Victoria Ryan Archive

We’ve seen Donald Trump before – His name was Silvio Berlusconi

And as with Trump (at least until the “locker-room” video), Berlusconi’s scandals had little effect on his support. The numerous trials and journalistic scoops regarding Berlusconi’s private and business lives often seemed merely to reinforce his appeal. The message sent out was, for many, an attractive one. Be like me. Don’t pay taxes. Enjoy life and make money. Say what you want. We won’t bother you.

He became so powerful at one stage that he even tried to make himself immune to prosecution, through a law passed by his own government. Luckily, Italy’s constitution forbade such a monstrosity. But the fact that it was even contemplated was worrying. Mass opposition to Berlusconi rose and fell at various times, and many took to the streets to protest. Yet his appeal also had roots deep in Italian society – and in a hatred of politics and politicians that has since moved onto other forms of populism.

The Berlusconi phenomenon shows that a post-truth politician can rise to power in one of the world’s strongest and richest countries. The lesson for America is that for far too long Berlusconi was treated as a joke and a clown. By the end, nobody was laughing. Twenty years of Berlusconi at the centre of the system had a deeply damaging impact on Italy’s body politic and democratic culture and the wounds are by no means healed. Win or lose, Trump has shifted the terms of political discourse, campaigning and organisation. As with the Berlusconi era, things will never be the same again.

So-called gaffes were a frequent part of Berlusconi’s political strategy – a dog-whistle strategy that included frequent recourse to sexist, homophobic and racist stereotypes, and reference to his belief that he was irresistible to women. He flaunted his Don Giovanni image, but also attempted to keep a parallel reputation as a family man, whose main concern was the welfare of his five children.

His electoral campaigns were all about him. Nothing else mattered. He dominated the agenda from start to finish. When the former mayor of Rome Walter Veltroni tried to run a campaign against Berlusconi by not mentioning Berlusconi, he was heavily defeated. Silvio’s “gaffes” would usually be followed by claims that he had been “misunderstood” or was the victim of a “hostile media”. He was also reluctant to accept the verdict of the electorate as final when he lost. He would make frequent (and unsubstantiated) claims of electoral fraud and ballot-stuffing. Remind you of anyone?

He also created a set of enemies against which he could mobilise his followers: the judiciary, the media (despite owning much of it), politics itself, Communism, women (he often commented on the appearance of female opponents) and the EU and the euro. He presented himself as a victim of political correctness gone mad, an ordinary/extraordinary man speaking his mind. He promised the world, and it mattered little if he was quickly proved wrong, or had no intention of fulfilling any of his promises. Berlusconi knew that many of the electorate had short memories indeed

We keep being told that the Donald Trump phenomenon means we have entered the era of post-fact politics. Yet, I would argue, post-fact politics has been tarnishing democracy for some time. Twenty-two years ago a successful businessman sent a VHS tape to Italy’s news channels. It showed him sitting in a (fake) office. He read a pre-prepared statement via an autocue.

The man’s name was Silvio Berlusconi, and he was announcing that he was, in his words, “taking the field”. The first reaction was derision. Opposition politicians saw his political project (the formation of a “movement” called Forza Italia – Go for it, Italy – just months ahead of a crucial general election) as a joke. Some claimed a stocking had been put over the camera to soften the impact of Berlusconi’s face.

But Forza Italia soon became the biggest “party”. In the working-class Communist citadel of Mirafiori Sud in Turin, an unknown psychiatrist standing for Berlusconi’s movement beat a long-standing trade unionist. Berlusconi had not just won, he had also stolen the left’s clothes and some of its supporters. That first government was short lived, but Berlusconi would dominate Italian politics for the next 20 years – winning elections in 2001 and 2008 and losing by a handful of seats in 2006. In terms of days in office, Berlusconi ranks as Italy’s third longest-serving prime minister, behind Mussolini and the great liberal of 19th-century Italy, Giovanni Giolitti.

The parallels between Berlusconi and Trump are striking. Both are successful businessman who struggle with “murky” aspects linked to their companies – tax, accounting, offshore companies. Berlusconi was convicted of tax fraud in 2013, which effectively put an end to his political career. But business success and huge wealth was part of his political appeal, as they are for Trump. Beyond wealth, Berlusconi, like Trump, always painted himself as an outsider, as anti-establishment, even when he was prime minister. And, like Trump, Berlusconi’s appeal was populist and linked to his individual “personality”.

