Why Peter Thiel is wrong about Donald Trump

Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee and Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal Inc.
Getty Images
Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee and Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal Inc.

Peter Thiel, the billionaire investor, whose investment credits include PayPal and Facebook, spoke recently to the National Press Club about why Donald Trump would make a good and, certainly better, president than Hillary Clinton.

Claiming that Secretary Clinton is more likely to get the U.S. into a major military conflagration was among the comparative lines that Thiel drew upon to explain his support for Mr. Trump.

By all accounts, Peter Thiel is a savvy venture capital investor. However, here's why he's wrong in his support for Donald Trump.

His most provocative claim, that Secretary Clinton is more likely to lead us into war, flies in the face of comments made by Trump himself.

Donald Trump has promised to smash ISIS and re-invest heavily in the American military. He reportedly asked military advisors that if we have nuclear weapons, why couldn't we use them?

That is hardly the stuff of diplomacy. Further, he has called NATO, the most successful military alliance in the history of the world, obsolete and suggested that unless NATO members pay more for the umbrella defense provided by the shield, they will be forced to defend themselves.

Further, in the absence of more financial contributions, Trump also suggested that Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Japan, should protect themselves, even to the point of acquiring nuclear bombs, widening the risk of massive nuclear proliferation and raising the risk of an atomic war.

Trump's economic plans, while "growthier" than those of Secretary Clinton, would, by non-partisan accounts, add trillions to the national debt, reduce, rather than enhance, employment and could lead to an outright trade war with every U.S. partner from Mexico to China.

While Mr. Thiel has suggested that the government needs to run more like a business, there is not a lot of wisdom, in my humble opinion, in that oft-repeated mantra.

Business and government cannot operate in the same manner, as their goals are wildly different.

Businesses are incorporated to serve a need, but the motive is profit. Government exists to create a social, economic and political order, or framework, in which individuals and businesses can function.

The need to make government more efficient, to align outcomes with incentives is a noble one and one with which I agree. Rooting out corruption is necessary, as well. But there is no evidence that Mr. Trump's business history would lead to any of those outcomes. Say what you will about Hillary Clinton, but Mr. Trump's track record is not among the most distinguished in business history.

Mr. Thiel, himself, may be a better choice than Mr. Trump!

The attributes of a great political leader are often different, or possibly even in opposition to, the attributes of a successful businessman.

Think Washington, Lincoln, Gandhi, the Roosevelts, Churchill, Reagan or Thatcher.

The skill set required for great national leadership doesn't reside in being rich. It rests on a richness of ideas and the ability to steer them through the bureaucratic process that is government.

But sometimes having wealth makes people, and those around them, believe they are more than the sum of their bank accounts.

There's an old Yiddish saying "If you have money, you are wise and good-looking and can sing well, too."

That joke may ring all too true if Mr. Trump wins. Then we can only hope that in addition to his self-described wealth and good-looks that he actually becomes wise and learns to sing.

Commentary by Ron Insana, a CNBC and MSNBC contributor and the author of four books on Wall Street. Follow him on Twitter @rinsana.

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.