The Fundamental Problem with Donald Trump

Frank Lavin served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, working in the Department of Commerce, the Department of State, and the White House. Lavin served as Director of the Office of Political Affairs in the Reagan White House from 1987 to 1989. More recently, Lavin was U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Singapore from 2001 to 2005 and Under Secretary for International Trade at the U.S. Department of Commerce from 2005 to 2007.

The fundamental problem with Donald Trump is that he is Donald Trump. So, this Election Day, I will do something that I have not done in 40 years of voting: I will vote for the Democratic nominee for president. The depressing truth of the Republican nominee is that Donald Trump talks a great game but he is the emperor who wears no clothes. This decision is not an easy one. I proudly served in every Republican administration over the past 35 years: Ambassador and Undersecretary for George W. Bush, Commerce Department official for George H.W. Bush, and as Ronald Reagan’s political director — in addition to several other White House and State Department assignments during Reagan’s administration.

Trump falls short in terms of the character and temperament needed to perform as president. This defect is crippling and ensures he would fail in office. Trump is a bigot, a bully, and devoid of grace or magnanimity. His thin-skinned belligerence toward every challenge, rebuke, or criticism would promise the nation a series of a high-voltage quarrels. His casual dishonesty, his policy laziness, and his lack of self-awareness would mean four years of a careening pin-ball journey that would ricochet from missteps to crises to misunderstandings to clarifications to retractions.

I have seen presidents work with difficult people and difficult issues. It requires a blend of strategic vision and tactical flexibility, combined with optimism and good humor. A president needs the thick skin to deal effectively with criticism and the management discipline to stay fixed on goals. Trump, on the other hand, is constantly on the lookout for real or perceived slights and injustices to himself and unfailingly reacts with a disproportionate measure of anger.

Beyond Trump’s behavioral shortcomings, his business record is one that ought to have particular resonance with Republicans. Over the course of his career, Trump has had four business bankruptcies, more than a trivial matter for a party that prides itself on thrift, sound money, and prudential management.

The bankruptcies reflect a man who lacks either reasonable business judgment or reasonable business ethics. By themselves, four bankruptcies are pretty bad. But four bankruptcies and a private jet is deplorable. How can everyone lose money in the collapse of a project, yet Trump flies away again and again?

In the early days of my own business, there was a moment when I could have shut the firm, declared bankruptcy, and walked away from my obligations. But I have employees, investors, clients, and customers, all of whom rely on my commitment. Unlike Trump, I feel that I have a moral obligation to stand by people who are standing by me. No wonder so many Americans are skeptical of market economics if the system can be so easily manipulated by Trump.

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, one bankruptcy may be regarded as a misfortune, but four begins to look like carelessness. We can suppose that Trump has every legal right to declare bankruptcies and to walk away with millions. And voters have every legal right to vote against him for those actions.

There are many issues on which Hillary Clinton and I are not in agreement. However on the core foreign policy issues our country faces — alliance relationships, security commitments, and international engagement — she comes closer to sensible Republican views than does Trump. And Donald Trump makes me cringe. I am voting for Hillary. And I vote in Ohio.