Berlusconi’s personal-business political model has since been followed by others in Italy. It could be argued that both Beppe Grillo’s populist anti-political Five Star Movement and Matteo Renzi’s insider-outsider appeal (until recently) have been created very much in Berlusconi’s image. One could go so far as to say Berlusconi transformed politics. The mass parties of the postwar period had become increasingly irrelevant, but he didn’t need a party just as Trump doesn’t really need the Republican party.


Trump Said Women Get Abortions Days Before Birth. Doctors Say They Don’t.

In the presidential debate Wednesday night, Donald J. Trump expounded on pregnancy and abortion, asserting that under current abortion law, “You can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month, on the final day.”

Doctors say the scenario Mr. Trump described does not occur.

“That is not happening in the United States,” said Dr. Aaron B. Caughey, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health and Science University.

“It is, of course, such an absurd thing to say,” he said. “I’m unaware of anyone that’s terminating a pregnancy a few days prior to delivery of a normal pregnancy.”

There can be situations where complications or problems occur late in pregnancy — if the woman was in a car crash, for example, or if she was suffering from severe pre-eclampsia, a potentially life-threatening condition involving high blood pressure.

But in cases like that, doctors said, the baby would be delivered before the due date, either by inducing labor or performing an emergency cesarean section.

If, very late in pregnancy, a fetus was found to be nonviable — to have a condition that would not allow it to survive after birth — the woman might continue the pregnancy and deliver a stillborn baby, or she might decide not to continue the pregnancy, Dr. Caughey said.

“Would you call that an abortion?” he said. “I think most of us wouldn’t use that language. We would say induction of labor for a nonviable pregnancy.”

Mr. Trump made his statements to condemn Hillary Clinton, who, as a senator, voted against a federal ban on late-term, or what critics call partial-birth, abortions.

Abortions that occur more than halfway through pregnancy are very rare in the United States, and many states have laws that add restrictions to the timing of abortions.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization that supports abortion rights, 1.3 percent of abortions in the United States occur at 21 weeks of pregnancy or later.

Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case legalizing abortion, essentially established abortion as legal up until a fetus would be viable outside the womb (about 24 weeks into pregnancy) but also said later abortion is permissible under certain conditions, including to protect the life or health of the mother.

The Guttmacher Institute reports that 43 states prohibit abortion after a specific time in pregnancy, including 19 states that set the limit at fetal viability, three that prohibit abortion in the third trimester, beginning at 27 weeks, and 15 states that ban abortion at 22 weeks of pregnancy.

Some of these laws are considered unconstitutional by abortion rights advocates, but their existence indicates that late-term abortion is extremely rare.

On social media, many people reacted sarcastically or angrily to Mr. Trump’s assertions.

A few wrote emotionally about their own late-term abortions, and said that Mr. Trump minimized the pain they felt in having to make one of the most difficult decisions in their lives.


Stop Pretending Trump is a Strong Ambassador for Christian Values

Today on Fox News, I debated Donald Trump’s evangelical advisor.

Though he argued that Trump has been transformed since he recently “gave his life to Christ,” I argued that his behavior doesn’t show it.

This is a man who praises a dictator and calls the pope a “disgrace.”

This is a man who mocks the disabled, belittles veterans, and bans Muslims.

After being accused of multiple instances of sexual assault, Trump denied the charges this week saying that the women “weren’t attractive enough” to assault.

This is a man who thinks belittling and shaming women makes him bigger.

This is a man who told the nation last night that he’s too proud to accept losing a free and fair election in the world’s oldest democratic republic.

You can vote for Trump, but you shouldn’t do so by pretending he’s a strong ambassador for faith values.

Because time and again, he shows that the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson are true: “who you are screams so loudly in my ears I cannot hear what you say.”


Trump Has Been Using His Foundation To Fund Criminal Filmmaker

Trump, who claimed in the same debate that Hillary Clinton “shouldn’t be allowed to run” for president “based on what she did with e-mails and so many other things,” was funding a convicted criminal. O’Keefe was sentenced to three years of probation, 100 hours of community service, and a $1,500 fine in 2010 after taking a plea bargain following a botched “sting” attempt at the office of then-Sen. Mary Landrieu.

