Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Trump’s Missed Opportunity: North Korea

It’s no secret that Donald Trump campaigned on being a tough guy — a strong, bold, new type of leader that would get the world to respect and fear the United States of America once again.

If President Trump could finally do something about North Korea, a persistent annoyance to the United States for the last few decades, he might accrue a significant accomplishment, deliver his voters’ expectations, and build the foundation for a possibly positive legacy.

Alas, an under-developed Communist nation with an economy the size of that of Birmingham, Alabama, has managed to outsmart the man at the helm of the most powerful military in the world.

Last April, the North Korean regime was still struggling to successfully test-launch missiles into the sea. It was doubtful the regime could strike any target outside the Western Pacific Rim. At that time, I advocated for war with the Kim regime on both moral and strategic grounds — to “quash the menace in its infancy” before the North Korean arsenal could catch up.

In the meantime, however, North Korean missile technology has become more impressive. It appears as though North Korean intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) could strike not only Guam and Alaska but the Western contiguous states as well. Worse yet, the North Koreans have discovered a way to miniaturize nuclear warheads and mount them onto these ICBMs. For the first time, North Korea stands unquestionably capable of striking the United States with a nuclear weapon.

And it happened on Trump’s watch.

Trump’s legacy, which already has a number of black marks, could soon bear one of the most unfortunate: “Allowed North Korea to become a nuclear rival in earnest.”

Welcome to Cold War II. All the rules from the first Cold War now apply. Say hello again to Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).

Let me be clear about one thing: I am glad that Trump did not preemptively nuke the entire country of North Korea into oblivion back in April. North Korea civilians are as worthy of life as nationals of any country. Such devastating action is not necessary and would deservedly face condemnation from the international community and lower Trump’s historical ranking as a president.

In addition, it is impossible to talk seriously about North Korea today without discussing China. While China has recently been a more reluctant ally of North Korea, U.S. aggression against North Korea could lead to a hot conflict with nuclear-equipped China, whose military power easily dwarfs that of North Korea.

However, back in April, the U.S. still had leverage to push for a denuclearized Korea, if not complete regime change. Before entering the Gulf War, George H.W. Bush threatened military action if Saddam Hussein did not end the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Likewise, the U.S. could have threatened North Korea to dismantle their nuclear program or else the U.S. would bomb their R&D and artillery facilities without fear of nuclear retaliation. Indeed, China and the United States were involved in negotiations regarding North Korea over the summer.

One wonders if we were willing enough then to negotiate with China over North Korea. In my view, North Korea’s growing threat to its own people, the United States, and the world would justify significant concessions to China in exchange for their help in pressuring North Korea. Trump promised to renegotiate trade deals with China, but that option is now off the table now that China has new leverage.

Much like climate change, U.S. leadership has waited too long to find the right solution, and the consequences are soon to follow. Now that North Korea can retaliate against the U.S. with intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Kim regime is less vulnerable than ever.

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Tuesday Talks: Trump’s Transition

John Buterbaugh and Patrick Wood chatted via Facebook regarding Trump’s transition and the future of the party system in America.

JOHN: Okay, we have to deal with the confusing situation that is Donald Trump’s presidency. Brought to you by Trump Industries. “If a politician does it, it’s corrupt. If I do it, it’s good business.” Let’s start off with his transition team. FiveThirtyEight is saying the nomination process is the fastest of all time. I think he’s rushing. I think he’s clogging the pipes for the swamp he’s trying to drain. Your thoughts on his transition and what his presidency might look like?

PATRICK: I can’t say conclusively what strategy he’s employing. I can say however that all his cabinet picks so far have been terrifying, and his potential picks for other positions are just as bad if not worse. This is a far-right cabinet.

