The reaction from the two main presidential candidates to the stunning news from the UK on its Brexit vote and the economic earthquake threatening to send us tumbling into another recession was revealing, albeit predictable. (The Post reported on the international shock waves that included a 600 point drop in the Dow: “The risk of another global recession escalated Friday after Britain’s stunning decision to leave the European Union plunged financial markets into free fall and tested the strength of the safeguards put in place since the last downturn seven years ago.”)
Hillary Clinton put out a statement telling voters, “We respect the choice the people of the United Kingdom have made. Our first task has to be to make sure that the economic uncertainty created by these events does not hurt working families here in America.” The statement went on to say, “We also have to make clear America’s steadfast commitment to the special relationship with Britain and the transatlantic alliance with Europe.” No one could be surprised that she took the chance to point out we are facing unprecedented, stormy times. “This time of uncertainty only underscores the need for calm, steady, experienced leadership in the White House to protect Americans’ pocketbooks and livelihoods, to support our friends and allies, to stand up to our adversaries, and to defend our interests,” she said. ” It also underscores the need for us to pull together to solve our challenges as a country, not tear each other down.” There was little doubt whom she was needling.
In case it was not clear enough, her chief foreign policy adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on a press call Friday morning:
First and foremost, as we can see from the falling markets today, the economic uncertainty created by this vote carries a risk of hitting the pocket books of American families. Their savings, their livelihoods, and, so, Hillary Clinton has made clear that the first priority has to be to make sure that working families here in America aren’t hurt by this vote and its aftermath.
By contrast, Donald Trump actively rooted for this outcome, and he’s rooting for the economic turmoil in its wake. He said that a falling British pound is good for his golf business. He actually said that. He actually put his golf business ahead of the interests of working families in the United States.
Well surely he was exaggerating, right? Not at all. In a unnerving press conference from Scotland Trump patted himself on the back for supporting and predicting the “Leave” vote. He crowed, “Look, if the pound goes down, they’re going to do more business. You know, when the pound goes down, more people are coming to Turnberry, frankly.” Typically horrifying, callous and inappropriate. He said he hadn’t bothered to talk to any advisers since they don’t know anything. (Doesn’t he hire the best people?) He cavalierly brushed off warnings of a potential economic downturn. In his stream of consciousness he bragged about his crowds, insulted Clinton, insisted he had the “best” properties in Scotland and insisted he hadn’t really gotten his campaign started. And he said his golf course operation was “a little bit what we’re going to do to the United States.” (Minus the sandtraps, we hope.) Feel better yet? Me neither.
In the world before Trump the contest between a crass, egomaniacal know-nothing and a measured, detail-oriented opponent wouldn’t be a contest at all. So far, at any rate, the polls show the public appropriately wary of Trump. As Sullivan put it, ” The American people need a steady hand at the wheel in a time of uncertainty and not a reckless and erratic egomaniac who could easily drive us off a cliff. . . . Watching him, listening to his reaction to a major and consequential global event and then imagining this man as our President is a dangerous and frightening proposition.” It is, but are in a post-rational political world in which disgruntled voters are determined to lash out, no matter how self-destructive? We cannot ignore that possibility.
The one silver lining in all this may be that Brexit and the economic instability it has already brought will help sober up the U.S. electorate. The example of economic self-destruction and avoidable hardship may help to intensify aversion to Trump. Do voters really want someone who invites and then revels in economic disaster so people will come play golf at his place? Do they really trust Trump — who along with Vladimir Putin — is cheering Europe’s turmoil? We used to be certain of the answer. Now, not so much.