The seemingly certain nominees of both of America’s major political parties have already announced their intention to hurl all sorts of horrible accusations about one another’s low moral character over the summer and into the fall, and alas, almost every word of it will be true.
Both candidates have been in the public eye for several decades, and according to all the opinion polls are unfavorably regarded by the vast majority of the public, and at this point the only plausible argument for either of them is that the other is even worse, so there’s really nothing left to do but throw the plentiful supplies of mud. They could talk about the many serious issues facing the country, but that’s not nearly so entertaining to the public, and there’s no telling where either of them might end up on any of that stuff by Inauguration Day in any case.
The presumptive Republican nominee, self-described billionaire businessman Donald J. Trump, has quite characteristically bragged to The New York Times about his plans to insult his way to the presidency, and it seems a sound strategy. He has somehow managed to dispatch a large field of far more qualified and honorable candidates in the primary campaign by this method, and in the general election he won’t have to resort to outright lies and exaggerated irrelevancies to do it. The Democratic nominee is former First Lady and Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has disgraced each post with her corrupt and dishonest and downright sleazy ways, and her numerous ancient and on-going scandals and glaring failings as a human being are certainly something one should take into consideration when making her the putative leader of the free world. Still, the strategy entails certain risks.
Clinton and her equally corrupt and dishonest and downright sleazy ex-President of the United States husband are responsible for the coinage of the term “politics of personal destruction,” and in all their mostly-won battles they’ve rarely had a more target-rich terrain than Trump. The presumptive Republican nominee is a thrice-married and four-times-bankrupt casino-and-strip-joint mogul and former professional-wrestling and reality-show star who ran a scam university and vitamin-peddling scheme who has run several businesses into the ground and brags about the politicians he’s bought off and the married babes he’s bagged and mocks a guy’s physical handicap and cheats at golf, and all the scandals yet to come on both sides will often overlap.
Trump has rightly declared that Bill Clinton’s many tawdry sex scandals are fair game, and Clinton has already rightly responded that the equally tawdry sex life Trump has so often bragged about should also be considered. Trump might even bring up the at-this-point-little-known fact that Bill Clinton has been hanging around with convicted billionaire ephebophile Jeffrey Epstein, which well deserves wider attention, but Clinton can easily cite that pesky 2002 New York Magazine interview where Trump said “I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side.” He can cite the shady nature of the Clinton’s family foundation, and she can cite the $100,000 donation he gave to it. He can damn the truly damnable lies she told in the aftermath of her disastrous toppling of the Libyan government, but she can note that his claims to have opposed that ill-fated missions are also damnable lies and if she insinuates that the never-take-blame and blatantly dishonest Trump would have resorted to the same mistruths we’ll have to give the devil her due. If Trump wants to go back in time he can recall how Clinton ruthlessly used her husband’s presidential power to railroad an honest public servant in the White House travel office to enrich her friends, and Clinton will surely make a celebrity of the humble widow that Trump’s lawyers tried to have evicted from home so he could build a parking lot for his limo. Trump is so sleazy he invited Clinton to his third wedding, and Clinton is so sleazy she accepted the invitation, and in a year that was supposed to have toppled our sleazy pop-cultural and political establishment this is what we’re left with.
All our previous assumptions about America having been shattered, we now have no idea how it will turn out. Such old-time media as The New York Times and The Washington Post will continue to be aghast at the moral rectitude of Trump, and continue for at least another four years to turn a blind eye to the vileness of the Clintons. Such new-fangled and self-described conservative media as Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, who were once so aghast at the Clintons’ moral rectitude, will continue to turn a blind eye to the vileness that Trump actually brags about. By now none of them are much trusted by almost anyone, though, so we never can guess which one of those awful reality shows is going to be the big hit, so the race is hard to handicap. It might all come down to the racial and ethnic and class divisions that have been so thoroughly exacerbated after the eight years of “Hope and Change” that the last huckster brought us, and the inevitable brawls that have already begun, but that’s also hard to figure these days.
— Bud Norman