JOHN: This is truly an awful Cabinet nomination process. You have alt-right Steve Bannon of Breitbart News as his Chief of Staff, an earshot from the presidency. He says he’s not a white nationalist, he’s a nationalist. Well, Steve, you’re white and a nationalist. And you say anti-Semitic things. So, stop splitting hairs. And you, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions? Were you frozen in an ice capsule in the 1950s with the strict instructions: “Do Not Open Until 2016”? Who jokes about supporting the KKK until he found out they smoked marijuana? Mnuchin as his Treasury Secretary will be a disaster. You don’t hire a Wall Street banker if you’re putting America first. You’re putting the top 1% first.

However, I am pleased that he is still strongly opposed to TPP. I am for free trade because China has things we don’t, and the U.S. has things they don’t. So, naturally we need to trade. However, you don’t sign onto a trade deal without knowing what the heck is in it. (I’m talking about you, Gary Johnson.) So, I’m hoping Trump is careful with trade. He also said that he wants to legalize medicinal marijuana and allow states to choose their policies, but he has a Attorney General nominee who wants to do the exact opposite.
Trump has not been consistent on most issues except trade. He has denounced trade deals since the 1980s. I think he’s biased though because he’s never had to outsource real-estate jobs. Most of his workers have to be on location pretty much.

PATRICK: It was interesting to see Trump move to left for a quick second after being elected, only to make these cabinet picks after. He is suddenly okay with parts of the ACA, is rethinking the mass deportations but then appoints a white nationalist as chief of staff, a racist as AG, and is thinking about putting Sarah Palin in as Interior Secretary. Can you imagine? That’s the department that heads the Bureau of Indian Affairs! I’d be hard pressed to name ANYONE who would be worse pick. This is one of most marginalized demographics in the US. To put Palin in charge would be an insult.

JOHN: Really I believe Trump thinks the presidency is about negotiating everything. He’s claimed to be a negotiator in everything he does. He took a really harsh tone in his campaign and really harsh positions. Now he’s backpedaled on a lot of his big talking points (thank God.) Now he’s starting to move toward the middle because he’s opening up the negotiation process. And also because he is starting to face reality. Trump realizes he has a loyal following that will never leave him. Period. He can do whatever he wants, and they won’t leave him. I’m not sure people took his promises literally — although saying he would not pursue prosecution of the Clintons (which he can’t do by himself anyway) might ruffle some feathers, even with his diehard supporters.

PATRICK: I’m glad to see he’s not pushing for it, though. Maybe democracy will survive in this country after all! This man really has undermined American democracy by threatening to jail his opponent and refusing to accept unfavorable election results. That’s not behavior befitting a U.S. president.

JOHN: Fox News comments seems to show they are letting the “I don’t want to hurt the Clintons” decision slide. Hillary losing is enough OR other people can prosecute Hillary. However, I don’t believe she will run for president again. I honestly don’t see Republicans trying to take her down anymore. They only seem to do that when she is in a political position or seeking one.

I’m starting to see a pattern though. He is taking these really ridiculous statements like saying he will imprison political opponents, but then he backpedaled on that with Hillary. It’s good negotiating. He takes an extreme position so that he negotiates to where he actually wanted to be in the first place. Although I don’t see how you could negotiate on Cabinet picks. The Republicans control the Senate. Trump has some leverage there. I’m not sure compromising would be in his cards.

PATRICK: This is true. He takes an absurd position and then is applauded when he moderates it slightly. He plays that game quite well.

JOHN: “We’re gonna build a wall” became “Some of it might be a fence.” There is already fencing! “We’re going to deport all 11 million immigrants” became “We won’t deport all of them.” Obama is already deporting more immigrants than Bush did. Trump will probably take credit for all immigration reform when a lot of it was already taking place under Bush and Obama. I will add, you can see fencing on the border with Mexico on Google Earth. 580 miles of it.

PATRICK: It’s almost sad how little difference there is with regard to the physical border among our politicians. They pretend differently, but Hillary voted for a “fence” twice, I believe.

JOHN: Yeah, I think a non-Hillary candidate will be great next time. Maybe Joe Biden. Common touch, straight talker, good salesman, loves people. Only baggage is the plagiarism incidents (during his campaign and during college) and the fact that he is a bit of a loose cannon. But hey, America should be used to that by now. Melania and Donald have shown us the light. “All the words you just used were taken from the dictionary. Isn’t everything plagiarism?” Anyway, what is the left-wing equivalent of Donald Trump’s strategy? Tax Donald Trump at 100% and settle on $25 million?