What’s more, there is a great deal of reason to be skeptical of the videos themselves. O’Keefe has a long history of selectively editing videos to present a false impression to the viewer. His most famous video, an attack on the now-defunct community organizing group ACORN, supposedly showed employees agreeing to help him smuggle underage prostitutes into the country. It turned out the employees later had called the police and O’Keefe eventually paid $100,000 in a settlement after being sued for surreptitious recording of someone’s voice and image.

Even Glenn Beck’s conservative The Blaze slammed O’Keefe over a selectively-edited video purporting to show unethical action on the part of National Public Radio executives, faulting “ editing tactics that seem designed to intentionally lie or mislead about the material being presented.

Though the latest video too has been criticized for selective editing by at least one of its subjects, two of the staffers resigned after its release.

In Wednesday’s presidential debate, Donald Trump claimed that new videos proved that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had “hired people” and “paid them $1,500” to “be violent, cause fights, [and] do bad things” at Trump rallies.

He was referring to videos released this week by conservative activist James O’Keefe that purport to show pro-Clinton activists boasting of their efforts to bait Trump supporters into violent acts. The videos offer no evidence that Clinton or Obama were aware of or behind the alleged dirty tricks.

Still, Trump claimed the videos exposed that a violence at a March Chicago rally was a “criminal act” and that it “was now all on tape started by her.”

Trump neglected, however, to mention his own connection to the videos, released by James O’Keefe and his Project Veritas tax-exempt group. According to a list of charitable donations made by Trump‘s controversial foundation (provided to the Washington Post in April by Trump’s campaign), on May 13, 2015, it gave $10,000 to Project Veritas.


Donald Trump disgraced himself and our democracy by refusing to say if he’d accept the election results

“I’ll keep you in suspense.”

That was Donald Trump, candidate for president of the United States, treating the peaceful transfer of power like a reality-TV show cliffhanger in the final presidential debate.

The hyperpartisan hype man was either teasing the opening season of Trump TV or promising a constitutional crisis. Either way, it’s a display of stomach-churning disregard for our democracy by a celebrity demagogue whose narcissism has already stained our political history.

By now, we’re now used to The Donald treating this election as a vehicle for his vanity. Most sober Republicans have slowly come to the horrified realization that they have a manifestly irresponsible man at the top of their ticket. But the radius of damage seemed contained to the GOP and the quality of our civic debates. Donald changed that Wednesday night.

Once the act-like-an-adult sedatives wore off around 30 minutes into the third debate, he lapsed into his reflexive lying and insult comedy. He lied about insulting a disabled reporter. He lied about his past praise of Putin and his call for Japan to pursue nukes. He called his opponent a “nasty woman” and said she shouldn’t be allowed to vote, let alone run for president.

But those were just the fetid appetizers before the rotten main course that instantly defined the third debate.

The most troubling rumble from Trump’s flailing final weeks has been his suggestions that maybe he wouldn’t accept defeat. He teased this riff repeatedly to crowds only to have it be denied by his designated straight man, Mike Pence. But Trump went full wingnut with his comments in the third debate, refusing to say whether he would accept the results of the election if—as the polls show is likely—he loses on Nov. 8.

Put down the popcorn for a second. Remember that this election is real. It is not a reality show.

We in the media may try to entertain as we educate, but at the end of the day this is deadly serious stuff—selecting a leader who will make decisions about war and peace. And in democracy, we get the government we deserve.

Donald Trump has gone beyond dog-whistle appeals to the ethno-nationalist crowd. He is doubling down on the delegitimizing of duly elected presidents that has helped cripple our democracy over the past few decades. Much of the alt-right Clinton-hating crowd staffing his senior team—David Bossie especially—started this anti-democratic cycle with the hunting of the president in Bill Clinton’s term. The blame shifted to the left after the loss of the popular vote made many of those folks consider W. illegitimate. And God knows, we’ve had the same putrid stain grow during the Obama years, symbolized by the “birther” conspiracy theories that Trump used to grab the heart of the GOP base, who couldn’t accept a black man as president. If Hillary Clinton is elected, we’ll see sexism take the place of racism in the most unhinged corners of the internet activist class.

