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A DAY IN THE LIFE OF THE 2016 CAMPAIGN
by Marc Jampole
CONTEMPLATING a day in the life of the current American presidential campaign is enough to make a sane person want to blow “his mind out in a car.” You know, the race between a “lucky man who [never] made the grade” and an experienced, intelligent woman with enough great ideas to fill all the “holes in Blackburn, Lancashire.”
All references to the Beatles aside, yesterday’s 24-hour slice of insanity is a reminder that we all should refrain from using the expression “a new low” until after November 8th.
Let’s start with Donald Trump, who after he “dragged a comb across” his head made the completely unsubstantiated accusation that Hillary Clinton has fooled around on President Bill. First of all, there is absolutely no proof, not a shred of evidence, not a soupcon of rumor that Hillary has ever been anything but a completely faithful wife to her husband. Beyond that is the deeper question of why it should matter. And why should it? We know that Presidents F. Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, G.W. Bush and Clinton all had affairs, and that Trump himself had affairs during both his first two marriages. Why is it anyone’s business? How does it make a candidate less fit for office?
Perhaps the answer came from Rudy Giuliani, who on the very same day that Trumpty-Dumpty tried to paint an A on Hillary’s forehead stated explicitly that being a woman was a flaw for a president. His exact words: “Don’t you think a man who has this kind of economic genius is a lot better for the United States than a woman, and the only thing she’s ever produced is a lot of work for the FBI checking out her emails.” Note that Rudy, another man who cavorted publicly with a woman other than his wife, did not say “a woman who did such and such.” No, he stopped the complete thought expressed in an independent clause with the word “woman.” His statement, when parsed of its grammatical excrescences, reduces to “Don’t you think a man is a lot better for the United States than a woman.” It was so shocking an example of the misogyny animating much of the Trump campaign and the GOP agenda that, “Well, I just had to laugh.”
BUT WAIT, it gets worse. I thought “I went into a dream” because Donald Trump could not have possibly have said to a group of veterans that soldiers and vets suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder are themselves to blame for a lack of character. But it wasn’t a dream. Trumpty-Dumpty’s exact words: “When you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat — and they see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over and you’re strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can’t handle it.” Most commentators have focused on his heartless statement that “a lot of people can’t handle it.” Perhaps what’s worse is his clueless patronizing of his audience by assuming that all of them can “handle it.” Statistically speaking, the only way to make sure that a room full of vets contain no one suffering from PSTD is to set that as the criteria for entry. And even then, I’m certain that a sufferer would slip in because so many veterans find it hard to admit they need help for the nightmares, rage, depression and behavior disorders plaguing them. It was another instance of Trump talking to one group of people about “those other people” not like us. He paints an insulting and overly dire picture of the current status of African-Americans and claims a nonexistent threat of terrorism posed by immigrants in front of lily-white groups. But this time it backfired. At a gathering of veterans, he almost assuredly insulted and shamed many of those present and made that “crowd of people turn away.”
Finally was the news that the New York State attorney general issued an order preventing the Trump Foundation from soliciting funds in the state, the latest shoe to drop in the continuing scandal of a foundation that has done little but illegally use OPM (other people’s money) to solve Trump’s legal problems or buy him expensive geegaws.
Another major Trump scandal — his taking a tax write-off of nearly a billion dollars in 1995 — continued to play out, with Trump surrogates claiming that the fact he lost all that money and then used it against future earnings was sheer genius. None point out that Trump’s high living on the corporate nickel contributed to the great losses declared not only by him, but by the many vendors and investors who took a bath in his major bankruptcies. At least Hillary has the savvy to know, and point out, that Trump’s losses came primarily in an industry — gambling— which at the time was minting money for everyone else.
The most absurd moment of this decidedly looking-glass day was when Neil Cavuto, a Fox News business guru and anchor, needed an expert to help him discuss the significance of Trump’s tax losses. Unable to find a reputable economist or tax expert willing to praise Trump for his genius, Neil engaged in batting Trump messages back and forth with a has-been, never-was actor with no business or academic creds named Scott Baio.
As a left-winger and ardent Hillary supporter, I should be overjoyed that the Trump campaign has perfected the knack of digging itself into a hole about four thousand times larger than Albert Hall.
But then . . .
I read the news today. Oy vey.
THE MAINSTREAM news media continue to try to shore up Trump’s campaign in many subtle ways. Take National Public Radio, which first interviewed an ardent Trump supporter and then interviewed a reluctant Clinton supporter. In other words, NPR chose to highlight the false narrative about the two campaigns that the mainstream news media created months ago out of pure phlogiston. There is plenty of enthusiasm about Hillary out there — about her programs, about her experience, and most certainly about the fact that she is the first woman major party nominee. Her party’s leaders are unified as virtually never before. Money is pouring in from small and large donors. Her rallies are as boisterous as Trump’s, although far from as rowdy. But the news media ignores all the evidence of Hillary-mania in favor of a false narrative that because it has been repeated so often has become the central story of her campaign.
Meanwhile, the New York Times, whose editorials claim to deplore the deplorable Trumpty-Dumpty, continue to provide subtle support to him in the news pages. Once again, Trump stories dominated: Five stories about the Donald and only one about Hillary. While it’s true that several of the stories were negative, the Times still managed to help him in three ways:
- It dedicated an entire story to Trump’s vow to bolster U.S. cybersecurity defenses, mostly his typical bloviating about the problem and he will solve it, without going into many details, unless you consider creating a task force and asking for recommendations a plan. This article says nothing about Hillary’s plans, but it does mention Trump’s painful comments about PTSD sufferers deep into the story where almost no one would see it. Why didn’t the comments get the headline or their own story?
- The headline of the one Hillary story focuses on her reaction to the release of three pages from Trump’s 1995 tax returns. This one Hillary story could have just as easily featured her renewed call yesterday to foster greater economic equality by raising the minimum wage, bolstering labor unions and offering tax incentives to companies that share profits with employees. The headline could also have touted Hillary’s most recent endorser, LeBron James. But instead of presenting a candidate with views and plans, the Times turned Hillary into another bit player commenting on the foibles of the tragically comic white male protagonist, Donald Trump.
- The Times front page story analyzing how detrimental to the economy it would be to unravel the North American Free Trade Agreement references Trump’s opinions on the issue and not Hillary’s. Anyone paying attention already knows that Hillary knows everything there is to know about NAFTA and its impact and Trump is badly misinformed except when he’s telling pants-on-fire lies. President Obama’s views are also noted in the article, so in a real sense, the Times is equating Trump with Obama. It couldn’t be because they are both presidential, because Trump’s not. Nor is Donald the leader of his party. That’s Paul Ryan. Maybe it’s because both Trump and our President are men? Subtle sexism or conflation of Trump with Obama?—whatever the reason, the result raises Trumpty-Dumpty’s prestige and lowers Hillary’s.
I wish I could say it was a dream or “I saw a film today,” but it’s the reality of the 2016 election campaign.
No wonder that, like more and more people, I find myself staring wide-eyed at the television, radio, newspaper, tablet or monitor and screaming “I’d love to turn you off.”
Marc Jampole, a member of our editorial board, is a poet and writer who runs Jampole Communications, a public relations and communications firm in Pittsburgh. He blogs several times a week at OpEdge.