(or more to the point, why I’m against Clinton)
*blows the dust off this thing*
I’ve been away for some time, largely due to despair. The situation in Europe has gotten so bad that I have given up on there ever being any sort of secular pushback, and I am increasingly gloomy about the prospects of Atheism (tempted to write a post titled “The Death of Atheism”.)
However, this recent election has been irritating enough that I am forced to done the costume of Snooty European Who’s Saving Americans From Themselves.
Every four years the United States goes through this weird ritual during which everyone is called every name under the sun, but mostly just Hitler. That being so, I’m going to list what I think is the Essential Reading on the current candidates:
Essential Background on Trump
Book Review: The Art of the Deal, Slate Star Codex
The Trump Master Persuader Index and Reading List, by Scott Adams
How America made Donald Trump unstoppable, Rolling Stone
Essential Background on the Clintons (most by the Hitch)
You’ll notice that I said Clintons, plural. There’s a reason for this: HRC is fighting her campaign explicitly based on her experience as first lady, and people are more or less straight saying that this will be Clinton Presidency II. If Hillary has done anything to distance herself from her husband’s character or his Presidency, I haven’t heard it.
1. The Case against Trump
Over the last few years, I’ve caught the SSC bug. Scott Alexander is a weirdly irritating guy – he’s honest, he’s smart, and yet he often seems to dance around the essential truth without falling into it. So, if you haven’t read his anti-Trump piece, and the follow up, you owe it to yourself to do so.
So, as always, he writes well and honestly, and manages to avoid that US lefty thing where he describes everyone on the other side as complete monsters.
(side note: in the aftermath of Brexit I lost count of the number of people who informed me that 1. Brexit supporters were horrible racist sexist homophobic bigoted fascist superNazis and Europe was now on a direct course for another World War and the return of death camps – and, 2. that the Brexit campaign was fuelled by hate and fear).
Here’s is the essential of Alexander’s case:
Some people like high variance. I don’t. The world has seen history’s greatest alleviation of poverty over the past few decades, and this shows every sign of continuing as long as we don’t do something incredibly stupid that blows up the current world order. I’m less sanguine about the state of America in particular but I think that its generally First World problems probably can’t be solved by politics. They will probably require either genetic engineering or artificial intelligence; the job of our generation is keep the world functional enough to do the research that will create those technologies, and to alleviate as much suffering as we can in the meantime. I don’t see a Clinton presidency as making the world non-functional, whatever that means. I don’t know what I see a Trump presidency doing because, Trump is inherently unpredictable, but some major blow to world functionality is definitely on the list of possibilities.
First off, this is delightfully conservative. The argument “don’t try any major fixing” is the definition of conservatism.
Where I disagree is that I think it’s certain that Clinton is much more likely to deal some major blow to world functionality.
2. Character Issue
All elections come down to personalities. Someone may promise you x, y, and z, and in office they may well change their mind. But what they can’t change is whether or not they are honest or corrupt, intelligent or stupid.
Donald Trump is a big-mouth, narcissistic windbag with a huge ego. Some of that is a conscious persona, but a lot of it is obviously natural.
Hillary Clinton, like her husband, is a psychopath. I mean that in the strict sense of the word – someone who cannot believe that other people are real and is prepared to do anything that benefits her.
And this is a difference that can’t be split. I expect Trump to make foolish decisions, based on not understanding things. I expect Clinton to consciously risk nuclear armageddon if there’s the slightest bit of political capital to be gained from it.
3. How Trump Ticks
Tump approaches everything through the lens of business, through the idea of the Holy Deal. He makes Deals, and is good at it, and the essence of making deals is giving people what they want. That’s different from the standard political position of giving people what you think they should want. And it explains why Trump is neither right-wing nor left-wing, but moderate.
[I]t’s not that Trump is a moderate Republican. It’s that he’s a moderate, full stop. And he’s the kind of moderate that really exists, not the kind of moderate Washington likes to pretend exists […]
The way it works, explains David Broockman, a political scientist at the University of California Berkeley, is that a pollster will ask people for their position on a wide range of issues: marijuana legalization, the war in Iraq, universal health care, same-sex marriage, taxes, climate change, and so on. The answers will then be coded as to whether they’re left or right. People who have a mix of answers on the left and the right average out to the middle — and so they’re labeled as moderate.
