Wednesday, 28 September 2016

No Knock Out Blow But Plenty To See Through.

The Clinton Trump debate has been a hot topic of late. One hundred million Americans watched it and goodness knows how many more around the world, because who leads America matters to us all. I watched it through twice on catch up tv. I must lay my cards on the table up front and say that a Trump presidency would worry me significantly and that while I would rather have found myself in Bernie's camp I am now in Hillary's as the lesser of two evils.

It's a shame that for most of my life, when I've voted in the UK it's been for the lesser of two or three evils, maybe that's the case all over the world. I've heard people at rallies raving about this candidate or that candidate, are they star struck I wonder, is it this modern passion for celebrity, or do they really believe this person can make everything all right in their eyes?

Of course I've maintained recently that things aren't so bad in the west anyway; in most of America,  the UK and western Europe, people have homes, jobs, education, food and clothing, transport and most importantly they're not at war, not war as in world war, or as in Syria at the moment. I've heard enthusiastic Brexit voters say things like, "well, something had to be done". As if life in the UK in the 21st century was hell!

Of course there are problems, things can always be better, that's in the nature of things, but the more we have the more we want and that's human nature too. Wanting more has been the prime motivation for economic migration since Roman times, but depopulating areas of the world and causing tensions in others is not the answer. The Roman Empire you may recall didn't survive it. Which is why we not only have to show humanity to each other, but between nations too. It's why we in the developed world have to help people abroad too.

I think Clinton comes somewhat closer to this understanding than Trump. It used to be the case in the UK and I believe in America too that the economy was the single most important election issue. In many ways it should be, because it pays for all the things we hold dear, education, health, infrastructure, defence, policing and even dare I say it foreign aid which reduces the stress fractures in the world if used wisely.

It seems there's a new trend in politics though, maybe not so very new, but recent anyhow. In the recent UK referendum for example we saw both sides use fear. The remainers used fear of economic hardship in the event of leaving the European Union, the leavers used fear of immigrants, fear of Turkey, they majored on fear, BUT and this is an essential difference, they accused the remainers of using fear and claimed that they had positivity on their side.

They patently did not, since they offered no plan, strategy or insight into what they wanted to achieve, only what they didn't want. Trump talks about making American great again in the same way the European nay sayers told people to reclaim their country. Sounds good and positive but show us the substance.

Unfortunately Trump isn't the messiah and hasn't put forward a credible plan to make things better. Just to muddy my own waters he says the odd thing that makes sense, like encouraging Iran and China to influence North Korea, but overall his policies and character leave much to be desired.

I'd agree that the Obama presidency has been a disappointment in many ways, however the American people did not give Obama the power needed in the house and senate to make widespread changes. I'd agree that the American national debt and annual deficit is a problem, but trust me, in relation to population size it's far, far worse here in the UK.

For all his philandering Mr Clinton didn't make a bad fist of the economy, largely by letting businessmen do what they do and by not meddling constantly. Trump is clearly advocating policies to benefit himself and his golfing buddies, while Mrs Clinton is absolutely right that trickle down didn't work AND that it's the middle classes which are the powerhouse of the economy. Lose sight of that and you stand to lose a heck of a lot.

Then there's Trump's, frankly ridiculous stance on the rest of the world. The people he wants to make new trade deals with are not unaware that he has failed to pay people who've done good work for him at home, just because he's bigger than them and knows how to use lawyers to abuse the laws of the land. With morals like that he can stand in front of millions and claim it's good business.

He is, in my opinion, a criminal effectively, even if he stays on the right side of a legal line and settles with 'no admission of guilt' it's still an abuse of people and a misuse of the legal system, just as he's taken advantage of bankruptcy laws too and claims that that likewise is good business.

Other nations will not be walked over so easily as small businessmen facing years of legal costs if they don't simply cave in to bullying. Clinton is right to point out that America, huge as it is, represents five percent of the world population and you have to trade with the rest of us.

Trump talks about making Japan and Germany pay for America to defend them, what planet is he on? I'll tell you something about modern day Japan, because I have had Japanese clients, and what I can say about them is that they are honourable people to do business with. People who not only pay their bills but do so on time. There's a world of difference between them and Mr Trump.

The notion that the Japanese would pay America to defend them and rely on a man like him to honour his commitments is beyond laughable. Trump has said he will build up America's military, if he thinks he's going to do that with German and Japanese funding he's in fantasy land.

If he wants Germany and Japan to substantially rearm he's going the right way about it. Clinton is correct that the NATO pledge that an attack on one is an attack on all and we join together in defence has only been used once and then for America's benefit. Just look at the hash George W made of it, no strategy whatsoever, chaos and destruction and he took America's allies along with him.

Trump now talks about surrounding countries and smashing ISIS, does he want America's allies to waste more lives and more millions on destructive, deadly adventures with no end game? Another attack with no plan for the peace, if you can call it that, afterwards. ISIS is the new monster for now, smash ISIS with no strategy and another will grow in its place.

Trump himself has complained, with obvious hypocrisy, about the trillions of dollars already spent on military adventures abroad and is now seemingly, somehow insinuating it's been done to protect Europe, Japan et al and that we should chip in. I hope Britain and Europe, Japan and everyone else would have the sense to walk away if he wants to ramp things up again to no clear purpose.

In the event of a Trump presidency I would like to see Britain pull out of NATO and join a European defence force, or even stand alone; it was alliances which embroiled us in World War One and it was the resulting Treaty Of Versailles which largely brought about the horrors of Nazism which we then had no option but to fight.

America once demonstrated real wisdom. At the end of World War One Woodrow Wilson urged the allies not to be too punitive in regard to Germany for the sake of the future. The allies, regarding America as Johnny come latelys in the conflict ignored Mr Wilson's wisdom. At the end of World War Two America participated in the Berlin airlift, the de-nazification programmes and helped rebuild Germany. That was wisdom.

Don't lose your good sense now America. Hillary at least understands the importance of the middle classes to the economy, she understands there's a need for diplomacy and she's paid her taxes as far as we can see.

Whereas you can be sure that businessman Trump has used every weasel device possible to get out of paying his share towards America's soldiers, American schools, American infrastructure such as the airports he moans about, in the same way as he's used weasel devices to avoid paying small business. The Japanese, the Germans, the British don't have a moral imperative to pay towards America's defence, future, education, infrastructure etc. Mr Trump does and he can afford to.

There seems to be a populist wave of discontent on both sides of the Atlantic, don't fall for it, it's being manufactured by politicians to manipulate people, make them scared then pretend to have the solution.

No-one scored a knock out blow in the debate and change is often appealing. Foreigners like me have no right to tell you what to do and that's not my intention, but how you decide will affect the rest of the world AND your relationships with the rest of us. Including your friends.

Malcolm Snook Writer and Blogger

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