The choice is miserable, but it has to be Trump

Suffering through snatches and pieces of the vice-presidential debate — enduring every painful minute of it, with apologies to Hunter S. Thompson, would have required the soul of a lizard — it was easy to sense the nation's schisms, and fear for its future.

The debate was a microcosm of the country's contentious, argumentative and bitter meltdown, a rancorous political food fight pitting Indiana Republican Gov Mike Pence against Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat.

Pence, Donald's Trump's GOP running mate, appeared calm, focused and, at times, the only adult in the room. He was, well, presidential. Kaine, Hillary Clinton's running mate, channeled a rabid Donald Trump better than rabid Donald Trump ever could. He was, to be kind, relentlessly obnoxious.

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A 26-member focus group composed of undecided, uncommitted Ohio voters watched with Frank Luntz, a storied GOP political consultant and pollster. Twenty-two of them give the win to Pence, saying Kaine's attacks and incessant interruptions were nettlesome. One fumed that Kaine was "small and condescending." Another said he was "Trump-like." Ouch.

A group member summed it up: "I think that Kaine was running for vice president (with) Hillary Clinton, but Pence was running for president of the United States."

That may well be the case in 2020 but, oh, were it only true now.

All of it made me think about who I could vote for in November. A vote for Hillary Clinton is unthinkable. She is so dreadfully wrong on so many things it is comical. The economy. Taxes. Bigger government. All of it. Then there is the integrity thingy. It turns out, she has none. The emails. The lying. The Clinton Foundation. The bimbo-bashing. Character in the Oval Office, after all, should count for something.

Most important are the Supreme Court nominations she would make, nominations that could touch our great-grandchildren. A Clinton court loosed on the Second Amendment, immigration and religious freedom could reduce this nation to a dystopian "Animal Farm." The woman, after all, thinks it a "great idea" to nominate Barack Obama, who never has spent a day as part of the judicial system, to the court.

How about Libertarian hopeful Gary Johnson? After all, many who are peeved at Republicans for turning into big weenies, as they too often do, flirt with libertarianism because of its government-should-butt-out foundation. Unfortunately, Libertarians are wont to go batso crazy.

A businessman and author, Johnson is struggling, his campaign beset by gaffe-bombs. He famously did not recognize Aleppo as the name of the Syrian city being bombed and shelled into oblivion since 2012. He thought Aleppo was an acronym. Then he could not, in an MSNBC interview, name one world leader he admires. Nor could he days later.

Add to that, his vice-presidential running mate, Bill Weld, a former two-term Republican governor of Massachusetts, is anti-gun. Huh?

Voting for Johnson, or anybody else — or nobody else — to avoid the elephant in the pantry is a vote for Clinton, it seems to me. Period.

Then, there is our elephant: Donald John Trump, a billionaire bigmouth, a carny barker with delusions of grandeur, a narcissist whose campaign success is fueled by the fury seething in this country. In a nation of 330 million souls, that Trump could be considered seriously for president, much less nominated by a major party, could be a sign of the End Times. No, really.

He does not have the temperament, focus or judiciousness to be president. He sits up all hours of the night, for crying out loud, tweeting, trying to get the last word in a fight with an overweight beauty queen or insulting somebody else. Imagine John Kennedy doing that. Or any president, for that matter. He is rude, crude, bombastic. Worse, he is too much like Clinton in too many ways.

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The Donald simply would be the worst serious candidate for the presidency in American history — if Clinton were not running. In the end, that is why I likely will vote for him, or for Pence, actually, while hoping for a runaway steamroller, if you get my drift.

With Clinton, the handwriting is on the wall. With Trump, hopefully, horrified establishment Republicans and apoplectic Democrats in Congress — all of whom caused this mess by ignoring the Constitution and the people — will unite to rein him in. His Supreme Court picks would be better for America than hers. His economic plan too.

It is not pretty, but sometimes you just have to hold your nose and smooch the pig until the next election.

With luck, the country still will be here.

Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com, a division of Porcaro Communications.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary@alaskadispatch.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@alaskadispatch.com or click here to submit via any web browser.