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Trump gets away with a lot. I mean, a lot. He’s made so many mind-blowingly idiotic missteps that it’s hard to remember them all. Some of these missteps are so egregious that I suspect they would completely ruin Clinton’s chances of getting elected if she had made them. Yet Trump’s followers don’t seem to care how much he lies, breaks the rules, and makes a fool out of himself. Perhaps this has to do with Trump’s support base consisting primarily of uneducated white people. Or perhaps it has to do with the zeitgeist of anti-intellectualism that imbues contemporary American conservatism.
To illustrate how unfair this situation is, let’s pick 20 (of many more) deeds of Trump and pretend that Clinton were responsible for them instead, beginning with…
1/ If Clinton had mocked a disabled reporter, she would be described as (and would actually be) a terrible human being.
This isn’t an issue of political correctness, it’s an issue of moral character. Behavior like this isn’t acceptable on a middle school playground, and yet Trump wants to become president of the United States. There’s no way critics of Clinton would ever let something like this go if she had mocked the reporter in such a crude manner instead of Trump.
2/ If Clinton had repeatedly retweeted white supremacists, she would be considered unfit for the presidency.
Trump has retweeted posts from neo-Nazis on numerous occasions. One such tweet came from “WhiteGenocideTM,” who’s account features a picture of “the founder of the American Nazi Party, along with the phrase ‘the man who would be Hitler.’ It also lists the user’s location as ‘Jewmerica.’” Even more, he once tweeted a Dutch white supremacist to thank him for supporting Trump’s message. Whether or not Trump knew who he was retweeting, no one on the planet would consider this a reasonable excuse if Clinton were caught doing the same thing.
3/ If Clinton had explicitly condoned war crimes, she would be described as a threat to world peace.
On multiple occasions, Trump has suggested that the US should violate the Geneva Conventions by targeting the family members of terrorists. Not only would this make terrorism worse by giving the entire Middle East a darn good reason for chanting “Death to America,” but it would constitute an outright war crime. More recently, Trump announced that “The problem is we have the Geneva Conventions, all sorts of rules and regulations, so the soldiers are afraid to fight. … We can’t waterboard, but they can chop off heads.” Even a whiff from Clinton that war crimes are sometimes morally acceptable would result in the rapid implosion of her campaign — and for good reason.
4/ If Clinton had suggested expanding libel laws, she would be immediately labeled an authoritarian leader who hates the Constitution.
Aside from once mocking First Amendment advocates who oppose his idea to “shut down” parts of the Internet, calling them “foolish people,” Trump has also proposed potentially catastrophic limits on free speech. He said that, if president, he would open up libel laws to make it possible for Big Government to sue any organization that publishes articles about him that he finds “purposively negative” or “horrible.” There’s no way that Clinton would ever escape perpetual harassment from right-wingers if she were ever to suggest that Big Government should sue media outlets. And those on the left would no doubt agree that it’s a terrifying proposal. As Trump put it, speaking to the press, “we’re going to have people sue you like you’ve never got sued before.”
5/ If the ghostwriter of Clinton’s most successful book were to describe her as a childish narcissist who could destroy civilization, people would dismiss her as a viable candidate.
A journalist named Tony Schwartz wrote The Art of the Deal, published in 1987. He spent 18 months with Trump, “camping out in his office, joining him on his helicopter, tagging along at meetings, and spending weekends with him at his Manhattan apartment and his Florida estate.” By the end of it, Schwartz was convinced that Trump is a puerile, self-centered, “pathologically impulsive” manchild. In Schwartz’ words, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.” There’s no doubt that if such words were applied to Clinton by the ghostwriter of her autobiography, people on both sides of the political aisle would frantically wave a red flag.
6/ If Clinton had won Politifact’s Lie of the Year award last year, not only would conservatives call her “untrustworthy,” but so would liberals.
In 2015, this award went to Donald Trump — not for any specific false statement that he made, but for a record-breaking three outright, demonstrable lies. In fact, Politifact has found that 75% of Trump’s statements are false. I strongly suspect that if this were the case with Clinton, she’d be torn asunder by the rightwing (and leftwing) punditry. You can’t trust an impulsive, chronic liar in the Oval Office.
7/ If a Clinton aid had explicitly called for the execution of Trump, Clinton would be seen as un-American.
An advisor for Donald Trump, Al Baldasaro, recently said that Clinton should be “put in the firing line and shot for treason,” adding that Clinton is a “piece of garbage.” This prompted the Secret Service to open an investigation into Baldasaro’s comments. On another occasion, Trump’s longtime butler wrote about Obama, “This prick needs to be hung for treason.” If anyone associated with Clinton were responsible for homicidal language, Clinton would be absolutely crucified by the rightwing media and heavily criticized by the left.