But the fundamental message of illegitimacy is the same. And the recourse? “I’ll keep you in suspense.”

Trump surrogates were furiously spinning in the aftermath, understandably panicked that their man had once again snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Apparently the talking points had been emailed out before the end of the debate because both campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and Jeffrey Lord were spouting the same ahistorical nonsense on CNN about how there is a liberal double standard because Al Gore didn’t concede the 2000 election until December. Of course, that ignores the whole Florida recount and loss of the popular vote.

There is no precedent in modern American politics for contesting an election before the votes are in. Both Conway and Lord are political pros who know better as, presumably, does Kayleigh McEnany, who was reduced to talking about dead voters and fraud in a desperate attempt to distract from the fact that her candidate is playing footsie with a fanatical disregard for the democratic process.

The most generous explanation is that Donald Trump just doesn’t have the psychological capacity to admit defeat. The prospect of being defined in the history books as a loser—possibly on an epic scale—is too much to bear. And so the only face-saving play is to say that the whole system is rigged against him. This is the ultimate expression of the conservative-as-victim card.

But what makes little Donald feel better isn’t the best gauge for what’s best for our democracy. I know this is hard for Trump to compute, but some things matter more than himself. The real damage comes when his anti-democracy defiance is heard as validation by extremists looking for an excuse to make the culture wars even more real.

During the Tea Party wave, I interviewed a fringe folk hero on the far-far right: a patriot militia man named Mike Vanderboegh, who recently died. His favorite slogan was “all politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war.” “We are rapidly coming to a point in this country when half of the people are going to become convinced of the illegitimacy of this administration and its designs upon our liberty,” he told me. “Need I remind you that this side is the one with most of the firearms?”

Talk about “Second Amendment solutions.”

Likewise, Trump’s favorite unhinged conspiracy entrepreneur, Alex Jones, loves to say “the cure for 1984 is 1776.” The same echoes are evident.

And lest this just sound like a litany of cranks, one month ago Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin referenced Timothy McVeigh’s favorite Jefferson quote—“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants”—before talking about how America could survive a President Hillary Clinton only if the blood of patriots were shed as well. “Whose blood will be shed?” he asked in a speech. “It might be that of our children and grandchildren. I have nine children. And it breaks my heart to think that it might be their blood that is needed to redeem something, to reclaim something that we, through our apathy and indifference, have given away.”

Got that? The governor of one of our 50 states was actively musing about civil war and the bloodshed it could cause in his family if Hillary Clinton is elected president. Spin that any way you want—and Bevin tried to say that he had been talking about a foreign war—but the audience at the Values Voter Summit heard him loud and clear. Losing an election is akin to living under tyranny, and it will be up to patriots to take down tyrants to make America great again.

Finally, on Wednesday night, just after Trump left the stage, his surrogate Sarah Palin told reporters he’d only accept a “legitimate” election since doing otherwise would betray those who “died” for freedom.

The point is that none of this happens in a vacuum. Calls for massive resistance to democratic processes and legal decisions have been a repeated riff in conservative populist circles for decades. It’s possible that the proud Fifth Avenue redneck has no idea about the historical ghosts he’s stirring up. Or he may know exactly what he’s doing. The sick twist is that everyone understands Trump isn’t motivated by political convictions. He’s just looking for his next marketing campaign. We’re living through the final stages of Eric Hoffer’s immortal insight: “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.”

By denying that he would accept the results of this election in a presidential debate, Donald Trump delivered perhaps the final insult to our democracy in his disgraceful campaign. The only saving grace is that a true constitutional crisis would require that the election results be close. But less than three weeks from Election Day, he has offered the latest example of why he is deeply unfit to be president of the United States. He has no interest in uniting the nation.

Donald Trump is one of those folks who want to ruin if they cannot rule. In a school yard, he’d be called a spoiled brat. In politics, he’s a dangerous demagogue with a dictatorial streak.


