You don't have to like Hillary Clinton - but you do have to realise we need her

She is in many ways a weak candidate, which is why Sanders runs her close. But does any of that matter when weighed against what could happen in the Middle East?

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The Independent Online

The time must come, even in Republican politics, when the laughter has to stop. Judging by the South Carolina primary result, that time is close.

After Donald Trump’s victory, the GOP nomination is a two-horse race. Jeb Bush has quit, because this is no time for dull and decent. For the same reason, Ohio governor John Kasich will do the same. So will Ben Carson, the seemingly self-lobotomised brain surgeon with single-digit support.

As for indescribably creepy Ted Cruz, the writing is on the wall for the Texas senator. A third-place finish in born again-dominated South Carolina, a state that looked tailor-made for his psychosis-inducing praise-be evangelism, is the beginning of his end. 

There now begins a mano-a-mano scrap between Trump and Marco Rubio, the young and relatively pretty Cuban-American from Florida. Trump is Betfair’s favourite to be running for the White House come November, but only by a whisper. It currently rates Rubio a 45 per cent chance.

And so the time approaches to cease the giggling. I can’t pretend it will be easy. Whatever you think of Trump, no one can deny his value as an entertainer, which is why his success has been a guilty pleasure. 

Even when the laughter abates, I will be on my knees begging the Creator to make his success continue, and for this simple reason. At this moment in history, more perhaps than at any moment since the Second World War, the world needs a grown-up in the White House. And the only one on offer this surreal election season is Hillary Clinton, who appears to have the Democratic nomination sewn up (albeit with an attritional battle for delegates ahead) after beating Bernie Sanders in Nevada.

Hillary, who like Trump is pushing 70, may be old by presidential standards, and after decades on the scene she is undeniably stale. She is in many ways a weak candidate, which is why the even older demi-socialist Sanders runs her close. But does any of that matter when weighed against the potential for the Middle East, that tinderbox of a region, to spark a forest fire far beyond its land mass? 

The civil war in Syria rages on after a farcical “ceasefire”. Apart from with the vast migration of refugees and continuing threat from Isis, Russia and Turkey are now flirting with war. As for Iran, the survival of the deal with which Obama coaxed Tehran away from developing nuclear weaponrydepends on Hillary succeeding him. 

The leading Republican candidates insist they will attack Iran, as John McCain promised to do in 2008. You may recall that his unofficial campaign song was “Bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb-Iran.” What would the world look like today had a President McCain parlayed that droll adaptation of Barbara Ann into targeting cruise missiles at Iran’s nuclear plants? It doesn’t bear imagining.

Obama’s presidency may one day be revered as much for the wars he avoided as universal(ish) health care and rescuing the US economy from the edge of the precipice. History may one day judge him a very good, even great, President for what he did not do in the Middle East – and Hillary would largely continue his policy doing nothing to inflame an already white-hot region. 

On the other hand, Trump’s policy may be precised as 1) kill ’em all; 2) take out Iran; 3) win-win-win; and 4) kill some more – but it can be ignored since it is so unlikely that a contender with his unfavourable ratings among independent voters could beat Son of Sam or the Unabomber, let alone Hillary.

Rubio’s foreign policy cannot be ignored, because he might well beat Hillary. For her, an articulate 40-something Latino with a juicy back story and a cute way of projecting the platitudinous rot about America’s best days lying ahead is trouble. America is a young country and its people natural optimists. Almost invariably, they plump for hope over experience and schmaltzy sentiment over hard-boiled reality.

Rubio’s foreign policy is George W Bush’s foreign policy. The implications of thatneed no spelling out. So when the Republican nomination devolves into a two-way fight, as it soon will, I suggest you join me in prayer that Donald Trump beats Rubio to the nomination. You don’t have to like her and you need not respect her. But you need her, and her vast experience as Secretary of State (not to mention Bill’s respectful advice as First Gentleman). 

This is no time, as Gordon Brown once said of Hillary’s little friend David Miliband, for a novice. Marco Rubio might be the most dangerous novice in modern history. He may cut an unlikely altruist, but when the laughter finally stops, Donald Trump has deadly serious work ahead of him – on behalf of us all.