Washington Watch: America’s R-rated presidential campaign

What should be a unique learning experience about American democracy in action has become an R-rated assault on the senses.

Clinton, Trump, Sanders and Cruz (photo credit: REUTERS)
Clinton, Trump, Sanders and Cruz
(photo credit: REUTERS)
I’m a news junkie but I don’t want my young granddaughters watching the television coverage of presidential campaign because so much of it is simply unsuitable for children. And I fear it will poison them against politics and government before they’re even old enough to vote.
What should be a unique learning experience about American democracy in action has become an R-rated assault on the senses.
I’ve voted in every single primary, local and national election since I was old enough to do so, and I’ve never seen one like this. Not Nixon’s dirty tricks, not LBJ’s daisy petals, not George H.W. Bush’s Willy Horton (if you don’t remember, Google them).
“Although political campaigns are inherently combative, no presidential campaign in American history has ever approached this level of debasement,” said Ralph Nurnberger, who taught American history and politics at Georgetown University for over 35 years.
“The disgusting, shameful and tawdry behavior” of GOP contenders Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, he said, “underscores that neither is temperamentally suited to be president of the United States.”
Who ever would have expected a leading presidential candidate to boast of his penis size and or be involved in a controversy over publication of nude pictures of his latest trophy wife? Now Trump is re-tweeting unflattering pictures of Heidi Cruz as a story is circulating in a scandal sheet – that has endorsed Trump and is published by a close friend – accusing Senator Cruz of having five mistresses.
He’s threatening more attacks “that I don’t want to talk about.”
You can be sure it will only get sleazier if Trump is the Republican nominee and Hillary Clinton is the Democratic candidate.
He can be counted on to rehash Bill Clinton’s scandals of the 1990s and find a way to smear the former secretary of state in ways we can’t yet imagine.
The master tweeter apparently saves his most vicious tweets till late at night. Maybe that’s because they’re not suited for prime time.
My granddaughters can watch the Democratic campaign because both Clinton and Bernie Sanders are running clean and issue-oriented, albeit aggressive, campaigns. Pristine, by comparison to the GOP.
It’s more than the GOP’s sex and sleaze that are unsuitable for children. Especially young girls.
Trump delights in demeaning women with words like “bimbo,” “dog,” “fat pig,” “slobs,” “disgusting animals” and “shrill,” while ridiculing them for their appearance, menstrual cycles and toilet breaks.
He boasts about his adultery and sexual conquests with married women and has the chutzpa to attack Hillary Clinton for her husband’s.
Josh Marshall, editor of TalkingPointsMemo, called Trump “an unreconstructed, unabashed and angry male chauvinist against a women of great power and accomplishment who can more than hold her own against him.”
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found “there isn’t a single women’s group” in which Trump beats Clinton. In 2012 women were 53 percent of the presidential electorate.
Compounding their revulsion with his misogyny is their excitement over the opportunity to elect the first woman president.
Trump is the poster boy for everything parents want their children to avoid. He is the playground bully and a braggart who relishes starting fights and then blaming everyone else for the violence.
Where parents want to teach their children about tolerance, he preaches racism, bigotry, immigrant-bashing and lying.
The meaner and more threatening Trump’s tweets become, the more his followers seem inspired to lash out at his targets. Many of these have taken a decidedly anti-Semitic tone when those critics are Jewish.
According to one NBC report, “the harassment has often reference the Holocaust gas chambers.”
At a rally in Kansas City, two Trumpsters gave Nazistyle salutes and one yelled at reporters – the media, more than women, is Trump’s favorite hate target – “go to Auschwitz! Go to f***ing Auschwitz!” Trump asked supporters to raise their right arms and promise to vote for him, but when it looked to many like Nazi salutes at a Hitler rally, he stopped.
We live in a pluralistic society and many of our children’s and grandchildren’s friends are the children of immigrants or observe other religions. Some are gay or come from LGBT homes. What is Trump saying to them? He calls Mexicans criminals and drug dealers, wants to ban Muslims from entering the country, questions whether Mitt Romney is really a Mormon, admires Mussolini, lumps Jewish federations with white extremist groups, is reluctant to reject endorsements by David Duke and Louis Farrakhan and, according to an ex-wife, keeps a book of Hitler’s speeches at his bedside.
If he can turn on Hispanics and Muslims there’s no reason he won’t turn on Jews as well when it suits him, even if his daughter gave birth this week to his third Jewish grandchild.
Secretary of State John Kerry said world leaders are shocked by the Republican campaign rhetoric, and added, “What’s happening is an embarrassment to our country.” They’ll get over it, but what about our own children? Too many young people today are already turned off by politics, and the Republican descent into the gutter can only make it worse. Not only won’t they want to participate but they’ll be turned off from seeking careers in public service if they know the “reward” is harassment, denigration and abuse.
Trump responds to accusations that he is smearing people by insisting he’s blameless because he’s only repeating what he claims others have said.
He has inspired and at times encouraged violence – saying demonstrators should be “roughed up” – by his supporters. When one sucker-punched a black protester being escorted from a rally, and despite video coverage proving the attack was unprovoked, Trump tried accusing the victim of causing the incident.
Trump insists his followers are peaceful and the violence is the work of paid provocateurs from other campaigns. More than once he accused “Bernie, our communist friend,” of sending the protesters.
Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster who uses focus groups to measure voter sentiment, said the responses he’s been getting to the Trump-Cruz exchanges include statements like “sophomoric,” “embarrassment,” “disappointing,” “shameful,” “despicable,” “angering” and “schoolyard brawl,” reported The Washington Post.
And those are just Republicans.
Trump specializes in insults that get under the skin of rivals, starting with demeaning nicknames. He also uses personal attacks to deflect from dealing with serious issues and it has worked quite well for him, as he turned from discussing last week’s terrorist attacks in Belgium to threatening to “spill the beans” on Cruz’s wife.
Presidential campaigns are historic events that should educate and inspire young citizens. This year it is becoming quite the opposite.
Trump talks about making America great, but all he’s doing is making America hate. And he is making many despair over a political system that seems to have unraveled