But when you drill down into those individual answers you find a lot of opinions that are far from the political center. “A lot of people say we should have a universal health-care system run by the state like the British,” Broockman told me in July 2014. “A lot of people say we should deport all undocumented immigrants immediately with no due process.”
Here’s SSC’s review of Art of the Deal:
The best [Trump] can do is say that other people are bad at governing, but he’s going to be good at governing, on account of his deal-making skill. I think he honestly believes this. It makes perfect sense in real estate, where some people are good businesspeople, others are bad businesspeople, and the goal is to game the system rather than change it. But in politics, it’s easy to interpret as authoritarianism – “Forget about policy issues, I’m just going to steamroll through this whole thing by being personally strong and talented.”
Trump of the book is more a-intellectual, in the same way some people are amoral or asexual. The world is taken as a given. It contains deals. Some people make the deals well, and they are winners. Other people make the deals poorly, and they are losers. Trump does not need more than this.
My working model of the way Trump ticks is that he looks at what the American people say they want – again, what they really say they want, not what Real Americans Want, or what People Should Know Is Best For Them – and sees that the government isn’t delivering and arguing that he can deliver better, because he’s a winner and they’re losers. That’s it.
I’ve heard many claims that in his speeches, Trump is appealing to racism, that he’s inciting hatred, that he’s xenophobic. I’ve listened to those speeches and none of that passes muster. For example, he never said all Mexicans, let alone all hispanics were rapists. He said that Mexico was using the United States as a dumping ground for its undesirables. It doesn’t matter whether or not that’s true (it’s not), it’s a radically different statement from the one imputed to him. Similarly, he’s never been against Asians, he’s said that China is ripping off America.
What’s striking about those statements is the lack of rancour with which he makes them. Even when discussing the Iranian theocracy he says “They’re smart people, smart negotiators” [repeat until end of interview]. The only people he seems to really dislike are those in Washington because they do the unforgivable thing in the Book of Trump – they make bad deals.
Trump’s view is that, of course, other countries are ripping off the United States – it’s what he’d do if he were president of Mexico. There’s no room for resentment there, it’s just the way the game is played, in the same way people take advantage of companies’ weaknesses in the market. Lots of people have wondered why on earth the president of Mexico would meet Trump, but it makes perfect sense if they both understand that this is a game and these are the rules.
It also explains a lot about his over the top statements (“I’ll build a wall and Mexico will pay for it”). The first pitch in any deal is far above what you are likely to get. So all of his statements should be weighed taking that into account.
As to the rest of it, Donald Trump is an American real estate billionaire with a supermodel wife who lives like this:
Of course he’s a narcissist and a windbag with delusions of grandeur. That is part for the course.
5. How Clinton Ticks
I’ve said that I think that Clinton is psychopathic. Here’s why.
Some of the delightful highlights from the era of Clinton One:
- The Destruction of Al-Shifa. Al-Shifa was the pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan. Notice please the definitive article. It was the only pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan, and Bill Clinton used cruise missiles to blow it up to coincide with his own impeachment hearings, ordering the strike over the objections of the brass, and without even asking for an inspection
- The history of racist incitement. Bill Clinton rather famously had himself photographed at a “whites only” golf course, later saying that this was okay because black people cleaned the toilets. He oversaw the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a mentally retarded black man who would have fit all the requirements for clemency, during the Paula Jones mess. He had the following picture taken:If that picture isn’t bad enough, it was taken at the birthplace of the modern KKK. (There’s apparently an even worse one where Clinton is wearing a white suit and shades while chained black prisoners break rocks in the background).
