to discredit a president, who now has a 58% approval rating. But such bold-faced lies coming from a major political party candidate for president damages the credibility of the U.S.
Lying seems to an acceptable practice for Mr. Trump. It has been recently reported on national news that he had told 9,131 lies during this campaign. For example, he stated that when 9/11 took place thousands of Muslims in New Jersey were cheering and celebrating the event. And he stated that he lost hundreds of friends in the World Trade Towers on 9/11. He was called on that claim and has changed his statement to “many friends.”
There is considerable doubt about his medical letter, which has been rewritten since the first short letter indicating that his health was in better shape than any president of the United States.
He has been unwilling to release his tax returns “because he is under audit.” Fact: Auditing does not prohibit him from releasing his tax returns.
Evidently, there are things in his tax returns that he does not want the public to know. We do not know what he might be hiding, but it could be that he has not paid any taxes or has paid very little taxes; or it might be that he does not want to expose his business relations with Russia. There could be other reasons. But the voting public really needs to know. Hillary Clinton has released 39 years of her returns.
Mr. Trump accuses Hillary Clinton of wanting to do away with the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which “protects gun ownership.” He recommended that since she does not like guns, Clinton’s Secret Service agents should have their guns taken away, and just see what will happen. What did he really have in mind? Clinton’s position on guns is to prohibit guns in the hands of people who cannot be trusted with guns. She does not want to eliminate the 2nd Amendment. Surely he knows that.
It is evident that Mr. Trump does not have an adequate knowledge of our government or of U.S. foreign policy. He has stated that Supreme Court justices sign legislation; and that President Obama is at fault for the Sept. 18 bomb issue in New Jersey. Such bizarre statements are irresponsible given the complexity of government and the realistic fact that a president, with his or her workload, cannot be expected to stop every local tragedy.
One commentator recently suggested “Trump’s recklessness is exceeded only by his ignorance.”
Another issue that concerns me about Mr. Trump is his relationship with Mr. Putin, the de facto “dictator” of Russia. It is reported that Mr. Trump has investments in Russia; also that the Russians have considerable investment in Trump enterprises. Mr. Trump speaks very favorably about the leadership qualities of Putin – 82% approval.
Dictators control public opinion, but Mr. Trump does not know that, or else he is more favorably inclined toward Putin than a U.S. president should be.
Russia is a major power and the U.S. must be responsive to the power plays that any power may engage in. Mr. Trump simply does not understand foreign policy or international issues.
These issues are complex, and a religious war between Muslims and Christians is a dangerous possibility – that President Obama has been very careful not to aggravate.
Mr. Trump’s approach, from what he says, is confrontation and military action – an extremely dangerous solution.
– Harold V. Sare is regents service professor of political science emeritus at Oklahoma State University