By ZACH NOBLE
Hillary Rodham Clinton is terrible.
But she's no worse than Donald J. Trump.
In a better world, we'd be debating politicians' policies, but in our grim timeline we have to settle for wondering, "Which one is less of a comic book villain?" And on every vice, Trump's chaotic evil looms just as large as -- or larger than -- Clinton's comparatively lawful approach.
Clinton's corruption is hardly disputed. She watched her daughter nab a $600,000 job doing nothing at NBC, used her secretary of state position to pressure favors for her son-in-law's hedge fund and gave preferential treatment to people who donated to her foundation. One donor made it onto the State Department’s International Security Advisory Board, despite being unqualified.
Trump has demonstrated the capacity to be just as corrupt. He has had close ties to the mob, famously exploited immigrant labor (paying unprotected Poles $4 an hour for construction work) and conducted shady land deals. He brags about pulling strings and buying favors.
Clinton avoids interviews and ropes off the press humiliatingly. The Obama administration's IRS targeted political dissidents and Obama's White House set Freedom of Information Act rejection records, and Clinton looks to be Obama 2.0.
Trump capriciously sued a reporter for trying to accurately calculate Trump's net worth. He has said he wants to "open up the libel laws" to menace the press further. He threatened the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan with "a big price" if he didn't support him (it worked). He plans to cause "such problems" for Amazon because he has a personal vendetta against Jeff Bezos. He preaches open violence.
Clinton, like most politicians, has sought to be all things to all people, flip-flopping on issues from free trade to gay marriage.
But Trump threatens to go as far left as Bernie Sanders one day and as far (alt)right as David Duke on another. He contradicts himself constantly, on big issues and stupid minor points. Trump can't even get through one teleprompted speech without getting distracted and making a joke about "pee-pee."
Clinton went viral this spring, starring in a video that showed her lying for 13 minutes. But, actually, the video showed few straight-up lies; it mostly showed her flip-flopping on issues to better pander in changing political environments. And even when she does seem to be lying, she deploys politician speak and excuses so it's hard for a journalist to come right out and say she lied. She may lie, but she does it comparatively intelligently.
Trump blows her out of the water. He brazenly brought someone else's meat on stage, pretending it proved that his steak business wasn't a stupid failure. (It was.) He told supporters he never settles lawsuits. (He does.) He claimed he never said he'd pay violent supporters' legal fees, and he told a crowd he never said Japan should get nuclear weapons, when in fact he had said exactly that.
Trump's pathological lying, by the way, is why conservatives would be staggeringly dumb to trust Trump's Supreme Court nominee list. It's a solid conservative list. But Trump's a proven liar. He started his career with a broken promise. You'd be foolish to think he'll stick to any campaign promise.
Remember that thing about Japan and nukes? That's where Trump breaks away from Clinton.
Clinton has sat in the Situation Room. She has aided two presidents in making crucial calls during her experiences as first lady and secretary of state. She has traveled the world to improve America's relations with foreign leaders and speak on behalf not only of her country but also of women and children around the globe. You might not like the decisions she helped make, but look around -- we're still here.
Trump is likely to nuke us all to hell.
As president, he could do it, and his hair-trigger temper should make any thoughtful person wonder, "Gee, would this guy go to war over personal slights?" Trump has clearly threatened to destroy the nuclear status quo, talking about how Japan, South Korea and maybe even Saudi Arabia should get their own nukes. He's indicated he'd use nukes against ISIS, while also showing the world he doesn't know the differences between types of nuclear weaponry nor does he know the ways the U.S. military can deploy that weaponry.
In other words: Trump, who doesn't understand nuclear weapons, is OK with more countries having them, and then he's OK using them, despite the fact that when one country starts using nukes, others may well follow.
If Clinton is elected president, odds are good she lies to the American people, stifles critics and uses the office for personal gain.
Odds are good Trump would do all of the same things.
But the odds are against Clinton starting a global nuclear war. With someone as thin-skinned and volatile as Trump in command, the odds that America will spark a global nuclear war are exponentially higher.
Imagine your husband, your wife, your infant child crippled by flash blindness, then losing their teeth and hair weeks later. Imagine them vomiting to death from radiation poisoning. Imagine them burning alive in your arms as your city detonates.
It's far more likely to happen under President Trump.
Zach Noble is a journalist who has covered everything from the OPM hack to a rescue dog's retirement party. He's been wrestling to reconcile his bleeding heart Catholicism with his pragmatic libertarianism since that freshman year love affair with Ayn Rand. He tweets erratically as @thezachnoble.