America! There’s no best in this bad bunch

This just has to be the worst line-up for the presidency in living history. The race for the White House has evolved into an undignified slanging match especially within the Republican camp. Trump refers to the Democratic front-runner as “Crooked Clinton” and his closest rival Ted Cruz “Canada Ted,” “an anchor baby” and “a liar.” Yet when compared to former House Speaker John Boehner’s description of Cruz as “Lucifer in the flesh,” Trump’s insults sound mild.

Hecklers have been assaulted at Trump rallies with his blessing and he’s warned of violence if he’s edged out by worried party elites who’d love to throw this vulgar outsider under a bus. Hillary Clinton is more dignified. She’s learned to keep a lid on her feelings. She’s an accomplished player who’s currently shifted slightly left of centre to woo the anti-establishment Bernie Sanders’ crowd in this fast becoming two-horse race.

So unless there’s a shock in the pipeline, the American voting public will be forced to choose between their former first lady/secretary of state carrying heavy and unsavoury baggage—voting for the disastrous Iraq War, being accused of corruption, non-transparency on Benghazi, conducting affairs of state via a private email server—and a boastful big-mouthed billionaire entertainer wowing the gullible with unworkable big ideas and a controversial ‘America First’ slogan. America First has been used before by a US committee backed by anti-Semitic sympathisers that lobbied to keep the US out of the Second World War.

The wonder is that a global power that’s produced many of the planet’s most accomplished people in just about all fields and has a population of almost 320 million couldn’t come up with candidates possessing the right kind of calibre to be America’s commander-in-chief let alone leader of the free world. Or perhaps not, because Ordinary Joe, no matter how brilliant, isn’t in with a chance minus the right connections, billionaire donors or support from Super PACs. Money is the name of this game—lots of it, which is why Trump was well placed to buy his way to the top tier. Many, if not most, Americans would agree as a CBS/New York Times poll published last month evidences.

Trump’s favourability rating was just 24 per cent; Hillary’s 31 per cent. According to CNN, “that makes Trump and Clinton viewed more unfavourably than any front-runner for either party since 1984, when CBS began polling voters on the question.”

Isn’t there something fundamentally undemocratic about two President Clintons and two presidents called Bush (might have been three had Jeb Bush impressed) in less than three decades? It won’t be a surprise to see Michelle Obama out on the stump in 2020! In any other democratic nation, this would be viewed as cronyism.

If I were forced to bet my money, it would be on Clinton simply because she has carefully cultivated the African American and Latino votes whereas Mexican Americans are said to be registering to vote in unprecedented droves to keep Trump from the coveted prize. He might also be hard put to pull in votes from both American Muslims as well as American Jews when the Anti-Defamation League has accused him of using stereotypes and hate speech—and, according to various polls, up to 40 per cent of Republicans affirm they won’t vote for him.

Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that another President Clinton it is. What can we looking in from the outside expect?

With regards to Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the US, this may transition from cool to freezing. Clinton backs a bill going through Congress allowing individuals to sue Riyadh in connection with September 11, despite Riyadh being exonerated by the 9/11 Commission. Washington’s relations with Cairo could suffer too. Clinton has made scathing comments about the Egyptian government and during her last visit to Cairo and Alexandria she was greeted with large crowds throwing eggs, tomatoes and shoes. Most close family members of her aide and ‘shadow’ Huma Abedin belong to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Unlike her former boss Barack Obama, she has no regrets at all over her country’s intervention in Libya that brought down Muammar Gaddafi, whose murder she gloated over with the words “We came, we saw, he died.” And, as a headline in the Huffington Post portends, she is likely to be “the Barack W. Bush of Foreign Policy” offering “full throttle support of Israel” while harbouring “a yen to overthrow governments and somehow change the Middle East to make it nicer.” The New York Times has characterised Clinton as a bigger war hawk than the Republicans more interested in using hard power than soft power. She is a firm believer in US exceptionalism and has a penchant for neoconservative advisers. She holds to a muscular policy vis-a-vis Moscow that’s rooting for Putin-admirer Trump. And as for the Chinese, whereas they see Trump as a buffoon and dismiss his threat to slap Chinese imports with a 45 percent tax as vote-getting nonsense, they take Clinton’s warning that she doesn’t want her grandchildren to live in a world dominated by China far more seriously.

Clinton and Trump may be singing out of different hymn books but they’ve plenty in common and were once buddies; perhaps they still are. Whichever of these two swears the oath on January 20 next year, I can’t help but fear there’ll be a very bumpy ride.

Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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