PATRICK: There was a fair bit of demagoguery coming from my preferred candidate Bernie Sanders to be completely fair. He would have had to come to the center from his original positions if he was to get anything done.

JOHN: Do you think the Democrats should use the same strategy? They keep negotiating with themselves it seems. They have only gone right in the past 10-15 years, allowing the Republicans to go so far to the right they need to extend the wall so that the Republicans can have more space. But Sanders was right to say he will never compromise on key social issues like sexism, xenophobia, etc. I can live in peace knowing that he is what he stood for. I can live with compromising on tax reform as long as we the people get a good deal. It’s so unsexy and it’s so numerical, who really cares?

PATRICK: It’s also certainly less important than “who gets to be treated with dignity and respect?”

JOHN: The president is a role model. People watch. It’s important that Trump realizes that. Not sure he will. I’m pretty sure he’s simply a megalomaniac sociopath bent on using the presidency for personal gain and to subjugate historically oppressed people. But I could be wrong. Zootopia is about that situation. Have you seen it?

PATRICK: I haven’t, unfortunately!

JOHN: It’s funny and timely. A kid’s movie explains the fear of people who are different and the political exploitation of that fear quite poignantly.

PATRICK: That’s certainly extremely relevant to what’s happening and what has happened.

JOHN: However, I don’t think Trump’s only appeal to his voters was the race-baiting. A lot of Trump supporters didn’t want “another career politician” or bought all the theories of Clinton criminality and decided Trump was better than electing a criminal.
He spoke simply and toughly. That plays well with people who speak simply and toughly. If you’re not college educated, you don’t need jargon and nuance in your life. You just need a simple job like everyone else.

PATRICK: Right. Neither candidate was a person of the people or the working class. Trump however was much better at talking like it. You don’t win elections by talking at length about intricate details of politics unfortunately. That’s lost on most people; it’s the flashy headlines and insults that people remember.

JOHN: Bernie Sanders was very much of the working class. But he didn’t really talk like it. He did every speech like a college lecture with passion, but it was still more professorial than conversational.

A Jewish carpenter who pays his taxes, includes people of all stripes, and wants to give to the poor. How did they not see him as Jesus? I suppose a prophet is never excepted in his hometown as they say, or home party as I say.

PATRICK: The DNC colluded against Jesus to prop up… struggling for an apt historical figure here.. perhaps King George?

JOHN: No, I’m thinking Biblical… King Herod.

PATRICK: The only advantage is the knowledge of statesmanship.

JOHN: Go on.

PATRICK: I said King George originally because there was a lot of distaste between the American commoners and the King. No secret. The King took a rather patronizing approach. But at least he had experience and knew something about statesmanship. But Americans then and now decided to flip everything on its head, to defy order and perhaps even conventional wisdom in the hope of attaining something GREAT and very new
In the name of avoiding taxes! And it sucked at first. Originally our leaders didn’t know what they were doing. We had to suffer through the Articles of Confederation (states’ rights!) Eventually we came to realize that “new” isn’t always good. Letting states coin their own currency was a mistake.

JOHN: You can’t do interstate commerce that way! Horrible idea.

PATRICK: And the best political system is one that protects and guarantees basic liberties for everyone including, especially, unpopular minority groups.

I think Hillary lost for five reasons
1. The Electoral College
2. She wasn’t exciting in the same vein as Obama — so this stifled favorable turnout at the polls
3. The opposition painted her effectively as a crook
4. Liberals overplayed their hand on campus safe spaces and transgender issues
5. The DNC is corrupt and was caught rigging the primary

In a way, this result was foreseeable. The DNC was always going to get caught. Hillary was winning mostly red states she had no shot at taking during the general election, and Bernie was polling better against Trump in the head-to-head polling.

