Two candidates with low trust and low approval ratings are competing to become the leader of the free world. So it’s worth speculating how each nominee would perform as commander in chief.
How would a President Donald Trump govern?
Pignanelli: "I have no idea what Trump might do if he ever became president. If you look at his statements, proposals, ideas, it's a kind of a garage sale and I don't know that there's a Rembrandt behind that lawn mower that won't start.” — Bob Woodward, Washington Post
Readers: If Trump is elected, consider investing in wax manufacturing companies. Millions of nervous Roman Catholics will be lighting massive amounts of church candles every week to promote divine assistance to the new administration. Americans of other faiths will pursue various entreaties to a higher power with similar goals. How Trump has conducted his businesses and this campaign is cause for the extreme fear (especially with some of the consultants hired). However, a Trump administration will be the most entertaining four years for many of us since college.
Almost daily, Trump’s masterful media representatives attempt positive spins on his outrageous remarks. As a demented political hack, I respect this dark magic. Legions of these crafty agents will surround a Trump administration to offer clever explanations why Mexico refuses to pay for the wall, Vladimir Putin’s antics and traditional manufacturing jobs not returning to this high-tech economy, etc.
Because Trump is relying on self-acclaimed negotiating skills to fulfill his promises, there will be many initial failures. At some point, will he jettison all the sycophantic "yes men and women" he appointed and expand the cabinet with knowledgeable individuals? Trump’s campaign experience suggests he stays on a dangerous and troublesome course.
I'm happy to teach my Mormon friends how to use a rosary.
Webb: A friend who follows the X-Men movies suggests the shape-shifting character Mystique was patterned after Trump, or maybe vice versa. We really have no idea who Trump is or how he would operate. Will it be the vulgar, offensive Trump? Will it be the kindler, gentler Trump of late? Will he listen to wise advisors? Would a Trump presidency reflect his core philosophies (whatever they are)? We don’t know much about his policies, which seem to change on a whim.
Will Trump really shake up Washington? I’m all in favor of that, if it’s done sensibly and reduces the role of the federal government in our lives. Washington needs a good thrashing. Will Trump offend our allies? Will he master the nuances of foreign policy? I want a president who shows strong leadership — but not one who plunges the country into war or depression in the first six months.
Voting for Trump will require a lot of hoping and guessing.
How would a President Hillary Clinton govern?
Pignanelli: Love her or despise her, at least we know a President-elect Clinton would have an important decision Nov. 9. Does she maintain the charade and push the progressive agenda she’s reluctantly agreed to to capture the nomination? Or does the famous Clinton “shameless flexibility” reappear and pursue a realistic economic and foreign-policy strategy to attract support of moderate Republicans and practical Democrats?
During the first Clinton administration, she and her husband were very adept in sensing trends and unabashedly molded policies accordingly. While this led to left-wing grumbles, there was undeniable success in deregulation of key sectors, free trade, entitlement reform and promotion of economic resurgence. Business types and Wall Street bigwigs donate to her because they know she clearly understands how the world works.
Webb: We know plenty about Clinton, not much of it good. She’s very much a creature of Washington, uses poor judgment and is ethically challenged. Needing to defeat a socialist, she’s become a leftist, promising bigger government, higher taxes and a new government program for every interest group.
Some say Clinton is, at heart, a centrist and she might compromise more and work better with Congress than President Barack Obama has. But the Bernie Sanders people will keep ultra-liberal pressure on her. That’s her base. Certainly, she will appoint liberal judges, and that could have greater negative consequences than anything else she’ll do.
A Clinton presidency means business as usual in Washington — Clinton cronies in charge, lots of gridlock and dysfunction (a bonanza for lobbyists and lawyers). No progress on the big issues facing the country.
What a choice!
Can the Republican Party survive Donald Trump’s anti-establishment populism, or is it headed for a steep decline?
Pignanelli: The GOP survived the LBJ landslide, Richard Nixon and Dick Cheney. This election is just another phase in a historic realignment of the American political structure.
Webb: Only one person can keep the Republican Party viable and unified — Hillary Clinton. She’s fully capable. Even so, expect plenty of squabbling. Can the Trump wing and the mainstream wing co-exist? Is it the party of Trump, or the party of Paul Ryan? Will mainstream Republicans leave (or be driven out)? If Republicans avoid a circular firing squad and instead focus on Clinton they’ll be all right.