The Presidential Race to the Bottom

Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump granted an interview to The New York Times on Friday, and it included a most remarkable quote that succinctly sums up the race thus far. “She’s nasty,” Trump said, referring of course to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, “but I can be nastier than she ever can be.”
Trump tried his best to live up to the boast over the weekend, regaling a typically raucous crowd in Mannheim, Pennsylvania, with a conspiracy theory about his over-amplified microphone at last week’s debate, boasting of his presidential temperament while alleging that his opponent “could be crazy, she could actually be crazy,” leading cheers for her to be sent to prison, doing some physical comedy schtick about her recent health problems, intimating that she’d been disloyal to her husband and adding that “Why should she be?” He also warned the audience that any movie they go to see after a Trump rally was bound to be less entertaining, given how bad Hollywood is these days, then nostalgically reminisced about his long run on a reality television program, and eventually got around to being appalled by some recently released and supposedly disparaging remarks Clinton once made about the supporters of her vanquished Democratic rival Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whom Trump referred to as “Crazy Bernie.”
By all accounts the crowd loved it, and we expect that Trump’s most loyal supporters elsewhere were similarly entertained, but one wonders what the rest of the country will make of it. Those basement-dwelling supporters of the self-described socialist Sanders are unlikely to switch a self-described billionaire, and the majority of Americans of who have expressed doubts about Trump’s presidential temperament probably won’t be impressed, nor do we see Trump improving his standings with that pesky woman portion of the country.
Clinton can be pretty darned nasty herself, as even Trump has acknowledged to The New York Times, and we expect she’s ready to hurl her own accusations of conspiracies and criminal behavior and physical unfitness and infidelity, and she’ll have plenty of material on had to do so. She also has a knack for baiting Trump into distracting feuds with the parents of fallen soldiers and slightly fattened beauty queens, and has the help of a ruthless press that’s lately been leaking some embarrassing tax information and various other business-related scandals about her opponent, and after so many years of politics she has a better knack for seem presidential while down in the muck. In any case, we’re sure her most loyal supporters will approve no matter how nasty she gets.
By now both of the candidates’ most loyal supporters regard their nastiness as a virtue. Trump supporters are so convinced that Clinton and her left-wing cabal are so low-down that lower-down tacts are needed to defeat them, while Clinton acolytes are equally convinced they’re fighting such a fascistic force that the most bare-knuckled tactics are required. That’s why Trump is bragging to the press than he’s the nastier of the two, and why Clinton will no doubt try to prove him wrong.
With apologies to Irving Berlin, we’ve already written the score for their next debate:
CLINTON: Anything you can do, I can worser. I can anything worser than you.
TRUMP: No you can’t.
CLINTON: Yes I can.
TRUMP: No you can’t.
CLINTON: Yes I can, yes I can.
TRUMP: No matter how mean you are, I can be meaner. Sooner or later I’m meaner than you.
CLINTON: No you’re not.
TRUMP: Yes I am.
CLINTON: No you’re not.
TRUMP: Yes I am, yes I am … I’ll evict a widow, just to park my limo.
CLINTON: I will be all gay-o, just to win the homos.
TRUMP: I just want a piece of ass.
CLINTON: And only that?
TRUMP: Yes.
CLINTON: Hah — my husband’s that crass.
TRUMP: Anywhere you can go, I can go lower.
CLINTON: I can go anywhere lower than you.
(Both descending lower rather than upwards, with further apologies to Irving Berlin.)
TRUMP: No you can’t.
CLINTON: Yes I can.
TRUMP: No you can’t.
CLINTON: (Sounding very butch at this point.) Yes I can, yes I can. (Back to normal shrill pitch.) Anything you can sell, I can sell cheaper than you.
TRUMP: Integrity?
CLINTON: What is that?
TRUMP: Your very soul?
CLINTON: What’s that for?
TRUMP: No you can’t.
CLINTON: Yes I can, yes I can.
TRUMP: Any lie you can tell, I can tell better.
CLINTON: I can tell any lie better than you.
TRUMP: No you can’t.
CLINTON: Yes I can.
TRUMP: I will mock a cripple, and ogle at a nipple.
CLINTON: I used to be a hippie, now I’m merely dippy.
TRUMP: I will say most anything.
CLINTON: And give it some zing?
TRUMP: Sure.
CLINTON: That’s what I thought, you thing.
TRUMP: Any grudge you can hold, I can holder longer.
CLINTON: I can hold any grudge longer than you.
TRUMP: No you can’t.
CLINTON: Yes I cannnnnnnnn. Any law you can break, I can break better.
TRUMP: On your phone?
CLINTON: In my home.
TRUMP: Without pause?
CLINTON: Without cause.
TRUMP: Any stand you can take, I can change faster.
CLINTON: I can change any stand faster than you.
TRUMP: No you can’t.
CLINTON: Yes I can.
TRUMP: Noyoucan’t.
CLINTON: YesIcan.
TRUMP: I’m the great un-nerver.
CLINTON: I can wipe a server.
TRUMP: I can be insulting.
CLINTON: My numbers are resulting.
TRUMP: I can make us great again.
CLINTON: Can you tell us why?
TRUMP: No.
CLINTON: Neither can I.
The number ends with the two going into professional wrestling mode, and the moderator taking a final swig of whisky before shooting himself in the head, and the audience leaving with no hope that the after-debate movie will prove as entertaining.