JOHN: We need a palate cleanser and we need to fix the party. It keeps losing. It lost the presidency, Congress, and most state legislatures. How the hell are we supposed to reverse Citizens United with a party led by a supposedly populist billionaire running the show?

PATRICK: It doesn’t stand for anything. We need a popular extremist. A Bernie or a Warren. Someone fiery with solid, easy to understand convictions. I think Bernie would do well with working-class voters.

JOHN: How do you think Elizabeth Warren would do with them? I am not sure a liberal woman would be their cup of tea.

PATRICK: I actually agree. I hate to admit it, but our next champion may have to be male.
A lot of voters described Hillary as “shrill.” And honestly I think they just don’t like the female voice talking about leading the country.

JOHN: Hillary’s voice doesn’t strike me as totally unusual. It is a bit shrill and knowing Hillary says one thing and does another aggravates that view.

PATRICK: What do you think about Keith Ellison as chairman of the DNC? Do you feel that the Congressman’s religion makes it a better or worse choice? The DNC chair will be a response to Trump. And to a lesser extent, meant to address problems of corruption within the party.

JOHN: Politically? Possibly. Although I don’t think he’s a big name. He’s going to be more exposed as he becomes more famous naturally.

PATRICK: I think Howard Dean may have been too closely tied with Hillary to be a good pick.

JOHN: There needs to be some fresh faces — new blood. Also, Cory Booker needs to become a better speaker. I love him, but he is too loud all the time during his speeches to be the future of the party.

PATRICK: Good observation, I agree (and also share your affinity for him)
If that improves I think Cory could be wonderful. He has down to earth charm, youth, and is perceived as honest.

JOHN: Right. He is energetic, positive, and has no known baggage. But he is technically urban and he’s from a suburban state. He’s not the best face of rural voters.
There isn’t really a good representative for rural voters in the party other than Bernie. His state is among the most rural in the country.

PATRICK: I suppose this is all true, but most rural states go are deep red, beyond the reach of almost any Democrat.

JOHN: Right. But Wisconsin’s rural population was more Democratic than its suburban population. But then Trump changed that. Bernie would have won it. It’s important that we not take the Midwest for granted. The rural voters are more reachable in the Midwest.

PATRICK: I think that is an area where people actually do listen to both sides, before generally picking the one that seems most the most honest and the most like them.
Which one *would want* to have a beer with me?

JOHN: Ironically, Trump says he doesn’t drink alcohol; so, good luck drinking beer with him.

PATRICK: Haha!!

JOHN: I would say I would rather have a beer with Bush then Gore. Bush would be more easygoing I think. Gore is too stiff.

PATRICK: Stiffness is a major political liability. Candidates deemed robotic almost always lose.

JOHN: That killed Jeb Bush. He was too conscientious.

PATRICK: And many other people. Jeb appeared a little timid at the debates. And debates are about presentation more than substance. So Trump exuded strength, bullied Jeb with monosyllabic words, and won. It was over as soon as Jeb stuttered (which he did several times.)

JOHN: He also broke a rule the others wouldn’t — never speak ill of another Republican.

PATRICK: Trump broke every rule in the book. Originally wouldn’t even commit to running Republican.

JOHN: He briefly ran as a Reform Party candidate in 2000.

PATRICK: And he did the fake out quasi-runs in 2008 and 2012. Do you think we’ll be seeing Kanye in 2020?

JOHN: Dear God, Trump vs. Kanye. What an absolute disaster. Just what we need. More narcissists. Kanye is the hip-hop Trump.

PATRICK: This really seems like the end of civilization. Rome 2.0.

JOHN: Our hubris will be the end of us. Or at least the hubris of a handful of idiocrats will be the end of us.

PATRICK: This will be our fate if we don’t take all this as a wake-up call and respond appropriately in four years. The electoral college worked exactly as it was designed to
and then plunged the country into the alt-right abyss.

The Colossal Polling Errors of 1948 and 2016

1948: Dewey Defeats Truman. 2016: Clinton Will Defeat Trump. Both headlines ate crow.

