Cynic: In Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest,” one character says to another, “I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and really being good all the time; that would be hypocrisy.” Neither of the presidential candidates this year needs worry about that. Hillary Clinton’s presentation, more than Trump’s, was unbearable pretentious. She needed to confess but boasted instead of her essential goodness. She is not a good person – never has been, never will be. But she is a Democrat and, in our time, political affiliation is a substitute for moral rectitude.
Q: Is she evil?
Cynic: No, she lacks the energy to be evil. The root is old and dry. Vladimir Putin is evil. That little runt in North Korea is evil. Donald Trump bubbles with energy. But his is a narcissistic personality, and his understanding of politics is shallow.
Q: So which is the lesser evil, Clinton or Trump?
Cynic: Trump, hands down.
Cynic: Hillary is an accomplished politician; Trump is a rank amateur, which is to say – he’s teachable. The moral sense hasn’t been routed entirely from his soul. I am using the word “politician” in its negative sense, as when Mark Twain said of the politicos of his day, “An honest man in politics shines more there than he would elsewhere.” Trump has plugged into the Twainian disdain for politics as usual. His message – “They don’t know what they’re doing” – strikes a responsive chord in the hearts of all true patriots.
Q: Now then, you are using the word “patriot” in its negative sense, aren’t you?
Cynic: Samuel Johnson said patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels. He was referring, of course, to revolutionists in America like Tom Paine. We don’t consider Paine a scoundrel, because he was our scoundrel.
Q: Who won the debate?
Cynic: Probably a draw. Debates no longer matter in our political lives. The Lincoln-Douglas debates are ancient history. Indeed, the Nixon-Kennedy debates are ancient history. Indeed, yesterday, for many Americans, is ancient history. We’ve lost or memories, our minds and our hearts. Who needs a memory when you have Google? Who need rhetoric when you have Twitter? Who needs a conscience when you have Mark Cuban sitting in the front row, unnerving Trump? Now in its second or third year, American sensibilities have been numbed by this seemingly endless campaign. That may be a good thing, because the future – both domestically and internationally – promises to be brutal. More anesthesia please!
Q: My, my – you ARE a cynic.
Cynic: In our time, cynicism is the last refuge of saintliness.
Q: Speaking of tweeting, Trump tweeted after the debate – no Benghazi, no email, no Clinton Foundation. True?
Cynic: Sadly, yes. This is what I mean when I say yesterday is ancient history. Let me amend that: both yesterday and tomorrow are ancient history for the Clinton crowd. Benghazi and Hillary’s illegal top-secret heavy emails and the corrupt Clinton Foundation, a personal piggy bank for the Clinton clan, are yesterday and tomorrow’s news, not ancient history. One supposes the moderator – who is, after all in the news business – might have been able to craft a question for Hillary that touched on any one of these subjects. Her response would have ben newsworthy. But the left of center media has been in the Clinton bag for decades. They are, most of them, progressive leftists who resent intruders. But Trump, you know, could have turned the table on Hillary when the subject of internet safety was broached. She is the queen of internet hazards. An illegal and unsecured private server – hacked, she supposes, by Russian intelligence. How did that happen? For six years as U.S. Senator, Hillary handled top secret information; she was intimately familiar with classification protocols. Trump did not walk through the opened door. Political inexperience maybe – an altogether endearing quality, but deadly in a debate with a practiced politician, using the word, of course, in its negative sense, as when Mark Twain said , “There is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.”