8/ If Clinton had called on Russian to hack into Trump’s email account, she would be called a traitor for such an exhortation.
Speaking of treason, which the Constitution defines as providing “aid and comfort” to our enemies, Trump recently encouraged Russia to employ espionage to locate Clinton’s deleted emails. He later said that he was being “sarcastic,” but who cares? Uttering such words is both un-presidential and extremely worrisome. Presidents — as well as presidential candidates — should never, ever make such jokes. There’s no doubt that the country would be shocked and appalled to hear such a “joke” spill from the lips of Clinton. I can’t imagine how Clinton would ever shake this one off.
9/ If Clinton had said that a judge was unable to provide a fair trial because of his Mexican heritage, she would lose her entire support base.
As you no doubt know, Trump University has been accused of “straight up fraud.” The judge overseeing the case was born in Indiana, but he has Mexican heritage. This led Trump to repeatedly suggest that the judge is incapable of being fair and objective. When CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Trump, “If you are saying he cannot do his job because of his race, is that not the definition of racism?,” Trump cluelessly responded, “No, I don’t think so at all.” Yet even House Speaker Paul Ryan admonished Trump’s comments, saying that, “Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment.” Given that reasonable people on both sides of the political divide agree about the overt racism of Trump’s comments, Clinton would be criticized relentlessly for saying something so offensive.
10/ If Clinton had praised the Chinese government for crushing the Tiananmen Square protests, she would be labeled a brutal communist sympathizer.
In a 1990 interview, Trump was asked about democratic protests in the Soviet Union. His response was, “Russia is out of control and the leadership knows it. That’s my problem with Gorbachev. Not a firm enough hand.” “You mean firm hand as in China?,” the interviewer queried, to which Trump responded, “When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.” More recently, Trump described the protests in Tiananmen Square as a “riot,” resulting in a huge backlash, as well as an article by an actual Tiananmen Square protestor who says that “Trump sounds like a communist leader.” There’s no doubt that if Clinton were to have uttered such words of approbation, she would be labeled a dangerous threat to liberal democracy.
11/ If Clinton had said that, for self-interested monetary reasons, she hopes the real estate market would crash, she would be called a monster who doesn’t care about the American people.
In a 2006 audiobook released by the failed Trump University, someone asked Trump about the possibility of the real estate market collapsing. Trump responded, “I sort of hope that happens because then people like me would go in and buy. … If there is a bubble burst, as they call it, you know you can make a lot of money.” He added that, “If you’re in a good cash position — which I’m in a good cash position today — then people like me would go in and buy like crazy.” Whether you’re a business person or not, hoping for an event that will result in widespread suffering is morally abhorrent. Can you imagine what would happen if Clinton had actually hoped for the collapse of an entire market?
12/ If Clinton were to reveal that she doesn’t know what the “nuclear triad” is, no one would trust her with the nuclear codes.
During a GOP debate, the conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt asked Trump about the nuclear triad (which refers to the air, land, and sea methods of launching nuclear weapons). Trump didn’t have a clue what Hewitt was talking about. “So what?,” you might ask. I’ll tell you what: if you want access to the nuclear codes, the very least you can do is know what the nuclear triad is. This isn’t even Nuclear Weapons 101, it’s the knowledge required to get into the class. I suspect that Clinton knows enough about the nuclear triad to give a 50-minute impromptu lecture about it. As any president should.
13/ If Clinton had denied that John McCain is a war hero, the whole country would be screaming that she doesn’t really love America.
Last summer, Trump shocked proud Americans everywhere by claiming that John McCain is “not a war hero.” Trump elaborated: “He’s a war hero ‘cause he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, okay?” This egregious failure of patriotism caused a backlash against Trump, but it failed to end his campaign. There’s no doubt that if Clinton were to have made such an incendiary and unpatriotic claim, it’s the only thing Fox News would talk about for the next 12 months.
14/ If Clinton refused to release her tax returns, everyone would be shouting, “What is she hiding?!”
Trump refuses to release his tax returns, thereby violating a tradition that’s been around for decades. In fact, back in 2012 he tweeted, “Why does Obama believe he shouldn’t comply with record releases that his predecessors did of their own volition. Hiding something?” The irony — no, outright hypocrisy— here is truly astounding. Could you imagine the sort of endless harassment that Clinton would receive if she stubbornly refused to release her tax information? As it happens, “Clinton has released annual returns going back to 2000.”