Pollsters incorporate multiple factors when painting a picture of public opinion. (Try not spit in my face when you say that to me in person.) They consider race, gender, geographic location, religious affiliation, community setting, etc. They also need to consider which voters are more likely to show up. The most common method is by phone. Pollsters will hire people to call a bunch of numbers hoping that people will answer. At least a few hundred will. A lot of people don’t answer. I’ve been called by polling agencies a few times. I’ve answered and responded to questions twice.

What is the point of all this? Some of it is intended to feel the pulse of the nation — to see what Americans really want. Of course, a lot of it is to fuel the horse race that is an election. The media cites polls left and right. Some of it ends up influencing people’s votes. People are biased toward winners. FiveThirtyEight rose to prominence as being a polling agency. In 2008, they said Indiana and North Carolina would go for McCain, if I remember correctly. They went for Obama instead. In 2012, their presidential forecast was spot on. A lot of this is that they adjusted their model. They realized that the polls didn’t tell the whole story. There are other factors like the economy and the fact that pollsters can’t reach certain people by phone. They’ve had difficulty reaching Latino voters and people who may not have a phone at all.

In 2016, the polls could not have been much more wrong. FiveThirtyEight had a projection of about a 71.4% chance of Hillary Clinton winning, one of the more conservative estimates. People were betting money on PredictIt.com that Hillary would win, giving her better odds. The LA Times had one of the more accurate predictions. To have the final outcome be off by 3% or even 4% is not uncommon. That’s the margin of error for a lot of these polls. The polls showed Hillary Clinton leading by 4%. She is currently winning the popular vote by only 2%. However, even that lead doesn’t win the presidency. The “how do I explain this to a five-year-old child” system of the Electoral College chooses the victor. FiveThirtyEight was predicting a comfortable win in the electoral vote, maybe even a landslide. They predicted that Clinton would win all the Obama 2008 states except for Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio – 322 electoral votes in total.

Not only were the polls wrong in some of these states, they also had no idea that Donald Trump would steal states from the Democrats. Results in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania showed that Hillary Clinton didn’t just have an Iowa and Ohio problem, she had a Rust Belt problem. The last time a presidential candidate only won two states in the Midwest and won the presidency was 1884. How could the polls be so wrong in states that hadn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since the 1980s? One theory is the “shy Trump” voter avoided expressing support for Trump for fear of judgment by the pollster, but this is crap because this wasn’t a factor in the primaries. What is more likely is that Trump supporters were less likely to answer the phone. Knowing Trump’s impatience, you can see why his supporters would be reluctant to talk to some stranger on the phone for 10-15 minutes. Another issue is that pollsters vastly underestimated the number of working-class whites turning out to vote. Trump ended up winning with 306 electoral votes.

Let’s compare that to 1948. All the polls were saying that the suave Governor Thomas Dewey of New York would defeat the fiery incumbent president Harry Truman. Truman’s own staff members left for other jobs because they didn’t even think he could win. Gallup had Dewey winning the popular vote by 5%. He ended up losing it by 4.5%. In terms of the popular vote, that is clearly a greater upset than the 2016 election. I don’t have much to compare the electoral vote results of 1948 and 2016 as state polling for 1948 is hard to find.

A similarity between both elections is that a swing of 1.25% in three states were all that were needed to change the results. In 1948, those states were Ohio, Illinois, and California.  In 2016, those states were Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania (alternate being Florida). Both elections would result in one party controlling the presidency and Congress. Additionally, polls in both elections showed a tightening race. In 1948, Dewey lost a double-digit lead, but experts still wouldn’t hedge their bets on Dewey. In 2016, FiveThirtyEight showed Hillary dropping from a 7% advantage to a 3.6% advantage.

FiveThirtyEight appeared to hedge its bets more than other predictions did and much more than most firms did in 1948. That still doesn’t excuse the fact that the polls did not capture the whole picture of what was going on the Rust Belt. The site even argued that 2016 probably wouldn’t be a repeat of 1948, and that Trump shouldn’t “bank on a massive polling error.” Earlier this year, polls showed Hillary Clinton winning Michigan’s primary over Bernie Sanders. Bernie ended up taking the state. So, a polling error in the Michigan is not without precedent. It’s almost as if we were supposed to see this coming, but we didn’t. Life goes on. We live and learn.

