Is Hillary Clinton the Adult in the Room?

Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump seem to have achieved the impossible: together they have made Mrs. Clinton appear to be responsible–at least in relative terms. That is no mean feat. After all, she has been an unabashed opportunist in her policy pronouncements, including those involving national security.   For example, Robert Gates writes that “Hillary told the president that her opposition to the [2007] surge in Iraq had been political because she was facing him in the Iowa primary…”. Moreover, she is an inveterate liar. The rapidly dwindling minority of people in the world who still resist that description should read Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker on the subject in which she references a new You Tube video. Then watch the video (below).

So it must be said that Hillary Clinton is drenched in sleaze and has almost certainly engaged in criminal behavior (for instance with her e-mail set up while at the State Department). But when it comes to policy idiocy, both Trump and Sanders leave Clinton in the dust. Consider a few examples (and there are many, many more). Both Trump and Sanders are outspoken opponents of NAFTA and free trade generally, which have not only been instrumental in raising billions of people around the world out of dire poverty, but they have also raised American living standards to boot. Both Trump and Sanders promise to maintain Social Security in its current form even though it is insolvent. For instance, the most conservative estimates of the present value of unfunded Social Security liabilities are in the neighborhood of $10 trillion under current law. That is on top of the $19 trillion or so in outstanding publicly held debt we already owe.

For his part, Senator Sanders has actually proposed additional massive increases in spending (on the order of $18 trillion) and taxes (the number is hotly disputed), despite the ongoing build-up of the existing debt. To almost nobody’s surprise the Senator’s numbers don’t add up, as the NY Times has reported. See for instance, “Uncovering the Bad Math…” published by the Times on February 26 of this year. Sanders demonstrates his utter cluelessness by asserting that he will pay for all this by taxing “the rich” (who already pay the lion’s share of taxes) and by taxing Wall Street “speculation”.

Naturally enough this attempt would result in massive capital flight from the U.S. worthy of Venezuela where Sanders style economic policies have created shortages of food and medicine.

Not to be outdone, Donald Trump, who has plenty of experience in bankruptcy courts, has suggested asking our current creditors to accept “ a little less…”. Incredibly enough, among other things he said, “I would borrow, knowing that if the economy crashed, you could make a deal”. It apparently has not occurred to Donald Trump that creditors do not take kindly to debtors hinting at default. Nor does it seem to have occurred to him that “crashing” the world’s biggest economy is not exactly like one his many trips to the bankruptcy courts. It would be a global catastrophe.

And so by default, so to speak, Hillary Clinton looks vaguely responsible, which is a sad commentary on the current state of affairs. And as yet we have hardly even touched on foreign policy.


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Dump Trump

Winston Churchill once observed that the best argument against democracy is a 5-minute conversation with the man on the street. That conversation is no longer metaphorical. Now it is there for all to see in the person of Donald Trump.

Mr. Trump is not merely an oaf, although he is surely that. And it is perhaps overstating the obvious, at least to the apparently shrinking community of the sane, that Trump lacks even a basic understanding of Constitutional checks and balances, and that he is utterly clueless in both domestic and foreign policy. And then there is the temperament of the speaker to consider.

All of which leads to an inescapable conclusion. The nuclear codes of the United States should not be turned over to a man with the temperament of a 15-year old schoolboy. Especially someone who aspires to be Commander-in-Chief but doesn’t know what the nuclear triad is.

Perhaps what is, or ought to be, most disturbing to libertarians and libertarian leaning conservatives is the immense structural damage Trump has wrought. That damage grows daily. There now exists the possibility, if not probability, that Trump will remake the Republican Party into an empty vessel as devoid of principle as he is. As a result, the party of Lincoln will no longer be in a position to credibly promote limiting government power and expanding individual freedom.

Consider what Trump has already proposed. For example, he would weaken the first amendment by making it easier for politicians to sue news organizations. And his declared intention of tilting of policy against Muslims certainly runs astray of the free exercise clause. His whole-hearted support of Kelo v. City of London (2005) eviscerates the Fifth Amendment’s takings clause, which proscribes the taking of private property for public use without just compensation. Note that in the Kelo decision the Supreme Court justified the state’s transfer of private property from one private owner to another for the purpose of economic development. Trump, the real estate operator, thinks this is just fine. No surprise there.