15/ If Clinton had joked about killing journalists, she would be describe as a direct threat to the US Constitution.
Trump hates the media, and why wouldn’t he? The media are responsible for pointing out Trump’s habitual lies and deception. In December of last year, he demonstrated his good judgment once again by joking about having journalists killed. “I hate some of these people, I hate ‘em,” he said, adding, “I would never kill them. I would never do that.” Trump then paused and with a rising intonation said, “Uh, let’s see, uh? No, I would never do that.” Given the fundamental importance of the free press for American democracy, jokes like this aren’t even remotely funny. If Clinton were to ever make such a frightening joke, I can’t think of anyone on the right or left who wouldn’t be left speechless.
16/ If Clinton had gone bankrupt four times, she would be considered incompetent and, therefore, ineligible for the presidency.
Trump has filed for bankruptcy four times. The first involved the Trump Taj Mahal, a casino that Trump spent $1 billion building. After only a single year, the casino had accrued nearly $3 billion in debt. The last occurred in 2009 and involved four companies owned by Trump. Who among the political right wouldn’t seize upon these flagrant failures as clear evidence that Clinton — if it were her name instead of Trump’s — isn’t fit to run the United States? Anyone who plunges a business in $3 billion of debt after only a year is surely not competent to be president.
17/ If Clinton had mispronounced 2 Corinthians as “one Corinthians,” she would never escape charges of not being a real Christian.
At Liberty University, of all places, Trump mispronounced “2 Corinthians” before an audience of students. The correct pronunciation is “second Corinthians,” but Trump said, “two Corinthians.” This might seem like a minor mistake, but it’s basic knowledge for anyone who’s spent a few days in Sunday School. To say “two” instead of “second” suggests a complete unfamiliarity with the Bible. If Clinton were to have made such a mistake, the religious right would nail her as a pseudo-Christian just like Obama, arguing that if she can’t even pronounce a Pauline epistle correctly, there’s no way she’s a true believer.
18/ If Clinton had used “fat,” “pig,” “dog,” “slob,” and “discussing animal” to describe women, no one on the political right or left would vote for her.
Everyone knows that Trump is incredibly sexist. He seems to have referenced Megyn Kelly’s menstrual cycles, and he’s repeatedly uttered truly horrible words that would get most people fired from their job. If Clinton were to use such terms, people would immediately dismiss her as childish, mean, unethical, and a bully. It’s 2016. Time to treat the other sex with respect.
19/ If Clinton had claimed that climate change is a hoax propagated by the Chinese government, no one would take her seriously.
According to the venerable Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which maintains the Doomsday Clock, climate change is one o the two greatest threats facing human civilization today. Despite the overwhelming evidence that climate change is real and human-caused, Trump has repeatedly affirmed that he believes it’s a “hoax.” This is not only ludicrous, but it could genuinely be catastrophic: the effects of climate change will be profound, worldwide, and according to a 2016 study published in Nature Climate Change, its effects “will extend longer than the entire history of human civilization thus far.” From the perspective of, you know, facts and science, Trump’s denialism is dangerously foolish. If Clinton were to hold such an anti-science view, she’d never get into the Oval Office.
20/ And finally, imagine if Clinton were to hold a child like a wet feral cat in front of a large crowd at a rally. Everyone would think she’s a total weirdo!
This is a tiny, tiny sampling of the morally appalling words and actions of Mr. Trump. I’ve ignored the child rape case brought against Trump, his first wife’s accusation of rape, his calls for global nuclear rearmament, and the fact that Kim Jong-Un, Vladimir Putin, the KKK, Don Black (a convicted neo-Nazi terrorist), and Vojislav Seselj (a Serbian war criminal) have all endorsed Trump for president.
Any one of these should be enough to disqualify him for the presidency, yet together they only energize his base. How dangerous is this situation? Perhaps we should prepare for the next world war.
I encourage Trump supporters to come up with a parallel list identifying deeds of Clinton that would almost certainly lose the election for Trump, if he were responsible for them. Legitimate citations are necessary for all claims about Clinton. Then we can compare lists!
Phil Torres is a scholar at the Future of Life Institute and founder of the X-Risks Institute. He’s published widely on terrorism, emerging technologies, and global catastrophic risks; articles have appeared in Skeptic, Free Inquiry, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, The Humanist, Salon, AlterNet, Truthout, Journal of Evolution and Technology, Metaphilosophy, and Journal of Future Studies. His most recent book is The End: What Science and Religion Tell Us About the Apocalypse (Pitchstone Publishing).