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Victor Davis Hanson is the Wayne & Marcia Buske Dis­tin­guished Fellow in History at Hillsdale College where he teaches a course on history and clas­sical culture every fall. He is also the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Res­i­dence in Classics and Mil­itary History at the Hoover Insti­tution at Stanford Uni­versity. Hanson spoke at Hillsdale Sept. 17 in review of the Sept. 16 GOP primary debate.

When you survey the field of Repub­lican pres­i­dential can­di­dates does anyone in par­ticular stand out in your mind?

That changes each week, doesn’t it? We haven’t had a primary yet, so we don’t know. But right now I think the more viable people like [Marco] Rubio and probably Carly Fiorina. Donald Trump has ener­gized the field… I don’t think he’s a sus­tainable can­didate. The people that everybody thought were going to be the most durable were Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and so far that hasn’t been true.

Donald Trump has been leading in most of the recent polls. Do you think his can­didacy is a summer fling with the voters? Do you not see him as being a long-term con­tender?

It’s like a martini. It tastes really good and relaxes you, and then if you keep drinking it’ll kill you. He’s good for the Repub­lican Party now, but they have to find a way to channel his energy and not alienate his base. Or he has to change and get a detailed agenda. So far it’s “tremendous,” “won­derful,” “I’ll make your head spin,” but no specifics.

What specifics do you foresee dom­i­nating the con­ver­sation during the primary and general elec­tions?

I think it should be two. It should be the debt; we’re going to approach $20 trillion in debt. And should the interest rates be any­thing other than zero percent, as they are now, it could take a third of the budget just to service the debt that we’ve run up the last seven years. And then the col­lapse of American foreign policy in the Middle East and the dangers from the Iran deal to ISIS to the entire region with the immi­gration to Europe.

Do you think a can­didate like Bernie Sanders could plau­sibly unseat Hillary Clinton from the Demo­c­ratic nom­i­nation?

No, not at all. He’s like Howard Dean. He hasn’t had his scream yet, but he will fade. He’s posing as an out­sider, fresh, pop­ulist. And everybody knows he’s an insider, tired, socialist. He’s going to cap­tivate the cam­puses, but he won’t appeal to enough [people]. I think it’ll probably be Hillary Clinton, unless she’s indicted, which I gave that probably about a 30 percent chance depending on how Valerie Jarrett feels on any given day in the White House. And if Joe Biden were to jump in, I think he’d give Hillary a serious run for her money.

What con­cerns do you think a 2016 pres­i­dential has that the can­di­dates in 2012 may have not? How has the country changed since then?

We’re $8 trillion greater in debt. We’ve had zero interest rates for seven years, and that’s trans­ferred tril­lions of dollars out of the pockets of the passbook-holding middle class into the stock market. If we had this con­ver­sation in 2012, Iraq hadn’t blown up. We didn’t have Mogadishu in the Mediter­ranean and Libya quite yet. ISIS, as the pres­ident said, was a JV orga­ni­zation. Putin had not really flexed his muscles in eastern Ukraine, and we didn’t have the Iran deal. Things have gotten very dan­gerous. And we have a year left of this admin­is­tration. Leg­isla­tively they’re stonewalled, so he’s doing things with exec­utive orders that I don’t think we’ve seen — even in the Nixon and Johnson admin­is­tra­tions.

You just taught a course at Hillsdale College on “His­torical Lead­ership: Ancient and Modern.” What lead­ership qual­ities do you look for in a pres­i­dential can­didate?

I think the most important is courage. Audacity. [Georges Jacques] Danton said, “Audacity, audacity, always more audacity.” The ability to take a position that’s not popular and win people over to your side. That requires that you have to be knowledge. You have to be informed… strength, not wor­rying about the media or what critics say. You have to be able to artic­ulate well, speak well. I hate to say it, but you have to be pre­sentable to the public and vig­orous, healthy. Would you believe it, but Eliz­abeth Warren is only a year and a half younger than Hillary Clinton. They don’t seem that way. Eliz­abeth Warren seems 20 years younger. Maybe she sounds 30 years older as a neo-socialist, but those are important traits, and I think Hillary doesn’t have those right now. She looks tired, worn, unhealthy. Marco Rubio is a good example of youthful vigor.