Trump’s Ignorance When It Comes To Women’s Health Would Be Literally Deadly

Donald Trump’s Abortion Policies Would Kill Women

Dana Weinstein was pregnant with her third child, 29 weeks in, less than three months to go. She and her husband wanted this child. Then, terrible news: a routine sonogram revealed a brain anomaly that meant their baby almost certainly wouldn’t survive, and whatever life it had would be full of suffering.

Imagine making the decision that faced Dana and her husband.

Now imagine Donald Trump making that decision for them.

Trump had a terrible debate Wednesday night. He was irritable and irresponsible. He repeatedly took Hillary Clinton’s bait and lashed out childishly. (“You’re the puppet.”) His dark intimation that he would refuse to concede when he loses on election night doesn’t just undermine our democracy, it could lead to real violence.

But most of all he was – as he always is, not just in the three presidential debates he lost decisively but also in interviews, at his rallies, and probably in every conversation he has ever had in his entire life – shockingly ignorant. And nowhere in Las Vegas was his ignorance on brighter, flashier display than on the subject of late-term abortion.

It was shocking when moderator Chris Wallace asked a direct question about abortion, a subject debate moderators usually avoid like the plague. (The topic came up in the vice presidential debate, but not directly from a moderator question.) Clinton offered a full-throated defense of a woman’s right to access abortion, saying she “will defend Roe v. Wade” because “we have come too far to have that turn back now.”

Trump said he’d appoint anti-abortion judges who will overturn Roe and then “the states will then make a determination.” Many states have already made that determination, putting strict anti-abortion laws on the books that would effectively end abortion rights the moment the Supreme Court reverses Roe.

Then Wallace asked Clinton about her support of late-term abortion rights, and she explained exactly why they’re so important.

“The kinds of cases that fall at the end of pregnancy are often the most heartbreaking, painful decisions for families to make. I have met with women who, toward the end of their pregnancy, get the worst news one could get that their health is in jeopardy if they continue to carry to term or that something terrible has happened or just been discovered about the pregnancy. I do not think the United States government should be stepping in and making those most personal of decisions.”

When Trump opened his mouth to respond, he released a flurry of ignorance so ugly it would have been shocking if it weren’t coming from the planet’s most ignorant excuse for a human being. “I think it’s terrible if you go with what Hillary is saying,” Trump said, lying about what Clinton had said: “in the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.”

“You can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb on the ninth month on the final day,” he continued, getting the facts so deeply, offensively wrong you could smell his stupidity through the television screen. Of course, abortions do not take place at nine months.

For the past few years, in Congress and state legislatures across the country, Republicans have been on a tear, pushing laws banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on pseudoscience claiming that’s when fetuses start feeling pain.

But these Republicans don’t care about pain. They don’t care about the pain of mothers like Dana Weinstein, faced with a tragedy and forced to make a difficult decision. They don’t care about other mothers who will literally die if they can’t end their pregnancies late in their terms. They don’t care about the suffering these women go through.

If Donald Trump becomes president and fulfills his promise to appoint right-wing, anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court, he’ll be in charge of these women’s decisions. He’ll have forced these women to carry their pregnancies to term, to carry a child who won’t survive, to put their own lives in danger. And in some cases, those policies will kill them.

It is already nearly impossible to access late-term abortion care in this country. Weinstein was lucky enough to be able to afford to fly to Colorado to a doctor who could do the procedure at that late stage of her pregnancy. She could find someone to care for her two children. For many women, that wouldn’t have been an option. And with anti-abortion legislators pushing stringent new regulations all the time, for many women the right to choose is already a meaningless abstraction. Under a Trump presidency, that right would virtually disappear.

Later in the debate, Trump laughably claimed, as he has before, “nobody has more respect for women that I do – nobody.” But the man who bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy,” who called them “fat pigs,” is not the world’s most respectful man. But it isn’t just his demeaning comments or the sexual assaults multiple women have come forward to accuse him of. It isn’t just the creepy way he has sexualized his own daughter.

Donald Trump doesn’t respect women enough to learn about women like Dana Weinstein. He doesn’t listen to their stories. He doesn’t realize that the decisions he will thankfully never get a chance to make as president of the United States would inevitably lead to some of them dying. He simply doesn’t care.


On every major foreign-policy issue, Trump is dead wrong — and dangerously ignorant

The most telling moment of the third and final presidential debate on Oct. 19, 2016 came in its final moments. Moderator Chris Wallace, in front of a restrained crowd at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, turned to Trump and asked a devastating question.

