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Susan Estrich - What matters in a dangerous world

Apparently, the Republican nominee for president just can't stand being outside the spotlight. Or maybe he's been making such statements all along, only now they get more attention because he is the Republican nominee.

Like his statement that America would not necessarily defend our NATO allies. Really? What message does that send to Vladimir Putin?

And speaking of messages, what about his asking the Russians to hack into Hillary Clinton's server to find deleted emails?

These are the kinds of lines you hear on radio and television every day. But the people making those statements are not aides to the president, much less the president himself.

Every word said by the president of the United States is carefully studied around the world, by both our allies and those who are not our allies. It should be obvious but maybe it isn't: Though you might be on TV sometimes, being president is almost nothing like being on a reality show.

Granted, many Americans are frightened and angry. I'm a mother, and I go a little crazy with worry when my daughter travels around the world alone, as she did this summer. So I, too, am afraid, at least as afraid as the next person, and I understand the anger that inevitably accompanies such fear. But electing a man who is utterly unqualified for the office, who has never held office, who is used to having his way just by saying "you're fired" is not the answer.

Careless statements by the president will not make the world safer for children.

"But I don't like Hillary," I hear from people who have never met her. They say she is not trustworthy, that she equivocates rather than taking responsibility, etc. You know the routine. I'm obviously not one of those people: I have known Hillary Clinton for years, and respect (and like) her. But so what if you don't?

The presidency is not a Miss Congeniality award in a beauty contest. It's great when you have a president — like Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton — who has the gift of instantly connecting with people from every walk of life, a candidate with whom everyone would like to have a beer. Hillary Clinton will never be that candidate. Donald Trump might well be more entertaining than her. But so what if he is?

Every day brings new stories of terror and barbarism around the world. Do you want a president who makes sloppy statements or one who spent four years as the secretary of state, engaged in delicate negotiations around the world and earning high marks from both Republicans and Democrats.

In this crazy and scary world, the question should not be who you "like" best or who you would rather have a beer with, but who has the experience and wisdom to keep our children safe.

The real world is not a reality show. As the late Professor Richard Neustadt pointed out decades ago, the power of the presidency is the power to persuade — whether it's Congress, or foreign leaders who must be persuaded. You don't get to stand there, as the Donald does, shouting out orders to a cadre of would-be apprentices who follow in fear, lest they be fired. Diplomacy is an entirely different business. So is dealing with Congress.

Even those with substantial experience in politics have found Washington a difficult place. Clinton has been grappling with those challenges, and getting things done, for decades. Trump has no experience at all.

If the world were at peace, if we all are enjoying the benefits of a growing economy, maybe we could afford the risk. Of course, it is also true that absent fear and anger, Donald Trump would not have won the nomination. But not now. Not with the world as it is. Like her or not, Hillary Clinton is the most qualified person to run for president in my lifetime. And that is what matters in a dangerous world.

(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)

 

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