(Seriously, 2016 though. If I could go back in time, I would put money on DiCaprio, the Cavs, the Cubs, and Trump. How else could I become a millionaire?)

On Trump Winning

First of all, I would like to congratulate Mr. Trump on his victory. It was a tough, brutal campaign, and I am glad that process has come to an end. I am faithful in the legitimacy of the votes, and I am thankful that we will be having a peaceful transition of power.

For months on end, we have viewed Hillary Clinton and/or Donald Trump as a tough pill to swallow. I supported Bernie Sanders in the primary and tepidly supported Hillary Clinton in the general election. I was still absolutely shocked to see that Trump was winning in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

However, this was a huge wake-up call to the Democratic Party. I will admit that my party deserved to lose because we did not do right by the people of these states. We have spent so much time trying to win the votes of wealthy, educated suburbanites that we have taken the working-class citizens of our great country for granted. We have abandoned our progressive roots by supporting unbalanced trade deals and cozying up to big corporations.

My hope is that Trump will adopt a positive and cooperative tone. I hope he will resolve the issues caused by ObamaCare (about which people on both sides of the aisle have complained). I hope he will reform federal education law regarding Common Core and allow schools to do what they do best.

I hope he bridges the deep divides in our country. I have never defriended anyone for being a Trump supporter. If you are a good person who cares about others, that is good enough for me. I hope he cracks down on sexual assault to show that he is serious about his self-professed respect for women. He could also do much of what his daughter Ivanka said he would do at the RNC this summer.

All I have left to say is good luck, Mr. Trump. You are our president-elect now. The world is watching.

Our Real Problem? The Moderate Always Loses

By PATRICK WOOD

In 2010, one midterm election was enough to unseat half of the so called “Blue Dog Democrats” (more moderate/conservative Democrats) from Congress. This statistic is pretty amazing for a few reasons. One, as an advantage of incumbency, members of Congress have extremely high reelection rates. They are reelected roughly 90% of the time. Second, this happened when there wasn’t even a presidential election occurring. People generally don’t give a damn about these elections, voter participation is lower than it is during presidential election years, and one would think this would boost the incumbency advantage for members of Congress.

But 2010 saw blue dog after blue dog fall.

In 2012, the Republican Party flirted with more extreme conservative candidates before nominating Mitt Romney, who struck many as a much more vanilla, centrist choice. Romney was initially perceived as a wise pick, as it was thought he had the greatest chance of appealing to voters who identified as anything other than “very conservative.” Romney ended up losing his bid to Barack Obama, and in truth, the contest wasn’t that close.

This was reminiscent of 2004 when the Democrats did the exact same thing with John Kerry, who mounted an unsuccessful bid to defeat George Bush. “Boring,” “lackluster,” “flip-flopping,” “calculating,” centrist Kerry lost both the popular vote and the electoral vote to a vulnerable incumbent president.

So, who does win elections? Extremists, populists, hard party-liners, and those who appeal to the party’s base. People like Donald Trump. Why? They’re exciting. They bring out their supporters on election day.

For moderates, like Kerry and Clinton, this is much harder to do. Soaring ideals are simply more inspiring than calculating pragmatism.

While more people might align more closely with a moderate and not care for the more extreme candidate, these people need an additional reason to come out to the polls. Their emotions and passions are not stirred by vanilla establishment candidates.

Meanwhile the extreme, populist/demagogic, or hyper-partisan candidate enjoys the advantage of soaking up most of the media attention. We have to concede they’re exciting, and we’re hanging on every word.

So what does this mean? – It’s bad, bad news.