- The history of sexual assault. Clinton wasn’t a philanderer or a womanizer. He didn’t carry on a bunch of affairs with women on the side – he had their names blackened and smeared when he was done with them. More importantly doing things like grabbing breasts and forcing a woman’s hand onto your penis is sexual assault. Finally, there is the case of Juanita Broaddrick, the woman who said she was raped by Clinton. When Al Gore was asked whether or not he believed Broaddrick he refused to answer and dodged the question
- The greenlighting of the Rwandan genocide. Everyone is prepared to forget this, but I’m not. Clinton did not just sit idly by and let it happen. He consciously blocked attempts by the international community to stop the genocide. “The United States almost single-handedly blocked international action in Rwanda six weeks prior to the genocide, which might have prevented the bloodbath altogether.” On the other hand, when the Tutsis managed to rally and drive the Interahamwe out into the Congo, the Clinton Administration lead the way to supporting these “refugees” with camps and foods from which they launch attacks to this day. Please note: if you are an American taxpayer, your money has gone to help an ongoing genocide.
Barack Obama is a lot like George Bush – a decent and principled guy who deserves the occasional clip round the ear for doing foolish things. Bill Clinton is like Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon – someone who needs to be dangling from the end of a rope.
So, that’s the record of Bill Clinton (I haven’t even gotten into the slush fund of the Clinton corporation, the plutocratic racketeering of his days etc.). What does that imply about the character of his wife?
It implies quite a lot. If I were guilty of war crimes, sexual assault, racist incitement and the enabling of genocide, my wife would have walked out a long, long time ago. I wouldn’t marry someone whom I was not absolutely sure would leave under those circumstances. The fact that Hillary has stood by her man has three possible explanations. One, she loves him so much that this overrules everything. I don’t think anyone believes that. Two, she’s a battered woman, so scared of him that she doesn’t dare. I know no one believes that. Three, she doesn’t leave because she doesn’t care – because the thing that matters is how that marriage will allow her to advance her ambitions. And I’m not sure I know anyone who doesn’t believe that.
But that last one is a straight case of psychopathy. It also fits well with what we know about Hillary that she was willing to help intimidate and smear Bill’s comfort women, that she joined in on the racist incitement, helped bolster the lies supporting her husband, and she has her own history of enabling genocides.
To take that in order, Jones, Wiley and Broaddrick have all said that Hillary joined in attacking them. As regards racism, Clinton should not be allowed to run away from her ‘superpredators’ speech, or that she encouraged the hiring of Dick Morris, best known for racist campaign ads for Jesse Helms, or that she was the one who leaked the now famous picture of Obama in tribal wear, or that her people were obsessed with getting hold of a tape where Obama used the term ‘whitey’ (nor for that matter, should Bill Clinton be able to avoid his statement about Obama, that “a few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee”).
As regards the lies about foreign policy, it is worth revisiting Al Shifa. Hillary has pretended that the desire to remove Saddam Hussain was only a Bush era madness. However, when the missiles were dispatched, they were justified on the grounds that in the Sudan, Osama bin Laden was building chemical weapons for – wait for it – Saddam Hussain. Now it doesn’t matter whether or not you accept that, or whether or not you were in favour of getting rid of Saddam. It says a great deal about someone’s character that – on an issue this important – she’s willing to switch and change at the drop of a hat.
Finally, Clinton was elected on a clear promise to stop the genocide in Bosnia. One reason why that action was delayed – for four years – was that Hillary strongly opposed any action as it would distract from her health care plans. Once again, this isn’t about whether or not you think the Bosnian intervention was a smart idea. It’s about what sort of a person will try to block action against a genocide because it will take away attention from her.
When I use the term “psychopath”, never doubt that I am being literal.
And just to broaden this, let’s note that Clinton has some spectacular screw ups of her own. It was under her reign as secretary of state that the United States turned Libya into a failed state. Leaving aside the stupidity of this, let’s also note that Qaddafi had previously surrendered his stockpile of WMD under guarantee of being left alone. So even if you don’t care about Libya, or about the tsunami of migration that is now pouring into Europe as a result, please note that this has told every strong man and tyrant on the planet that there is literally nothing to be gained by cooperating with the United States and everything to be lost.
And there’s Iraq. When Bush left office, Iraq was a wobbly democracy. Now we have the caliphate reborn, and the legacy of America’s first black President is open slave markets. So, yes, well done to Clintonian foreign policy. I’m not the biggest fan of Obama, but if you ask whether this fiasco is more the fault of Obama or more the fault of Clinton, the answer is obvious.
