Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary from 2001 to 2003, is president of Ari Fleischer Communications.
I’m a white, college-educated male. People like me typically vote Republican for president. In 2012, when Mitt Romney lost to Barack Obama by four percentage points, Romney won my demographic group by 21 points. I’m also married. Romney beat Obama by 22 points among married men.
This year, I’m struggling with how to vote.
I voted against Donald Trump in the GOP primary and regularly criticized him. But on May 3, when he secured the Republican presidential nomination, I tweeted: “There’s a lot about Donald Trump that I don’t like, but I’ll vote for Trump over Hillary any day.”
Since then, Trump has pretty much done everything in his power to make me change my mind.
Although he did call me once to make his case and thank me.
In late May, I was on “Morning Joe,” and Trump had been watching. I said on the show that Hillary Clinton was “unprincipled, reckless and dishonest” — a sentiment I increasingly believe having watched her in this race.
His staff had my cell number, and he called me. He was funny.
“You’re 72.3 percent of the way there,” Trump said, “and I’m going to get you to 100 percent.” That’s a good opening line. I told him I didn’t care for his call for a ban on Muslims entering the country; he told me not to worry about it. I suggested that he cool his rhetoric and give more policy speeches. We spoke for 10 or 15 minutes. I should have told him he was wrong when he said that George W. Bush lied about Iraq, but I didn’t get the chance.
I’m one of the few people from the Bush administration who stepped forward to support Trump. Even as an establishment Republican, I know Washington needs a good shakeup now and then. After all, a lot of what the experts and insiders recommend hasn’t worked out lately. Millions of working Americans are struggling to make ends meet, economic growth is weak, the Islamic State hasn’t been destroyed, and U.S. influence is declining.
I knew Trump was too often offensive, boorish and simplistic. He doesn’t have a good grasp of policy, but he did spend a career in the business sector, as opposed to the redistribution-of-income sector, and he is against the Iran nuclear deal, which Clinton favors. Clinton will nominate liberals for the Supreme Court. Trump won’t. I said publicly I would hold my nose and vote for Trump and, if he won, I would hold my breath.
I was supposed to be a delegate to the GOP convention, but I decided not to go. I’d vote for Trump, but I wasn’t going to sing his praises. It felt rude to go to Cleveland and say negative things about him on the air. I watched from home, and I said at the time that I still wanted him to win but doubted he could.
Then Trump lost control of himself and his message. He veered recklessly off track, attacking an American judge for his Mexican heritage, criticizing a war hero’s family, questioning the legitimacy of the election and otherwise raising questions about his judgment. If this race were about change, Clinton or policy, Trump could win it. But he made it about himself. Because he is one of the most unpopular people ever to run for president, that was a big mistake.
But then there’s the alternative. Nothing will change if Clinton is elected, and that’s the problem.
Clinton ran to Sen. Bernie Sanders’s left to win the Democratic primary, so why trust her now to move to the more sensible center? Then again, because she is so unprincipled, that’s probably exactly what she’ll do. For the Iraq War. Against the surge. Open borders. Closed borders. Against trade deals she used to support. What difference does it make? This is who Clinton is. It’s why she is also among the most unpopular people ever to run for president.
The numerous lies she told about her private email server and classified records are a window into how she operates. When she needs something to be true, she lies and says it. From her false claim that she had nothing to do with the travel office firings to landing under sniper fire in Bosnia to her statement suggesting that a YouTube video caused the attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Libya, her pattern is to lie. Those lies were the warm-up act — get ready for really dishonest Clinton if she wins.
But Election Day is coming. I need to decide.
On Tuesday, if someone puts a gun to my head and tells me to make a choice, I’ll say “shoot.”
If my ballot contained a box for whom I was voting against, my choice would be easy. Never Clinton. But voting means deciding whom to vote for.
I will vote for Republicans up and down the ballot. But when it comes to the presidency, I’m going to leave my ballot blank.