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Can I vote for Trump?

A conservative university professor explains why George Will's take on Donald Trump will effect his own presidential vote this election.

A question has confronted me daily for months: Am I going to vote for Donald Trump?

I am an outspoken, conservative professor, and I have some views consistent with Mr. Trump: I want military troop action against ISIS, and I am for smaller, less intrusive government.

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But Mr. Trump's petulance, his trashing of everyone who dares to disagree with him, is alarming — especially when paired with his wild changes of positions, changes that cannot be reconciled as "evolving." He supports abortion, then he doesn't; he supports the Iraq War — no, he opposes it; he was definitely for Libya intervention, until he wasn't. The list goes on.

Yet, the argument "if not Mr. Trump, then Hillary Clinton," has been persuasive. To not vote for Hillary's main opponent would help elect a person who lied to distraught relatives of those who underwent Benghazi terror and who displays lowly ethical standards that are impossible to fully catalog.

But now my preeminent conservative role model has chimed in, further complicating things.

In the 40 years I have been a professor at Towson University, I have had three contemporaneous heroes: William F. Buckley, Tennessee Sen. Howard Baker and columnist George F. Will.

Buckley, who died in 2008, was as articulate and personally compelling as any conservative I have read; he invited me to be a guest on his Firing Line show. Baker, who died in 2014, was the personification of my political philosophy in that he was a serious internationalist who realized the critical nature of active United States leadership abroad. And Mr. Will, a Washington Post columnist and Fox News contributor, has helped shape my views on foreign policy and domestic policy. Mr. Will also sports the type-B personality all of us type-A personalities yearn to have.

I have been so impressed by Mr. Will's brilliant elocution, political judgment and demeanor that I helped arrange for him to speak at Towson once decades ago and fought for him to speak a second time, when an irresponsible Student Government president nixed him, after agreeing to offer him a contract, because he was "too conservative for Towson." As Mr. Will would write, "Well."

According to a recent piece in PJ Media, Mr. Will, in an interview following a speech at a Federalist Society lunch, an organization of conservatives and libertarians, stated his unequivocal view of the right's obligations to their country regarding Mr. Trump: "Make sure he loses. Grit [your] teeth for four years and win the White House."

Mr. Will also stated in his speech that he dropped his registration as a Republican. "This is not my party," he said. Days ago, in a column, he also urged donors not to give to Donald Trump.

I do not change my mind on a candidate due only to an admirable fellow conservative's position announcement, however revered he may be. I do not agree, for example, with Mr. Will's criticism of Paul Ryan's endorsement of Mr. Trump as puzzling and inconsistent. House Speaker Ryan has loyalty to the Republican party that requires deftness and possible support for Mr. Trump. Mr. Will has fewer responsibilities and ramifications about which to worry.

But I have taken his position into consideration as I struggle with this choice between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Mr. Will has argued that it was better to have Hillary Clinton as president with a Republican Congress, but no one knows if that would be the election result. We also don't know what a President Trump stands for.

So I ask myself: Could I possibly support a candidate for president whose policies have no clear value premises? Who announces goals but is uninterested in outlining the policies that will be associated with them? Could I justify choosing someone who in a fit of pique could endanger the lives of my children and other young Americans?

I cannot. I shall vote, but not vote for Donald Trump — nor for Hillary Clinton.

Richard Vatz (rvatz@towson.edu) is a professor of political persuasion at Towson University. He is the author of "The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion" (Kendall Hunt, 2013).

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