This is what I mean when I say this election is between a bigmouth and a psychopath. Trump thinks he’s the best possible thing that could happen for the country. Hillary thinks the country is the best possible thing that could happen for her.
6. The corruption of the electorate
The above still isn’t definitive. Listen to the Sam Harris link – he knows what the Clintons are and doesn’t pretend otherwise, he just thinks that Trump is more likely to start World War 3. That’s a respectable and honourable position and I wish more Clinton supporters held it.
They don’t. And that’s not healthy.
Why Trump is the healthier choice in one image:
That’s both funny and true – and also one reason why Trump is just more healthy as a choice.
No one who supports Trump has any illusions about who and what he is. But I’ve been mentioning the above facts for a month now and I see people absolutely stonewalling, refusing to even consider them. That just isn’t healthy.
And it’s what I’m dreading about an upcoming Clinton Two presidency. It won’t just be scandals and disasters, it will be the way that those are defended. The way that even the vilest things will be excused and wished away by a supine press and a servile commentariat.
You think I’m exaggerating? Here, look at this VOX article. Specifically, scroll down to the disclaimer at the end:
This article, as originally posted, inaccurately characterized Trump’s guests at the second debate as Bill Clinton’s “mistresses.” They were women who’ve accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct. We’ve updated the piece accordingly.
They actually admit that they called Clinton One’s rape and assault victims, “mistresses”. That will be the standard for all coverage of Clinton Two, I guarantee it. Here’s the Hitch:
What do you have to forget or overlook in order to desire that this dysfunctional clan once more occupies the White House and is again in a position to rent the Lincoln Bedroom to campaign donors and to employ the Oval Office as a massage parlour? You have to be able to forget, first, what happened to those who complained, or who told the truth, last time.
At least with Trump there is a chance that the media will do their damn jobs for once.
7. Who is more likely to start a major disaster?
I said I respected Sam Harris’ viewpoint. I didn’t say I agreed with it. My problem is that I can see at least three ways in which Clinton Two could start a nuclear war.
Here’s one scenario: the ongoing conflict between Pakistan and India. For whatever reason, China is backing Pakistan, and keeping the current mess of a stalemate going, America needs to back India. However, Hillary gets a lot of money from Pakistan, and given she’s been willing to influence her husband for a relatively negligible campaign donation on this issue, she might well be willing to hang India out to dry in exchange for a larger cheque. So Pakistan, emboldened, invades Kashmir – and it’s proxies start a terror war across India. By the time China and Clinton Two have realised what they are dealing with, it’s too late: full scale war erupts and the nukes start to fly.
That’s just one such scenario that’s horribly likely.
Here is definitely where Trump is a better bet, simply because of his worshipping of the almighty Deal. You want someone who is willing to negotiate no matter what.
Marc MacYoung, of No Nonsense Self Defence often says, “I am negotiating until I pull the trigger”. I think Trump understands that, and is far less likely to push things to the point where lethal, planet-killing force is used.
Even if the world doesn’t end, it does not mean that parts of it won’t. The Rwandan genocide was pretty much the end of the world to the poor bastards on the receiving end. With Clinton One we had the enabling of two genocides, during Hillary’s time as secretary we had the enabling of ISIS and the destruction of Libya – on this record, a Clinton Two presidency would give us two more failed states and two more major genocides.
You can, still, say that Trump would be more dangerous but that is a hellishly conservative thing to say.
Then there is the question of Russia. If you go back and listen to Trump in the early Republican debate he sounds like the sane man on stage. He’s the only one saying he’s willing to sit down and at least talk, as a starting point, with Putin, whereas people like Cruz and Fiorina could not stop sabre rattling. Now the only place in which Clinton can out-gung-ho Trump on foreign policy is on Russia, so she’s going to be stuck there. Again, can one seriously doubt that Clinton might start something with Russia just for a bounce in the polls, now or later?