“In the last debate,” Wallace said, “you were we were both asked about the situation in the Syrian city of Aleppo. I want to follow up on that because you said several things in that debate which were not true.”

Wallace barely had the question out before Trump started interrupting him. Trump called Aleppo a catastrophe, asked Wallace if he had seen Aleppo and betrayed his own deep ignorance of world affairs.

“You also said that Syria and Russia are busy fighting ISIS,” Wallace said amid interruptions. “In fact, they have been the ones who have been bombing and shelling eastern Aleppo and they just announced a humanitarian pause, in effect admitting that they have been bombing and shelling Aleppo.”

Then Wallace rhetorically stabbed Trump in the jugular. “Would you like to clear that up, sir?”

“Aleppo is a disaster,” Trump said. “It is a humanitarian nightmare, but it has fallen from any standpoint. I mean what do you need, a signed document?”

Aleppo hasn’t fallen. It’s a divided city — and it’s been a divided city for years now. People fight and live there, a quarter million of them. The United Nations warned the day before the debate that the world needs to do something to save Aleppo. That’s not a city that’s fallen, that’s a city in trouble. And a big difference the Trump is apparently incapable of understanding.

Wallace kicked the question over to his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, who delivered a well-reasoned response involving no-fly zones, safe-zones and leverage over Russia. It was the exact same plan she’d explained during the second presidential debate. She’s consistent that way.

Trump lost the third debate and he lost it hard. He doubled down on ignorance, showed he would never change and, every chance he got, pointed to Clinton as the source of America’s ills. It was a bad strategy. The longer he pointed at her, the better she looked.

Earlier in the debate, Clinton accused Trump of wanting to tear up America’s alliances. Trump reeled.

“All I said was we have to renegotiate these agreements because our country cannot afford to defend Saudi Arabia, Japan, Germany, South Korea and many other places,” Trump said.

Trump insisted that his stated desire to dismantle NATO had compelled NATO to start paying the United States … protection money, or something — the Republican candidate was never quite clear on what he meant by “pay.”

“I’ve been given a lot of credit for it and all the sudden they are starting to pay up,” Trump rambled. “We are protecting people, they have to pay up — and I’m a big fan of NATO, but they have to pay up.”

Trump deeply misunderstands both NATO and the nature of America’s alliances with, at the very least, Japan and South Korea. The Republican standard-bearer makes it seem as if America is footing the bill for smaller countries to be part of NATO.

In reality, member states pledge to spend two percent of their GDP on defense. The United States and just four of NATO’s other 27 members actually meet that standard. The median military budget for NATO governments is 1.18 percent of GDP.

America does spend a lot of money in order to play the leading role that it does within NATO, but so does France, the United Kingdom and Germany. The rich countries help out the poor countries. What they don’t do is kick out the poorer members. That would weaken the entire enterprise.

Tokyo and Seoul might also take issue with Trump’s characterization of them as recipients of American largess. American troops reside at bases in Japan that Japan pays to maintain. Last year these bases cost the Japanese around $2 billion. South Korea pays more than $800 million annually to keep the Americans around.

That’s hardly nothing.


Debate Audience Couldn’t Stop Themselves From Laughing When Trump Said He Respects Women

The second presidential debate included a segment about each candidate’s “fitness to be president,” so moderator Chris Wallace brought up the some half-dozen women who have accused Donald Trump of sexual assault. “Why would so many different women under so many different circumstances make up these stories?” Wallace asked.

Trump responded by denying the allegations, which has been his strategy thus far. He then blamed the Clinton campaign for producing his accusers, and he topped the whole thing off with: “Nobody has more respect for women than I do.”

Again, this is a line he’s used before. But this time, the audience straight-up laughed.


Mormons Have Great Things To Say About Hillary

At this point, it’s hard to argue that Donald Trump is qualified for any political office other than Lord Mayor of Babylon. Last weekend, in an unprecedented editorial, the Deseret News called for his withdrawal from the presidential race and eloquently articulated why Americans should run — not walk — from his candidacy.

