Hillary Clinton had a bad week recently when the State Department inspector general reported on her questionable e-mail practices.
She had stated repeatedly she was authorized to use her personal e-mail account for State Department business, but the report said this was not true.
She also had said Colin Powell had used his personal e-mail for State Department business, implying that this was accepted practice. But the report stated that Powell’s use had been far less, and State Department regulations had been tightened since Powell was secretary.
The damage to Clinton’s reputation is magnified because it reinforces the narrative that the Clintons play by different rules. A new generation of voters now are learning about Whitewater, Travelgate and other Clinton dealings outside the lines of normally acceptable behavior.
But Donald Trump didn’t let Hillary roast in the media spotlight for long. For a week he grabbed the headlines with bizarre statements that had Republicans and Democrats alike shaking their heads and again questioning his temperament to be president.
First, he criticized New Mexico’s Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, the country’s first Latina governor. He did this in her home state, saying she is “not doing her job” and blamed her for the state’s economic problems. The cause for Trump’s rebuke was that the governor had not yet endorsed him.
TO BE ELECTED, Trump must 1) increase his percentage of the Hispanic vote, and 2) bring the Republican Party together after a divisive primary season. But in one campaign stop he attacked the country’s most important Hispanic Republican politician, who also happens to be the chairwoman of the Republican Governors’ Association and a rising star in the party.
The only rational justification for his outburst is that he literally can’t help himself. Martinez struck a nerve, and he impulsively lashed out at her, no matter the cost. He can’t escape his irrational temperament.
This attack was followed by his ethnically based criticism of U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over a lawsuit against Trump University.
He said Judge Curiel was “a hater of Donald Trump.” He complained the judge was biased because the judge was Mexican, when in fact he was born and raised in Indiana. He also said the judge is a “total disgrace,” and he made an implied threat to the judge if Trump were to become president.
Trump again responded to an affront with recklessness and ridicule.
In threatening a sitting federal judge, Trump’s understanding of an independent judiciary comes into question. Trump still seems to think he will be all-powerful as president, and fails to understand the limitations imposed by the Constitution. Never having had a boss, Trump has not had the maturing experience of accommodating one. He doesn’t understand a president’s need to persuade, not dictate.
HOUSE SPEAKER Paul Ryan and other Republican leaders have rebuked Trump for his rant.
And finally, Hillary delivered a speech condemning Trump for his foreign policy positions. Her remarks were forceful and on target, and were largely in accord with the views of Republican national security experts who have concluded Trump is unfit to be commander-in-chief. Unable to criticize the substance of her remarks, Trump said she was “pathetic” and “not presidential.” His thin skin again got the better of him, and his angry tirade only reinforced Hillary’s points. He did not look presidential, and she looked eminently presidential.
My preferred candidate was John Kasich, but he fell to the anti-establishment wave. Now we must select the better of two flawed candidates. Longtime Hillary critics should look closely at Trump’s unpredictable behavior before continuing to oppose her. If his thin skin and insecurity prevent Trump from furthering his own election interests, how will he be able to handle the affairs of the nation?
This is one of those moments in our political life to re-examine our priorities. Universal background checks for gun sales and anti-immigration rhetoric fade in significance if we stumble into another war.
We need a steady hand at the wheel of the ship of state, and Donald Trump is not that person.
(The writer is a retired U.S. Navy officer. He lives and writes in Savannah.)