Picture a mansion on a hill where white-gloved waiters beckon from inside the gates and point to lavishly appointed buffet tables. You want to go in but are told only some will be welcome. Folks down the hill warn that the mansion’s toxic inside and urge you to instead join their potluck, a boisterous convergence of humanity agreeing and disagreeing.
That’s how different the two parties’ conventions felt.
One promised riches but at the cost of leaving your brothers and sisters behind. The other let each contribute in his or her own way and share what there was.
There are always different priorities expressed at Republican and Democratic conventions. But this year the preparedness of the two candidates offered the starkest contrast.
In Philadelphia, there was Hillary Clinton, the first woman ever to win a major party nomination for president and described by the outgoing commander in chief as more qualified for the job than anyone entering the office ever has been. A former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state, she engineered the attack on Osama bin Laden and crafted a 1994 health care plan that, although the country wasn’t ready for it at the time, was a precursor to Obamacare.
She’s made her mistakes, sure, most notably using a private server to send State Department emails. She has apologized. But more importantly, she has been part of an administration that also, as President Barack Obama put it, “Shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program, … opened up a new chapter with the people of Cuba, (and) brought nearly 200 nations together around a climate agreement.” She’s committed to making education affordable, creating a massive jobs program and raising the minimum wage.
And then, in Cleveland, there was Donald Trump, who has never held political office, never engaged in public service, and is not known to read books or consult with experts. He relies on his business experience and fear-mongering to build his case. And he’s selective with the facts.
Declaring in his convention speech that his first task would be “to liberate our citizens from the crime and terrorism and lawlessness that threatens our community,” he highlighted a 50 percent hike in killings of police officers in a year, but fact-checkers found the increase was actually 8 percent. More disingenuous was his failure to even mention gun violence, which claims 91 lives a day. He’d rather focus on a single killing by an undocumented immigrant. Then again, discussing gun deaths could cost him the National Rifle Association support he touts.
He claimed 14 million people have left the workforce under Obama, though NPR reporters found that figure includes retirees and students and others not looking for work. Clinton noted that 15 million new private-sector jobs have been created under Obama, which fact-checkers confirmed.
Trump boasted, “I have made billions of dollars in business-making deals. Now I’m going to make our country rich again.”
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is politically independent and a successful businessman himself, spoke at the Democratic convention and responded, “I’ve built a business and I didn’t start it with a million-dollar check from my father. Throughout his career, Trump has left behind a well-documented record of bankruptcies, thousands of lawsuits, angry shareholders and contractors who feel cheated, and disillusioned customers who feel ripped off.”
And Bloomberg slammed Trump for hypocrisy, noting, “Trump says he’ll punish manufacturers that move to Mexico or China, but the clothes he sells are made overseas in low-wage factories. (Those claims were verified). He says he wants to put Americans back to work, but he games the U.S. visa system so he can hire temporary foreign workers at low wages. He says he wants to deport 11 million undocumented people, but he seems to have no problem in hiring them.”
In foreign policy, Trump wants to back off NATO alliances, but even as federal officials look into whether the Russian government hacked Democratic National Committee emails to discredit Democrats, he has publicly urged Russia’s president to keep hacking (and later claimed it was a joke). That prompted House Speaker Paul Ryan’s spokesman to say, “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug. Putin should stay out of this election.”
Ryan was one of the few Republican leaders, other than primary opponents and running-mate hopefuls, to even speak at the GOP convention nominating Trump. Former rival Ted Cruz spoke but notably refused to endorse him. Trump relied primarily on his family to make the case for him. Even three generations of Bush women — Barbara, Laura and Jenna Bush Hager — have hinted they may put party second and vote for Clinton over Trump.
Testimonials to Clinton, however, came from a range of Republican and Democratic heavy-hitters including the current president and vice president, decorated military generals, religious people, and mothers of shooting victims. One of the most stirring came from the father of a Muslim soldier who died protecting other soldiers in Iraq. Appearing onstage with his wife, Khizr Khan said of his son, “If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America.”
Trump has since taken to publicly chastising Khan for saying Trump didn’t appear to have read the Constitution.
Gen. John Allen, a retired commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, framed the election as a choice between hope and “a dark place of discord and fear.” Calling Clinton “a force for unity in America and a vision that includes all of us,” he stressed the need to honor treaties, stop the spread of nuclear weapons and reject torture.
Those two weeks made for riveting TV. But with the dust settled, anyone who watched both and paid attention to the primary season, regardless of their party, should have serious misgivings about Trump. He may have his name on buildings and speak his mind, but he has been revealed as a lightweight and a con artist who stokes fears by creating divisions. He even says he likes to fire people.
Look away from the mansion on the hill and go with the potluck.
(c)2016 Des Moines Register
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Rekha Basu is a columnist for the Des Moines Register. Readers may send her email at [email protected]