Opposition to Donald Trump has been particularly pronounced among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormon Republicans led the most recent revolt against his campaign, and prominent members of the church from Mitt Romney on down have issued warnings of why Trump’s election would be a catastrophe for the country and the principle of religious freedom. Utah voters are paying attention. Recent polling in the state shows the race in a dead heat.

Some denunciations of Donald Trump, including those of this paper, have stopped short of endorsing Secretary Clinton. Many LDS voters are still debating whether to vote for her or back others with no chance of winning the presidency. For those among the undecided, I offer two points of consideration:

First, the only vote that will prevent Donald Trump from assuming the presidency is a vote for Hillary Clinton. If she does not get enough votes, the man one respected conservative has called the most dangerous threat to American democracy since the Civil War will win the election. Many prominent Republicans that differ with her on policy recognize this and are supporting her.

Second, if she is elected, you may end up liking Hillary Clinton a lot more than you expect. I did.

Like many of you reading this, I have five kids, am married to a Republican BYU grad, and cherish my faith in the church. In 2009, I received an unexpected offer to serve as speechwriter and senior adviser to Hillary Clinton at the State Department. I had never worked with her, but I had certainly heard a lot of rumors. In the four years that followed, we collaborated on over 200 speeches, traveled to dozens of countries, and had deep discussions about faith and family.

The Hillary Clinton I worked with bears no resemblance to the caricature I had heard described on talk radio. She is a woman of sincere faith. After I joined her staff, one of her confidants took me aside. “If you’re ever unsure how she would approach an issue, remember that Hillary Clinton is, at her core, a Midwestern Methodist.” In virtually every speech, she had us reiterate that her goal is to help build a world in which every boy and girl has the opportunity to realize their God-given potential. Once, when rushing to deliver a draft, I left out the phrase “God-given.” She pointedly wrote the words back in.

She proved to be a champion for religious freedom. Under her direction, we established a groundbreaking 70-member task force on religion in foreign policy that included members of the church. Its work led to major reforms at the State Department and the creation of a new office dedicated to the issue. She spoke out often about the persecution of religious minorities, even when doing so was politically unpopular. I saw her bring together faith leaders in places ranging from Abuja to Tatarstan and advocate for the principle that people should be able to worship how, where, and what they may.

She is also very familiar with the church. Once, over boiled meat in a Mongolian yurt, we spent an entire evening discussing the gospel, the church’s welfare system, and her visits to church historical sites. Long before that, as a young mother, she adopted the practice of family home evening and credited the church with the idea in her memoirs.

I do not want to suggest that she hasn’t made mistakes. She has. But so have a lot of other decent people that have run for president. And after years watching her away from the cameras, I can tell you she’s a very decent human being — someone you would want as a friend and neighbor. When my grandfather passed away, she was among the first to call and ask how she could help our family. After the line dropped, she called back. She would show up with soup or at hospital rooms when colleagues fell ill. She was a great boss and, though it may shock you, a lot of fun around the office. The notion that she is cold, uncaring or disinterested in others couldn’t be further from the truth.

Even before last week’s meltdown, Utah had become a coveted electoral prize. The state’s LDS voters offer, as one national observer noted, a chance at redemption in a moment of American self-disgust. Even if you think Secretary Clinton’s only redeeming quality is her ability to prevent a Trump presidency, that’s ample reason to vote for her. However, if your experience is anything like mine, after four years, you may be surprised by how much you admire her commitment to help our country realize its God-given potential.


Clinton Closing In On Trump In TEXAS!

Donald Trump’s lead over Hillary Clinton in Texas is now within the margin of error, according to a new poll released Thursday night by SurveyUSA commissioned by WFAA-TV in Dallas and Texas TEGNA television stations.

Trump is leading Clinton 47 percent to 43 percent among likely voters in the poll, conducted Monday through Wednesday, with Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson garnering 3 percent, Green Party candidate Jill Stein receiving 1 percent, and 5 percent undecided.

That represents a tightening of the race since a Texas Lyceum poll conducted Sept. 1-12, which had Trump leading Clinton by 7 points — 39 percent to 32 percent — among likely voters in a four-way race and by 5 points — 39 percent to 34 percent — among registered voters in a two-way race.

The margin of error in the SurveyUSA poll is 4 points.