Which presidential candidate will do the least harm?
The November election will almost surely feature an unprecedentedly bad choice: Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump. A calculating, power-mad machine politician with a history of duplicity and rule-breaking versus an economically ignorant and boorish rabble-rousing American version of Mussolini and Peron. This “choice” is akin to one between being killed by garroting or by being burned at the stake.
The only “benefit” of a Clinton victory is that it means a Trump defeat. Ditto for a Trump victory.
At this moment — my assessment might change tomorrow — I have a slight preference for a Trump victory. The reason is that the same mainstream media that would fawn idiotically over a Clinton administration would be appropriately merciless on a Trump administration. President Trump would not receive, because he does not deserve, any benefit of the doubt. President Clinton would receive, even though she does not deserve, every benefit of the doubt. This almost-certain difference in press treatment would tightly check the policies of President Trump while they would fuel those of President Clinton.
Also, President Trump might inadvertently scrub off of the presidency the aura of faux majesty that now encrusts it. The president is a human being — a naked and imperfect ape, like the rest of us. Yet he's treated, because of his high office, as if he is uniquely wonderful and valuable to Americans. He's not. Finally, unlike Trump, Clinton has a political track record. It's ugly. Of course, like the typical politician, Clinton changes her stated opinions to win votes, so we know that she's unprincipled. But to the extent that we can infer from her record any of her “beliefs,” it's clear that she has no understanding of economics. And her instincts are those of a central planner — a harsh nanny, a pitiless schoolmarm, an officious elite with no trust in ordinary people to live their lives as they choose rather than as she and her fellow intellectual elites suppose ordinary people should live their lives.
On foreign policy, she's not only hawkish, but also — as her actions as secretary of State prove — an unusually reckless hawk.
No one who is as obsessed as Clinton obviously is with gaining power should be trusted with power. Nothing good will come of a Clinton presidency; it will be calamitous, at home and abroad.
But I do understand those who fear Trump more than they fear Clinton. Trump's lack of a political track record makes a President Trump even less predictable than a President Clinton. And while being less predictable means, in the abstract, that the policies pursued by Trump might turn out to be surprisingly better than those pursued by Clinton, in practice such an outcome is unlikely.
Nearly everything spouted from Trump's loud mouth should frighten the bejesus out of sane adults. Build a border wall? “Protect” ourselves from low-priced goods from China? “Rough up” protesters at political rallies? Really? These are the rantings of a thug, not the proposals of a civilized liberty-loving man.
One thing now seems likely: Come noon on Jan. 20, 2017, presidential power will be held by someone unprecedentedly untrustworthy to hold it.
Donald J. Boudreaux is a professor of economics and Getchell Chair at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. His column appears twice monthly.