Opinion: Little common sense and no brilliance

File photo/Sophie Park/The New York Times / Former President and GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Manchester, New Hampshire, on April 27, 2023.

The recent televised town hall with former President Donald Trump attracted CNN's largest prime-time audience since July 21, 2022. That's when CNN drew 3.2 million viewers for the final televised hearing of the Jan. 6 investigative committee. The town hall's 3.3 million viewers was the second largest audience for any single-candidate town hall on CNN since 2016; the largest was an April 2020 sit-down with Joe Biden, which drew 3.5 million viewers. One Trump adviser characterized the event this way: "The hand of God is on President Trump ... He was able to go into the lion's den just like Daniel and come out stronger than he went in."

Trump bragged about the ratings and insisted on social media he'd changed many minds with his "Common Sense and sheer Brilliance." Oy! Does anyone want to hear his lies about the 2020 election again? Or endure his misogyny when he called the female interviewer a "nasty person" and maligning the woman he'd just been convicted of sexually assaulting and defaming? Alyssa Farah Griffin, a co-host on "The View" and Trump's former White House communications director, expressed my feelings well: "It was doubling down on grievance to his base with the same tired shtick ... [and] showed how horrendously unappealing he is to moderate Republicans, and he's radioactive to independents."

One of his most sickening moments came when he declined to say whether he'd like to see Russia or Ukraine win the war and refused to say Russian President Vladimir Putin is a war criminal. Trump's past actions toward Ukraine and his view that we've already spent too much on weaponry prompted Kevin Madden, a Republican strategist and former adviser to Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign, to say, "There's just a lot of evidence that Trump was wrong on this issue and that in many ways, we undermined the NATO alliance and we undermined Zelenskyy's position in the eyes of Russia." Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a potential rival for the GOP presidential nomination next year, put it more bluntly. He called the former president a "puppet of Putin."

There are reports that some European diplomats and officials are concerned by Trump's town hall comments. However, they also have noted that he has a history of making outlandish and contradictory statements, especially on foreign affairs, and until, and unless, he becomes president again, his words are irrelevant.

If this war isn't over by next year's election, I am concerned that too many Americans will lose sight of the implications of this war. If we elect someone who withdraws our support from Ukraine, the message will be loud and clear that Americans cannot be depended upon, that our policies shift and we are unreliable. Russia is probably banking on that. But what will that do to Ukraine? To Europe? And to Taiwan, which looks to us for support against aggression from China? Nothing good.

Trump is unfit for office; his lies, misogyny and cruelty make for high stakes for our democracy in the upcoming election. But the consequences of next year's elections extend far beyond our borders. The outcome of the war in Ukraine likely will dictate our position in the world for decades.

We cannot fall prey to the "hand of God" argument as Trump promises a quick fix in Ukraine in 24 hours. We must use our own common sense, pay close attention and vote wisely in the next election. As my father was fond of saying, "God helps those who help themselves."

Contact Deborah Levine, an author, trainer/coach and editor of the American Diversity Report, at deborah@diversityreport.com.