■ Bob Franken / Columnist
The death of astrophysicist Stephen Hawking brings to mind Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. How weird is that? But bear with me. Hawking credibly speculated about a parallel universe on the other side of a black hole. What if, in that alternative existence, Hillary Clinton had won the 2016 presidential election? How, in that black hole that is U.S. politics, would she be doing as president?
In a word, badly. She wouldn’t be the disgrace that Donald Trump is—there’s no way anyone can match his bigotry, hateful appeals to our worst instincts or his simple-minded impetuousness. In fact, “Hillary” and “impetuous” would make up a classic oxymoron. While President Trump is moronically careless, Hillary is methodically calculating, or at least appears that way, which is even worse.
As a result, she squanders her advantages, like her formidable brain power, because she’s missing the lobe that processes empathy impulses—the real ones, not the artificial contrivances concocted by her sycophantic consultants. By now, she would have frittered away much of her hugely historic significance as the nation’s first woman chief executive. It would have dissipated, overridden by the personal flaws that have come to define Hillary Clinton. Her careful dissembling would be easy prey for Republicans, always ready to pounce. Her perceived sense of superiority and that of the people who flit around her soon would antagonize just about all us unworthies.
Hillary Clinton provides an object lesson for those trying to grasp what a candidate should not be. Her recent appearance in India is a case in point.
She offered the analysis that she had beaten Trump in places populated by those who are “optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward”—as opposed to those who are “backward,” riffraff in her mind, who were driven away by the elitist sense of entitlement that she exudes. Her arrogant, meritocratic view of the “deplorables” doesn’t compare with Trump’s vile demagogic manipulation of their fears and prejudices, but the condescension openly displayed by Hillary and so many of her supporters for all who don’t share their phony values is almost as divisive.
Add to that Hillary’s long coziness with the richest of the rich, and it would stoke the same resentments that Trump has been able to exploit to his advantage. He is a master at convincing the little people that he’s on their side at the same time that he symbolizes the worst excesses of conspicuous consumption and an entirely selfish life.
Both are phonies, but also polar opposites. One huge difference: Trump is entertaining, grossly so. And his slapstick collection of supporting actors is a laugh a minute.
Clinton as president would bore us to death. Where The Donald mindlessly stomps through issues, Hillary takes carefully thought-out baby steps. It’s preferable for policymaking but stifles any passion. We’d be desperate for excitement, even some misstep from that other President Clinton, whose time as POTUS was certainly, uh, interesting.
For now, we’re stuck in our Trump black hole. Still, as Stephen Hawking argued, “Things can get out of a black hole, both to the outside, and possibly, to another universe.” The problem is, that “other universe” is not all that appealing either. Or maybe this is the alternative universe.
Copyright 2018 Bob Franken