OP/ED: The Mandarin Candidate BY JEFFREY OPPENHEIM





What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.      -Ecclesiastes 1:9  

Every four years we are told that we are witness to the most important election in our lifetimes.  2016 is, therefore, unique, just like every other Presidential election. But unlike past elections, this year we are now forced to choose between the two worst candidates in modern history. The mood of America resembles that of a diner whose meal arrives late, cold and unpalatable. We are simultaneously cynical, disappointed, and dyspeptic. It is hard to add to this despair. But, let me try.

It is hard to imagine a more pathetic caricature than Donald Trump, who evaded service during the Vietnam War because of a bunion but feels entitled to belittle prisoners of war and gold star families. Trump castigates and symbolically castrates the Clinton legacy with old allegations but shrugs off his own misogyny as mere locker room talk. His reality seems rooted in psychoses. He is the Mandarin Candidate.

Trump appears to believe that if the facts don’t fit his reality, then so much the worse for the facts. Everyone knows the examples: he was always against the war in Iraq, except there are tapes of him supporting the war on Howard Stern. He cherishes women except there are tapes of him boasting of being a predator. He knows that Bill Clinton broke the law because he settled cases out of court but when Trump settled cases out of court (such as for racial discrimination) he did nothing wrong. The hypocrisy goes on and on.

At the same time Clinton never fails to disappoint those hoping for more scandal. Her reputation is so mired by disgrace that even the Wikileaks revelations of bribery and collusion ignite more shoulder shrugs than outrage. America’s marriage to Hillary Clinton will have no honeymoon.

Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street banks earned her $1.8 million. And leaked portions of those speeches reveal her insincerity in a manner presciently described 75 years ago by Oscar Ameringer, when he wrote, “Politics is the art by which politicians obtain campaign contributions from the rich and votes from the poor on the pretext of protecting each from the other.”  Instead of asking whether the real Clinton is on the side of Wall Street or Main Street perhaps we should be asking whether there is a “real” Clinton.

Trump accurately accused Clinton of hypocrisy for claiming to be a champion of women and the LGBT community while allowing the Clinton Foundation to accept millions of dollars from Middle Eastern countries where women and gays are treated horribly. Even the MiddleEast Forum identified that Clinton was the top recipient in America of campaign contributions from individuals associated with Islamist groups. Here are just a few:

  • Ahmad Al-Akhras (CAIR) is past president of CAIR-Ohio, and former vice chairman of CAIR’s national board. Repeatedly defended Columbus men indicted — and later convicted — on terrorism charges.
  • Yahya Basha (Muslim Public Affairs Council, American Muslim Council) was president of convicted terror financier Abdurahman Alamoudi’s organization, the American Muslim Council.
  • Yaqub Mirza (SAAR) is a money manager in several capacities, who was a key organizer of the SAAR Network of terror-supporting entities.
  • Khurrum Wahid (CAIR) is the former legal advisor for CAIR national, and founder of Emerge USA, which grooms new Islamist leaders for participation in American politics.

Aesop famously observed, “We hang petty thieves and appoint the bigger thieves to public office”. Our next President will almost certainly fit this profile. Trump is a first-rate con man, taking money from his creditors and honor from his supporters. He has done more to damage the Republican brand than anyone since Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee. One can almost pity the folks that have begrudgingly tossed their hat in his ring as he churns down the cesspool of political infantilism.

While Trump is surely a master debater, Clinton is a cunning linguist. Like her husband before her (who famously argued the meaning of the word “is”), Hillary makes lawyerly distinctions to prove that her private emails did not contain secrets known by her to be classified at that time, even though they did. Like the innumerable scandals that have haunted her since the state house in Little Rock, Hillary has always found a way to blame mysterious right wing cabals for her problems.  Yet, she can’t evade the popular representation of her as a liar. She earned that moniker on her own.


This campaign gives new meaning to the vituperatively satirical etymology of the word “Politics”: derived from the words “poly” meaning “many”, and “tics” meaning “blood-sucking parasites.” Watching the debates has been likened to listening to one’s divorced parents fighting for our custody and we just want to go live with grandma. This has become not just a theater of the absurd but a genuine horror show.

Thinking past the election, and past the possibility that Trump might not concede that he lost, let’s make 6 predictions about the coming Presidency (presuming that Hillary wins – which is predicted by every poll):

Political jockeying

Hillary will use a Republican majority in the House to serve as the foil to populist proposals that she wants be seen as supporting but doesn’t really want to enact. For example, Hillary will propose strict rules that would hurt her Wall Street cronies, knowing that the House will be forced to block them. She will decry these obstructionist Republicans when they prevent higher taxes, a higher minimum wage, and closing the carried interest loophole but will simultaneously wink at her rich donors, assuring herself more campaign contributions.


Hillary will continue to abuse the word “Investment”, which is traditionally defined as an asset one buys with the hope that it will generate income in the future. In an Orwellian twist, the Democrats have broadened the definition to mean higher spending on anything on their wish list, e.g. infrastructure, tuition, health care, and even entitlements. Expect more of the same, especially during her first State of the Union address.


Hillary is exceptional at focusing blame for her misadventures on everyone else. The Republicans, the media, the Russians, etc. will each get their turn at the chopping block. The White House spin machine will be organized and efficient at focusing the daily message on their enemy of the day.


By the time her term is over we can reasonably expect at least a half dozen more scandals (based on her past track record) and we should expect at least a couple of these to result in Congressional investigations and calls for a special prosecutor. Impeachment, even for crimes committed before the election, is already being discussed in elite academic circles.


Hillary is going to want to prove that she is as tough as a man. We saw this in action when she goaded President Obama to intervene in Libya. Almost certainly she will use the military on one or more misadventures to make herself look strong. Whether this becomes another Mideast conflict, an Asian war or an all-out nuclear holocaust with Russia remains to be seen.


Hillary will nominate the ultimate Supreme Court nominee: former President Barack Obama. As a former Constitutional Law Professor and past President, the Senate would be unable to refuse to confirm his nomination. The Court would have an outspoken liberal with a relatively long life expectancy.


One thing is certain. Before January 1st the campaign for the 2020 election will begin. One can already imagine the coming news story of the first politician visiting Iowa or New Hampshire. Like the first pre-Thanksgiving television ad for Christmas gifts, we will all moan and shake our heads. Let’s just hope that the Mandarin candidate stays home.