The level of partisanship in Washington is only going to get worse. To illustrate this, take this year’s senatorial elections. The Democrats managed to unseat two Republican senators. Maggie Hassan just barely eeked out a win over Kelly Ayotte, a somewhat moderate Republican from New Hampshire. The only blowout against an incumbent Republican was Tammy Duckworth’s victory over Illinois senator Mark Kirk, the most liberal Republican in the entire Senate.

The moderate always loses in the USA. Senator Kirk had a strong record on LGBT rights, reviled Donald Trump, and voted with the Democrats on numerous issues.

With Kirk gone, are any remaining Republicans going to compromise and work with the Democrats? It seems very unlikely. The Democrats have eliminated their only friend from across the aisle. Expect countless strict party-line votes once the new Congress begins.

While Kirk was defeated, a senator in Wisconsin managed to defy the expectations of forecasters and hold on to his seat in Congress. This man is Ron Johnson, who defeated progressive darling Russ Feingold in the purply/blue state of Wisconsin after suggesting that impeachment motions should be brought immediately if Clinton were to win the presidency.

The extremist wins, the moderate loses, and the country suffers.

The Problem with Donald Trump’s Words

By JOE McMAHON

Donald Trump has recently come under fire, yet again, for appearing to suggest that supporters of the 2nd amendment should take matters into their own hands and “stop” Hillary Clinton. While much of the country was, unsurprisingly, outraged by his comment, the Trump campaign tried to paint it in a less threatening light. Spokesperson Jason Miller claimed that the quote was just supposed to encourage people to vote in order to prevent Clinton from becoming president in the first place. On CNN, Trump’s aide Paul Manafort argued, “Most people did not see it as a threat.” Which, honestly, is probably the case. The problem is, Paul, what about the people who did?

Let’s get one thing out of the way. Trump might have meant exactly what Jason Miller said he did. Like most of Trump’s comments, this one was beautifully vague and ambiguous. The fact is, though, that it doesn’t matter what he meant.

While much of the media attention has been on the intent of Trump’s words, the far more important thing to consider is how those words were perceived by his audience. More importantly, how those words were perceived by the darker, more impressionable subset of his audience. The angry, down-on-their-luck audience, perhaps with violent tendencies just looking for someone to blame for their misfortune. Because, believe me, Mr. Trump, that audience did not hear that and think “Well, darn, I better show up in November and vote.” No. What they heard was a man they idolize cavalierly validating those dark thoughts in the back of their minds. What they heard was a man of incredible influence and power making them think that maybe those violent ideas weren’t as wrong as society made them out to be. Maybe, after listening to Donald Trump, they decided that they did have a right to do something about the “Clinton problem.”

The thing that you need to learn, Mr. Trump, is that you cannot choose your audience. You cannot make a dangerous claim and then defend it by saying that you intended it in a different way. Because that doesn’t change how people interpret it. That didn’t stop the racists in this country from jumping all over your incendiary remarks about Mexicans as validation of their racist thoughts. And it’s not going to stop your violent, angry, gun-toting supporters from interpreting your recent comments in a way that could lead to tragedy.

Now, I’m not saying that politicians need to make sure that their words have no dangerous interpretation. That would obviously be possible. But Donald Trump has made a habit of saying intentionally vague and ambiguous things and then hiding behind the excuse of “That’s not what I meant” while watching the world tear itself apart fighting over it. Donald Trump loves saying things that have both a benign interpretation that can protect him and an incendiary interpretation that can capture headlines. His entire campaign has been built on saying things that enrage half the country and excite the other half, while riding the resulting tension and strife all the way to political stardom.

But this time, he’s gone too far. This time, an obvious interpretation of his comments wasn’t just racist or sexist or Islamophobic. This time it was dangerous. This time, the possible repercussions are much more severe. Maybe Trump doesn’t care. Maybe he likes the idea that millions of people interpreted his remarks as a violent threat against Hillary Clinton that could put her life in danger. But hopefully that’s not the case. And if Donald Trump has even one moral bone in his body, that will be the last time he ever makes that kind of a statement.

