When I was growing up in New York, I wanted to be a professional boxer, but was smart enough to know that if I entered the ring with Muhammad Ali — then heavyweight champion of the world — they’d have to bring out the smelling salts within seconds and the ambulance would soon arrive to cart me away on a stretcher!
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump should consider such thoughts as he ponders his plan to go mano a mano against Bill Clinton, the most popular living former president and the heavyweight champion of American politics today. So might Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who is widely despised among his GOP Senate colleagues, could well be defeated for reelection to the Senate from Texas and runs for president as the “Trump Lite” candidate. Bill Clinton is the heavyweight champion of American politics because his presidency is fondly remembered as a time when the nation was blessed with rising prosperity and tens of millions of new jobs and a widespread optimism that America was on the right track and tomorrow would be better than today.
While Clinton was promoting the policies that created the prosperity that lifted the national economy — with current Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton by his side as his first lady and closest confidant — Trump heaped lavish praise on the highly successful president and the policies he advanced.
After President Clinton left office and Hillary Clinton entered the Senate and won praise on both sides of the aisle — including respect from GOP Senators that Cruz could not dare to dream of — Trump heaped extravagant praise on Hillary Clinton, whom he supported in her campaigns for the Senate and the Democratic nomination in 2008.
Speaking on Fox News in 2012, continuing his two decades of high praise for both Clintons, Trump offered effusive compliments for Hillary Clinton’s work as secretary of State, saying he was biased because he had known both Clintons so well for so long. Truer words were never spoken by the man who today sings a different song and whose statements were recently awarded the “Lie of the Year” by the politically neutral fact-checker Politifact.
My good friend, advertising executive Roy Spence, invented one of the most brilliant ad campaigns in history: “Don’t mess with Texas.” My advice to Trump, which he will regret not taking, is don’t mess with Bill Clinton, who will bury him with a wink of his eye and a smile on his face.
Clinton is a globally renowned philanthropist who makes life better for people around the world through the superb work of the Clinton Foundation, which brings together leaders in government, business, philanthropy and academia. By contrast, Trump has much explaining to do about various bankruptcies of companies he has been associated with and why he brags about his skill at manipulating bankruptcy laws to enhance his wealth while inflicting punishment on workers and investors in Trump-related businesses that failed.
Clinton is the happy warrior of American politics, who has demonstrated great skill working with political opponents to make government function effectively, while Trump praises himself for giving money to politicians to peddle influence and insults widely respected leaders such as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whose intensely patriotic heroism in military service he denies.
Clinton stands for a politics that is inclusive and respectful and offers every American a seat at the table, while Trump has a penchant for calling women he dislikes “fat pigs” and “bimbos,” ridicules disabled Americans with disgusting impersonations of a New York Times reporter, insults Hispanic immigrants with words such as rapists and murderers, and helps the recruiting of murderous terrorists by playing to fear and bigotry against Muslims.
There are good reasons why Bill Clinton has earned the vast popularity he possesses and why Donald Trump has earned the sky-high negative ratings that plague him with national voters, and the loudmouthed bully of GOP politics would be well-advised to not mess with the heavyweight champion of the American political world.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Chief Deputy Majority Whip Bill Alexander (D-Ark.). He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.