On Sept. 14, I had the privilege of visiting Ohio State to participate in a debate sponsored by the OSU chapter of the Alexander Hamilton Society focusing on foreign policy and the 2016 election. For those of you who missed it, it was fun night with a packed auditorium and a crackling exchange between myself, speaking unofficially as a surrogate for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and OSU professor Randall Schweller, speaking unofficially as a surrogate for Donald Trump. I loved the passion and involvement by the OSU students and wanted to share post-debate thoughts with a wider group.
This election is important because, while many of you do not like Clinton or Trump, the decision we make about voting in 2016 may represent a profound risk to our nation. The focus of my remarks was on each candidate’s fitness to be commander in chief and to lead our foreign policy. I compared Clinton with Trump in three areas critical to foreign policy — experience, temperament and philosophy. I started with the premise that experience matters, even when not all experience was successful. Experience matters whether you are hiring an Ohio State football coach, picking a surgeon, or voting for the president of the United States. Think about it: We don’t want an unprepared or ignorant rookie for any of those positions, particularly the president of the United States.
Temperament also matters, and it is clear that Trump is not only inexperienced and ignorant as it relates to foreign policy, he also represents a clear danger to the United States by virtue of his divisive message and authoritarian temperament. Anyone paying attention to this campaign has seen and read about how Trump is thin-skinned, bullying, authoritarian and narcissistic. Trump offers childish insults aimed at everyone from women, to the disabled, to calling Mexicans rapists and murderers. At the same time, he praises and promotes ruthless tyrants such as Kim Jong Un, Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin. He seems to openly like the idea of world leaders who crush democracy and abuse human rights.
Regarding the foreign policy philosophy of the candidates, Professor Schweller tried to make the case that Trump is more of a realist while Clinton favors a continuation of liberal idealism. Trump is less realist and more reality TV! Given his prior statements and inconsistencies about foreign policy, it is doubtful Trump even understands what realism is. Rather he is a bully seeking the ultimate ego and reality TV power play — the presidency of the United States. Nothing in his career or life has prepared him for the trust we must give our president to keep our nation safe, to shepherd our democracy or to represent all of us to the rest of the world.
At the debate, I also spoke of Clinton’s philosophy, which is not liberal idealism but much more a pragmatic centrist blend of realism, idealism, politics and duty to protect our military personnel. Clinton is no interventionist or hawk as some have argued; she believes war should always be a last resort. She also understands that power and leverage are best not used in war but in preserving stability and security. Examples of her pragmatism and caution are her refusal to support ground troops in Iraq or Syria and her belief that air power, sanctions and diplomacy can and should be used to serve U.S. interests in those challenges. Clinton’s balanced and pragmatic approach is also evident in other aspects of foreign policy. She has been a strong supporter of veterans and human rights for women, children and the LGBT community. The differences in substance between her and Trump are profound, with her views well backed by substantive policy statements and Trump’s promises backed by almost nothing.
I want to thank Professor Schweller, Professor Pete Mansoor, Martin Lopez, the Alexander Hamilton Society and Ohio State for the opportunity to participate in the debate. And I want to express appreciation to all who attended and expressed interest in passion in this important election. Even if you do not like either candidate, this choice is too important to ignore and not participate. So start reading, talking, and getting involved. And vote! Ohio could decide this election and we cannot risk our nation to a Trump presidency.
President, IDS International and Former Director of European Affairs at the National Security Council, The White House