Clintrump and You

Let’s face it. We’re looking at the worst presidential election match-up in history — cold, calculated, corrupt Hillary Clinton vs. brash, bombastic, bumbling Donald Trump. I admit it. I’ve thought about voting for a third-party candidate. Jill Stein shares most of my views, but she has some downright implausible ideas. She won’t win. Gary Johnson shares my views on social issues and even some economic issues. He’s positive and seemingly reasonable, but libertarianism is simply too inflexible to respond to changes in our world. My guy was Bernie Sanders but he simply won’t be the nominee. And maybe he would be too soft and get steamrolled by Republicans just like Obama had happen to him.

Now a lot of people are saying the lack of indictment for Hillary Clinton regarding the emails is politically motivated. FBI Director James Comey was a registered Republican but he later said he is no longer so. Perhaps Comey realizes there’s something more important in the greater scheme of things. Perhaps Comey has been so turned off by the idea of Donald Trump becoming president that he left the Republican Party. And maybe that is why he is letting Hillary off the hook. I’m sure Mr. Comey is aware that she is vulnerable to anything that would damage her reputation and such damage would give an edge to Trump.

What I find so perplexing is why so much time is wasted conducting witch-hunts on minor blunders and even victimless crimes. Sure, that is politically motivated. Republicans want to see Hillary fall apart. The death of four Americans at the embassy in Benghazi, Libya, sure doesn’t make Hillary look good. And I haven’t read the emails that the State Department and WikiLeaks released. And sure she shouldn’t have used a private email servers to send and receive classified information. Nevertheless, did storing her emails on a private server threaten national security or aid terrorist efforts? Has anyone died or suffered physically as a result of her using a private server as opposed to that of the State Department? I don’t know. This angle of the story doesn’t seem to reach many people when it should. There seems to be this obsession with the letter of the law when it comes to Hillary.

What I find more troubling about Mrs. Clinton is that she supported the overthrow of dictatorial regimes in Iraq and Libya. Trump recently said that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, despite being a “very bad guy,” was good at killing terrorists. Well, he killed a lot of people because there was no due process and he wanted firm control. Because he was Sunni, the minority Sunnis felt they were important too. With Hussein out of the picture and the majority Shi’ites in control, many Sunnis couldn’t join the military because of their connections to Hussein’s Ba’ath Party. What else were these disaffected Sunnis going to do other than join ISIS? You see, dictators are very bad, inhumane people. However, their rule by predictable terror squashes unpredictable acts of terror.

Libya is similar. Gaddafi was a pretty terrible guy. He wasn’t the kind of guy to take home to mom and dad. Trump even said the U.S. should topple Gaddafi and that it would be very easy. Then, Trump flip-flopped on this issue because he realized this overthrow destabilized Libya. Gaddafi’s demise resulted in a power vacuum, allowing ISIS to establish a colony on the central northern shores of Libya. “Accidentally strengthened terrorist organization” does not look good on a political resumé.

When voting, Americans should know that Clinton and Trump have both made horrible decisions regarding foreign policy. However, a President Trump’s careless, impulsive, and insensitive approach to diplomacy and military interventions would present a greater threat to American national security. He too thought toppling Gaddafi would be a good idea. It hasn’t been good in Libya since. He even said ISIS should be allowed to topple Assad’s regime in Syria. Seriously?! Assad (and the American-backed Kurds) are the only reasons ISIS hasn’t taken over the entire freaking country!

If ISIS were to take over all of Syria, that would strengthen their claim to country status and legitimize them as the new caliphate for Muslims. We can’t do that now when they are losing territory day by day. The Iraqi army is making ISIS fighters retreat like never before. And yet, we’re seeing ISIS commit more terrorist acts as they lose more and more territory. They can only win right now with the element of surprise and hiding in plain sight. We need a strategy that protects us from terrorism. We need to realize that military intervention is not the only option, that Sunnis and Shias are never going to get along in Iraq, that we need a nuanced and conscientious approach that protects the lives of Americans wherever they may be. That includes diplomacy, more responsible nation creation (e.g., a three-state solution dividing Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds), and not toppling dictators just because we can.