Trump makes little attempt to mask his authoritarian tendencies, as when he implicitly encourages his supporters’ use of violence against political opponents. Even worse, he has explicitly promoted the use of torture in pursuit of enemies, and he has advocated “going after” the families of terrorists. How is that for due process? And not to put too fine a point on it, deporting 12 million illegal residents would require turning America into a police state.

Trump’s willingness to attack the natural rights of individuals even though they are clearly protected by the Constitution is not an accident. We are not talking about a latter day Edmund Burke here. The trash-talking Trump does not understand that manners are small morals, and that demeaning opponents is antithetical to the government’s main task of securing unalienable rights endowed on men by the Creator.

Trump, who complains that the system is rigged, brags about having bought off politicians to do his bidding for years. Trump, who routinely accuses the media of lying about him, also said according to George Will that “it doesn’t matter doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass”. Not to mention implying that Ted Cruz’s father had something to do with the Kennedy assassination. Or that Trump’s appreciation for nuance and subtlety is about on par with that of Brittany Spears.

As of this writing Trump appears to have locked up the support of what we euphemistically call low-information voters. We can only hope that chunk of the electorate is relatively small or that it loses interest by Election Day. Regardless of the election outcome, there is a flashing warning signal that libertarians should take note of here.


The warning signal is this: Donald Trump is not the cause of our political woes—he is an effect of a seriously degraded civic culture. The basic institutions that protect freedom (property rights, rule of law, the nuclear family, free speech and civility to name a few) have been under unrelenting attack for years by the left. The weakening of these and related institutions has paved the way for an authoritarian ignoramus like Trump. It is not sufficient to merely stop Trump. There will always be more like him waiting in the wings. The civic culture has to be rebuilt. Libertarians and conservatives should be able to make common cause here. Before it’s too late.


Joe Benning

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Trump versus Conservative Intellectuals

“Against Trump”, the title of National Review’s most recent edition, says it all. National Review, a leading voice of conservatism, produced by a longstanding group of conservative intellectuals has made it clear that Trump and conservatism, cannot be reconciled. Trump, they say, “…is a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP.” A copy of the article is available at this link. Also note that columnist George Will, a National Review alum, has made a similar critique of Trump.

It should be noted that conservative intellectuals are for the most part appalled by the emergence of Trump on the political scene and have made their opinions clear from the very beginning. Given the threat that Trump poses to conservatism (broadly defined to include its libertarian strains) we should expect to see conservatives and libertarians converge to back a third party candidate to ensure Trump’s demise in a general election.

Compare that to the activity on the left. As it stands now there are two leading contenders for the Democratic nomination. One, Bernie Sanders, is the unhinged 73-year old Senator from Vermont who is a self-declared socialist. The other, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is the 68 year-old ex-Senator from New York who as Secretary of State engineered the ongoing disaster in Libya. The main difference between the two candidates is that Senator Sanders is unlikely to be indicted.

So it is certainly worth noting that while conservative and libertarian intellectuals continue to make a principled case against Donald Trump, intellectuals of the left have voiced little in the way of principled or practical objections to the obvious absurdities of the policy prescriptions of Bernie Sanders, among them a suggestion that Iran and Saudi Arabia team up to defeat ISIS. Nor is there any apparent principled objection to what appears to be the criminally negligent behavior of Hillary Rodham Clinton with respect to handling classified data, even as the evidence against her mounts. Nor does the stench of corruption around the Clinton Foundation appear to bother them one iota.

Let’s not forget that while the campaigns heat up and the various factions claim moral superiority.




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The Mission of the On Liberty Watch Blog

Welcome to the On Liberty Watch Blog. The purpose of this blog is to provide commentary and analysis of politics, culture and current events from a mostly libertarian perspective. Among other things that means that we believe what it says in the Declaration of Independence: that all men are created equal with certain unalienable rights endowed by their Creator, among them Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That these rights exist independent of government; in that sense they are pre-political. The proper role of government then is to secure these inherent human rights. That is its only proper role. Government ought not, and indeed lacks the authority to use its police power to impose its view of the good society on its citizens.


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