— Bud Norman

A Disappointing Diary

With the situation with Syria becoming so convoluted it causes a headache, we spend much of Monday in search of some other story of less significance to provide distraction. The secret diary of Robert Kennedy Jr., which has somehow fallen into the hands of the New York Post, seemed just the thing.
A scintillating combination of the words “secret diary” and the Kennedy name promises plenty of prurient interest, after all, and the family’s enduring political clout provides a respectable pretense for reading it. There’s also an intriguing mystery about how the diary made its way to New York’s politically incorrect newspaper, and why it would take such an interest in one of the Kennedy clan’s more politically inconsequential members, but mostly we were wanting to read what fans of the steamier sort of fiction call “the good parts.”
Alas, this particular Kennedy’s recollections are disappointing in this regard. His diary confesses a considerable number of marital infidelities, as family tradition dictates, but they are told with such dispassionate accounting that provides all the titillation of a corporate balance sheet. Thirty-seven women are named in the diary, an impressive total considering that the diary covers only a year in the diarist’s life, but few details are provided except for some undisclosed first names, the vague facts that one of the women is a doctor and another is married to a famous actor, and a numerical rating of each woman based on the degree of intimacy that was achieved. Sixteen of the women were given a score of ten, which is a respectable batting average even in the Kennedy league, but The Post reveals nothing of interest about the trysts except for the names of the celebrities who were present at the swank social gathering where the affairs began. The fact that Kennedy’s wife ultimately committed suicide as the result of her unhappiness with the marriage also takes some fun out of the vicarious womanizing, and even Kennedy was so troubled by what The Post calls “Catholic guilt” that he recorded every unsuccessful attempt at seduction a “victory.”
In the absence of the usual swinging Kennedy naughtiness, much of The Post’s attention has been paid to the political dirt-dishing. In his presumed privacy Kennedy admitted to some unfavorable opinions of a few leading Democratic lights and was especially disparaging of the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, which reassures that despite his craven public obeisance to these charlatans he is not so stupid as to believe a word of it, and even New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo, which is a sound judgment but also makes us wonder about how stupid he must be to write such sacrilege even in his most private writings. There is no indication from The Post’s reporting that Kennedy ever went so far as to blaspheme President Barack Obama, but slights against a Cuomo will suffice for tabloid controversy.
Despite the lack of pornographic appeal, Kennedy’s purloined diaries proved a sufficient diversion from the day’s events. We hope that whatever poor soul has been charged with writing and endlessly re-writing today’s planned presidential address on the rapidly changing events regard Syria wasn’t too beguiled by the revelations to keep his mind on the job.

— Bud Norman

Foul Ball

Although we keep abreast of the sporting scene, and even take a rooting interest in certain teams, we usually prefer to comment on matters of greater political or cultural significance. It is well worth noting, however, that no players will be inducted into baseball’s hall of fame this year.
At least two players whose statistical achievements would ordinarily earn them the honor were eligible, so the baseball writers who are charged with the responsibility of choosing the hall’s members apparently decided that mere numbers are not enough to confer sports immortality. Barry Bonds out-slugged every other batter of his era during a long career with the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants, and no one was more successful on the mound than Roger Clemens during his days with the Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blues Jays, Houston Astros, and New York Yankees, but both men achieved at least some of that success by using banned drugs, and both men lied about it under oath when their sport finally got around to dealing with its widespread problem of pharmaceutical cheating.
Baseball fans will long argue about the fairness of the slight, with some insisting that the cheating was so very widespread that it would be unrealistic to expect that such competitive personalities would accepted the handicap of fair play, but we were pleased with the stand taken by those writers who voted against Bonds and Clemens. An epidemic of cheating has spread far beyond the realm of sports, and it is good to see somebody expressing disapproval.
An astounding number of students now cheat on tests or plagiarize homework, and several recent scandals suggest the practice is also becoming common among their teachers. Many of the politicians who impose higher taxes on their fellow citizens routinely cheat on their own obligations, either through outright fraud or the kinds of clever manipulations of the tax code that they would surely condemn their political opponents for using, and such hypocrisy makes it all the harder to condemn the untold thousands of ordinary Americans who do the same. Much of the bankrupting cost of America’s entitlement programs is due to cheating. Corporations are often caught cheating in a variety of ways, and it is likely that more ingenious methods routinely go undetected. Countless automobile accidents are caused by motorists trying to cheat others out of a favorable spot on the road, and daily life is filled with similar examples of cheating on the unwritten rules of society. Cheating on spouses and significant others is rampant, and ever since the Clinton administration it is considered prudish to have any objection to it.
Our society has gradually developed a dangerous tolerance for all sorts of cheating, to a point that today’s sports talk radio shows will no doubt be filled with callers demanding that Bonds’ and Clemens’ cheating should be ignored, but the moral rot of this epidemic will continue to spread. Keeping these two talented men out of the hall of fame is only a small step toward solving the problem, but it’s a step in the right direction.

— Bud Norman