Saturday, December 31, 2016

Assessing democracy in the aftermath of Trump's victory, Part XI: Clinton's competence

One more valence trait to go: competence.  Remember, the question isn't about how competent Clinton was, but about how competent she was relative to Trump.

I won't bother with the bullshit, like Benghazi, or the other fake scandals that Republicans have tried to drum up around Clinton and what she did right or wrong.  There are two real hits on Clinton's competence: the Iraq War vote, and the email thing.  Yes, there is a real competence issue on the latter.  Not a criminal issue, but a competence issue.

Let's start with the Iraq War vote.  Given what we knew at the time, should we have invaded Iraq?  Donald Trump insisted during the campaign that he had a competence advantage over Clinton because he knew, in advance, that it was a mistake, whereas Clinton voted to invade.  She did vote to invade.  Most people-- basically, everybody except John McCain and his rentboy, Lindsey Graham-- at this point acknowledge that, given what we know now, we shouldn't have gone in, including Clinton.  But, what about given the information we had in 2002 and 2003?

This, of course, was one of Trump's most famous lies.  Here he is on Howard Stern's radio show in 2002...

So, no, Trump didn't have the foresight to oppose invading Iraq when Clinton supported it.  No competence advantage there.

Then, there's the email thing.  Yes, Clinton supporters, this is a real competence issue.  There was no crime.  This was a bullshit scandal, but had Clinton been a normal employee, handling information like that would have been a fireable offense.

And that kind of behavior can put national security at risk.

Because, ya' know, emails can get, um, hacked.


... Russia.


... From whom Trump will obviously keep all national security secrets safe.

On the general issue of competence, though, Clinton really did receive some advice from Colin Powell on... not doing everything on the State Department servers.  She took bad advice, and took it to an extreme.  That's not the kind of thing you want a president to do.

Serious point, then: do you trust Trump to keep national security secrets?  Clinton's motive was to be secretive.  She wanted her information on a private server.  The motive backfired.

With Trump, the issue will be as follows:  he tweets so many lies that he could reveal national security secrets, through twitter, and you'd never know it!  I'm being serious.  This is the poker strategy of knowing that you can't keep a poker face, so you just act like a jackass all the time and your behavior when you bluff looks just like your behavior when your hand is good.

Whether or not Trump can be trusted to keep secrets from Putin in other contexts is another matter.  His debt to Putin in the election is small, but there.  Putin really did intervene in the election to try to get Trump into the White House, and everyone knows it.  And everyone should have understood it going into the ballot booth.  When the DNC hack was revealed, we all knew it was Russia, and when it happened, Trump was already talking about not defending our NATO allies if Russia invaded them, having already invaded Crimea.  This wasn't a secret at the time.  Making matters worse, his campaign manager was deeply entangled with Putin's pawns in Ukraine.  None of this was secret.  Clinton didn't keep her emails on a server that was secure from Russia, but Trump's connections to Russia have always been the kind of thing that would make Joe McCarthy's head explode, Scanners-style.

Then, there's this.

I'm going to keep using this clip because there is no getting around how troubling this is.  Donald Trump doesn't understand that nuclear weapons are a deterrent rather than a first strike weapon.  That is a competence issue far beyond anything facing Clinton as a candidate.  That is a competence issue far beyond anything facing any candidate any party has nominated in the nuclear age.  If you do not understand nuclear weapons, nuclear deterrence and the stakes involved, you have no business anywhere near the White House.  When I write that Donald Trump is the most incompetent candidate we have ever seen, this is what I mean.  There are other aspects of public policy that Clinton understands.  There are none that Trump understands.  Clinton understands the basic functioning of government, while Trump does not.  None of this is on the level of Trump's failure to understand nuclear weapons.

Beyond that, the concept of deterrence, as explained by Thomas Schelling in his Nobel Prize-winning book, The Strategy of Conflict, is so central to all political matters that a politician incapable of grasping it will fail to grasp pretty much anything.

Has Clinton read Schelling?  I'd bet she has...

Competence advantage?  Clinton, by a long shot.

But, what did voters think about it?  Well, I guess that'll be Part XII...

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