Former World Bank chief Robert Zoellick tells DW why he doesn’t want Donald Trump in the White House and why he thinks Hillary Clinton will win. He also has some advice on how the next president should deal with Europe.
DW: You, along with many leading Republicans, have strongly opposed Donald Trump on foreign and economic policy, declaring that you could not vote for him as he “would be the most reckless president in American history.” Do you still stand by your assessment of Trump?
Robert Zoellick: I do. This is a particularly unusual election in the American experience. On the one hand, Hillary Clinton is an establishment figure running a traditional campaign by the rules of the past. But the rules are in flux. Donald Trump, on the other hand, is taking the view that this system is fundamentally broken. He wants to run on change, that he, as an outsider, is the person who can deliver change. And he uses his business experience, but especially, what I found a particularly troubling element – the notion that part of the problem is caused by “the other.” And “the other” may be Mexicans, Muslims or other foreigners. We have seen before in history what happens when countries blamed problems on others.
My belief differences with Trump were not only placed on policy – his protectionism, his infatuation with authoritarian leaders and [Russian President] Vladimir Putin. But also that I think he is a narcissistic, ego-driven person and that he would be dangerous. I have had the good fortune to serve a number of different presidents and I know the importance of that job and I don’t want him in the Oval Office.
What is your take then on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the FBI’s new probe into emails possibly related to its earlier investigation?
She represents the establishment on the Democratic side. One of the ironies is that if the Democrats didn’t have the so-called super delegates she might not have been the nominee, she might have lost to Bernie Sanders. So this populist movement is a phenomenon on the left and on the right. That will affect her if she is elected president because the Democratic Party is no longer the party of 1990s when her husband was president. You can already see that Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and others are warning that there is a blacklist of people you can’t appoint.
That question will be quite significant for the future if she is elected. Because the question is whether she will try to move to the center, and in the process try to realign some of the parties and pick up some Republicans over time, as I think she will pick up some votes from Republicans. But at the same time in our system, unlike the German parliamentary system, you have to work with Congress. So I personally think she has more of the personality to work with Congress than President Obama did.
You went into that already a bit, but perhaps you can elaborate a little who you think would be a better president for Europe and the world and why?
I think Trump is dangerous on all fronts. I think a President Clinton will take a firmer policy towards Russia without necessarily being belligerent. But she has backed herself into a corner on trade issues, which I don’t think is good for Europe, or the US, or others. There are ways she can work around that and her early appointments like the US trade representative will be important in signaling that. I also think whether it’s President Obama or the next president, the United States and Germany have taken each other a little bit for granted. I think there are things the US could do, for example with the Brexit negotiations that would be supportive of the process between the EU and Britain.
Similarly, I think with a country like Poland, with which the US has traditionally strong ties – and the Poles rely on the US for security – there are ways the US could maybe be supportive of saying to the Poles you are going to have to be more cooperative in the overall system because there are signs in Poland and Hungary that look a little bit like the interwar period. There are different ways the United States could be supportive, but I am not sure President Clinton and her team would be creative in that way. They might be prone to leave Europe to the Europeans. While the Europeans, of course, have to be the ones who make the decisions, I think the United States could be supportive and helpful.
You clearly prefer Hillary Clinton over Trump, so will you vote for her and what is your prediction for the election?
I have said I will not vote for Trump, but in the United States who you vote for is a secret ballot. I have already cast mine, because I had an absentee ballot, because I was expecting to be away.
I don’t suspect this most recent FBI report to be a game changer and I would still give Hillary Clinton about 70 percent of the odds. And part of that is because of the electoral college in the US system where you win a state, you win all of the votes of that state. But the reason we have elections is so that voters can decide. We have elections next Tuesday, but if had to place a bet, I would say by Wednesday we will be congratulating President Clinton.
The Republican Party has been torn apart by Donald Trump in this campaign. What does the future of the GOP look like after the election?
That’s another very uncertain question. I think part of it depends on Trump’s final performance. I see three factions. One will be people closely associated with Trump, and assuming he loses, that will seek revenge and retaliation and the continuation of the anger that he has represented.
There is another group associated with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas who will be competing with the vice presidential nominee, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana, which will take the view that Trump was correct and the system is broken and we need change, but he wasn’t conservative enough.
And then there will be many others including many Republican governors and House Speaker Paul Ryan who favor more inclusive policies, and they will take different positions. How that works out will be hard to say. I also think you might see a generational change as people look for fresh faces.
Robert Zoellick was president of the World Bank from 2007 to 2012. Before that he served in several Republican administrations, including as deputy secretary of state and US trade representative.