And even if we leave the issue of nukes off the table, there’s another problem: people assume that everyone opposed to Putin is doing so because he’s a nasty tyrant and they’re good liberal democrats. That’s not true. There are many people who are opposed to Putin because they think he is too liberal.
Alexei Navalny, the great democratic hope so many have pinned their hopes on has a habit of being in the company of neo-Nazis, and dismissing Ukranians as cockroaches. So I’m none too sure what a second Clinton administration would let out of the bag. But what I am absolutely sure of is that she won’t give a damn, and nor will anyone in the entire establishment.
8. The one issue where I am 100% pro-Trump
The Muslim immigration ban. This is also the one issue where – if you’re an atheist who wants religion to be curtailed – you have to be in agreement, if you have any hope of seeing your professed convictions acted out in reality.
I really don’t think that American atheists quite understand just this issue; they seem to have an instinct for dodging the issue. Despite being a smart guy, Scott Alexander does:
This is also why I’m not really a fan of debates over whether Islam is really “a religion of peace” or “a religion of violence”, especially if those debates involve mining the Quran for passages that support one’s preferred viewpoint. It’s not just because the Quran is a mess of contradictions with enough interpretive degrees of freedom to prove anything at all. It’s not even because Islam is a host of separate cultures as different from one another as Unitarianism is from the Knights Templar. It’s because the Quran just created the space in which the Islamic culture could evolve, but had only limited impact on that evolution.
Oh really? I would love S.A. – or any other American atheist – to spend some time in, say, Malmo, or les banileus of Paris, and see just how well his ideals work out in practice:
- Oh, you are in favour of gay rights? Sorry, gay rights are now racist – and, anyway, we’re declaring bigger and bigger areas gay free.
- Oh, you support women’s rights? Sorry, we can’t report on mass rape and sexual assault – and when we do get the perps, they’re let off on suspended sentences, or have their convictions overturned.
- Oh, you’ve got a great argument against creationism? Yeah, good luck getting that across in some of our schools.
- Oh, you’d to teach the Holocaust as historical fact? Same problem.
- Oh, you’d like to be Jewish here? Sorry, Jews aren’t that welcome anymore.
- Oh, you’d like a multi-cultural society? Sorry, we’ve got firebombed Sikh temples and the Yezidi aren’t so happy either.
- Oh, you’d like to protest the above? Sorry, if you aren’t arrested, you’ll be killed.
- Oh, you think you’ll vote in a candidate who’ll stop this? Yeah, good luck: they’re either forced into police protection, or exiled, or killed.
And all of this is just a preview to how bad things could easily get. Here’s one scenario, and please try and tell me it’s impossible or unlikely: the influx of Muslims continues, carrying with it ever more Islamic state terrorists. The level and number of attacks rises and rises until we see ones like Charlie Hebdo every month. Then every week. In response, the European governments collapse, either to votes or to putsch (I’m already hearing form Bundeswehr members talking about another Operation Valkyrie), along with militias and nativist gangs who have decided to repay Islam in its own coin. At this point the new Sultan Edrogran decides to invade to “protect Europe’s Muslim minorities”. Then President Le Pen remembers that France is a nuclear power, and Ankara vanishes in hot clouds.
And then things get really nasty.
Here’s a good discussion Sam Harris has with Gad Saad, a Lebanese Jew, who makes the following observation: he loathes Trump and disagrees with him about everything – except the Muslim thing. And this outweighs everything else, because Gad has seen just what happens to Jews when Muslims have the power.
A Hillary Clinton victory would be seen as a victory for the open borders crowd. The already intolerable influx of Muslims into Europe would continue and accelerate, leaving a problem that would be next to impossible to reverse. You may dislike Trump, but he will not cause a problem that will stick around for decades.
The above is why I am hoping like hell that Trump can still pull off a last minute miracle. Now, I can appreciate anyone who can read through the above and still decide that Clinton is the lesser of two evils.
What I cannot deal with are those who assume that it is impossible for good and decent people to support Trump. People who take that line are not just supporting HRC – they are advertising their willingness to defend every crime and wickedness for the next eight years.
Whatever you do, please don’t do that. It’s an election. It’s not worth your integrity.