OXFORD—I drove back from my 50th high school reunion in Sanford, N.C., on Oct. 9, leaving behind the flooded creeks, downed power lines and punishing rain Hurricane Matthew inflicted while my old school mates and I traded laughs and half-century-old memories.
The second presidential debate came on the radio somewhere near the Alabama-Mississippi state line, and my wife, Suzanne, looked at me as if to say, "Out of one storm into another!"
While listening rather than seeing it, we missed Donald Trump's menacing stalk as Hillary Clinton tried to deflect her opponent's charges regarding the 33,000 missing emails from her time as secretary of state. Actually, the number jumped to 39,000 a few minutes later, as Trump borrowed a leaf from '50s-era communist witch-hunter Joseph McCarthy, who would waive a list of "known communists" in the Department of State, ranging from 10 to 205. The number depended on which speech he made.
Clinton's responses to Trump's attacks weren't always encouraging. Regarding WikiLeaks revelations about her secret speeches to Wall Street executives, she essentially resorted to an ad hominem charge against the Russians for "directing the attacks, the hacking on American accounts to influence our election." She did the same in the third debate on Oct. 19.
Certainly, the United States would never try to interfere in the elections of another sovereign state, right? Well, there was Honduras and the brutal coup there in 2009 that had the implicit blessing of Secretary of State Clinton. And, of course, there was Libya and the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 that Secretary of State Clinton convinced President Obama to support.
Clinton's frequent evocation of Trump's alleged ties to Russian leader Vladimir Putin is a little unsettling. If Trump is too buddy-buddy with Vladimir Putin, he's also more than willing to go to war with Iran, vowing in a speech last month in Pensacola, Fla., that Iranian ships would be "shot out of the water" if they so much as inappropriately approach U.S. vessels. He also took aim at Iran in the third debate.
That's another reason many American voters are profoundly unhappy with the candidates from both major parties this election. Fifteen years of war are enough, you two! Americans are sick of war.
Over the years, I have aimed my pen many times at the Clintons. I think President Bill Clinton's so-called "triangulation" of politics was an effort to neuter any passion for social justice that might remain from the old Democratic Party that brought us the New Deal and the Great Society. His subsequent repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which deregulated Wall Street, set the stage for the 2007-2008 financial disaster. His wife has done little to distance herself from her husband's policies.
Yet I'm going to hold my nose on election day and vote for a Clinton, something I once vowed I would never do.
Donald Trump, for all his anti-system appeal and legitimate criticism of Clinton-pushed trade deals such as NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (Hillary Clinton now says she opposes TPP), is a reckless, dangerous demagogue, the crowning achievement of Fox News' years-long, 24-7 intravenous injection of poison into American minds.
Just like Fox News, Trump is perpetually factually challenged, hysterically biased, contemptuous of others' ideas, so asphalted into his own mythos that he no longer can know what he doesn't know. Remember, it was Fox News that helped promote Trump's ridiculous "birther" campaign to try and discredit President Obama by saying he wasn't born in the United States. It's no accident that accused sexual predator and former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes has been in Trump's camp, advising him in his debates with Clinton. For Ailes, Trump is a dream come true.
Not for me. Trump is so bad that I'm going to vote for Hillary Clinton. I'm hoping pressure from her primary opponent Bernie Sanders and the millennials who are forcing the Democratic Party establishment to shift away from the Bill Clinton model are going to keep Hillary Clinton from breaking the progressive promises she has made on the 2016 campaign trail.
At my reunion, I thought a lot about my own youth and youthful idealism. I like to think I've held on to a little of it. Maybe that's why I'm hopeful the U.S. is going to survive this political storm, just like my wife and I escaped Hurricane Matthew—with a lot of war stories but no serious bruises.