I had the honor of serving as Ronald Reagan’s White House political director from 1987 to 1989, so I can claim some insight on U.S. politics.
My central conclusion on the 2016 race: It might not be entirely clear that Hillary Clinton deserves to win the presidency, but it is thunderingly clear that Donald Trump deserves to lose.
From this premise, I will do something that I have not done in 40 years of voting:
I will vote for the Democratic nominee for president.
- The depressing truth of the Republican nominee is that Donald Trump talks a great game but he is the emperor who wears no clothes.
- Trump falls short in terms of the character and behavior needed to perform as president. This defect is crippling and ensures he would fail in office.
- Trump is a bigot, a bully, and devoid of grace or magnanimity.
- His thin-skinned belligerence toward every challenge, rebuke, or criticism would promise the nation a series of a high-voltage quarrels.
- His casual dishonesty, his policy laziness, and his lack of self-awareness would mean four years of a careening pin-ball journey that would ricochet from missteps to crisis to misunderstandings to clarifications to retractions.
This decision is not an easy one. I proudly served in every Republican administration over the past 40 years: Ambassador and Undersecretary for George W. Bush, Commerce Department official for George H. W. Bush, and several White House and State Department assignments for Ronald Reagan beyond the political director role.
I have seen presidents work with difficult people and difficult issues. It requires a blend of strategic vision and tactical flexibility, combined with optimism and good humor. A president needs the thick skin to ignore criticism and the management discipline to stay fixed on goals. Trump, on the other hand, manages to pick fights that are unrelated to his goals.
The most pronounced example in this regard was his tasteless criticism of the family of deceased Army Capt. Humayun Khan. We owe that young man our gratitude for the ultimate sacrifice. And we owe his parents our respect for the dignity with which they reproached Mr. Trump for his grotesqueries.
Less poignant is a part of the Trump story that ought to have particular resonance with Republicans: his four business bankruptcies, more than a trivial matter for a party that prides itself on thrift, sound money, and prudential management.
The bankruptcies reflect a man who either lacks reasonable business judgment or reasonable business ethics. By themselves, four bankruptcies are pretty bad. But four bankruptcies and a private jet is deplorable. How can everyone lose money in the collapse of a project yet Trump flies away again and again?
In the early days of my startup, there was a moment when I could have shut the firm, declared bankruptcy, and walked away from my obligations, but I have employees, investors, clients, and customers — all of whom rely on my commitment. I have a moral obligation to stand by people who are standing by me. No wonder so many Americans are skeptical of market economics if the system can be so easily manipulated by Trump.
To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, one bankruptcy may be regarded as a misfortune, but four begins to look like carelessness. We can suppose that Trump has every legal right to declare bankruptcies and to walk away with millions. And voters have every legal right to vote against him for those actions.
There are many issues on which Hillary Clinton and I are not in agreement. However on the core foreign policy issues our country faces — alliance relationships, security commitments, and international engagement — she comes closer to Republican views than does Trump.
And Donald Trump makes me cringe.
I am voting for Hillary. And I vote in Ohio.