As a lifelong Republican and a former member of Congress, this presidential election has been the most difficult for me. I never envisioned voting for anybody other than the GOP’s presidential nominee. This time, I cannot bring myself to do it.
I do agree with some of Trump’s messages and positions. Political correctness is running amuck; the federal bureaucracy needs to be streamlined and modernized; many regulations are excessive and costly, and Obamacare should be repealed and replaced in one act (keeping the desirable parts), are issues of agreement. Maybe his Supreme Court nominees would be acceptable, maybe not. It is hard to tell because he is prone to changing his mind frequently and suddenly.
But with the presidency, the messenger is every bit as important as the message. Not quite so in the House of Representatives, where the responsibility is divided by 435, or in the U.S. Senate by 100. But the president is absolutely singular. There is no one else with whom to divide the responsibility – it is the president’s, and the president’s alone.
And the responsibility itself is awesome. Despite his good intentions, Trump, alas, has not prepared himself for the job. Presidential preparation takes years, not merely months or weeks, and the best combination is both governmental experience and arduous homework.
Even with his most sincere efforts, he cannot catch up. Whose judgment should he trust? What is this senator’s hidden agenda, if any? Does that recommendation really make good sense? Is it logical? Where should the line be drawn in foreign policy or with an aggressive or uncooperative foreign leader?
Especially in foreign affairs, governmental experience matters greatly. In 2008, for those of us who argued that presidential candidate Obama’s few years in the Illinois Senate and the U.S. Senate constituted insufficient governmental experience to qualify him for the presidency, how can we now logically advocate a man who has no such experience at all?
Nor has Trump demonstrated a deep knowledge of foreign affairs as a possible substitute for experience.
Why are knowledge and experience especially important in foreign affairs? Because a president most often must make critical decisions with an imperfect set of facts, owing to short deadlines or imperatives. Thus the more prior knowledge or experience, the better.
By contrast, astute businessmen such as Trump rarely commit themselves before gathering all the pertinent facts, a luxury rarely enjoyed by a president. From his own words, Trump appears not to appreciate these different dynamics.
There are many millions of Americans who – understandably enough – blame the “political class” for the country’s woes. To them, the prospect of an outsider is enticing. But they should seriously understand that it is probable that the political class will have all the more influence under a Trump presidency.
With its through knowledge of the machinery of government, the political class will most likely outmaneuver Mr. Trump more times than not. A cruel irony to say the least.
Thus the very things that frustrate many millions of Americans could inadvertently end up worse, because the man at the top does not know the job.
Americans have always had a soft spot in their hearts for the “enlightened amateur,” a dashing figure who can cut through the thicket and lead his flock to sunny meadows. This feels good, but it rarely if ever has a happy ending.
Working families know that life is difficult, especially these days; and for the unemployed, even more difficult. They should ask themselves whether they really believe that the presidency should be handed to an amateur and whether they really believe that real-world solutions are as simple in the Oval Office as in campaign rhetoric.
I cannot vote for a candidate as unprepared as Trump, despite his good intentions. Historically, Republican candidates have always been prepared in one degree or another. Alas, not so this time. Right now, John Kasich is looking pretty good as a write-in on the ballot.
Charles “Chip” Pashayan, Jr., a Republican, represented the Fresno area in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1979 through 1991.