Two Monday nights ago, on the eve of a commanding victory in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary, Donald Trump did what Donald Trump regularly does: acted like an oafish buffoon.
Addressing an exuberant crowd at Manchester’s Wireless Verizon Arena, the real estate magnate/presidential candidate snarked about a woman in the crowd who’d just bellowed out a semi-lewd slur against fellow GOP contender Senator Ted Cruz. He then repeated it so that all the throng (and whirring television cameras) would catch it:
“She just said a terrible thing … I never expect to hear that from you again …She called him a pussy.”
Later, when asked if he regretted uttering the term? “The Donald” was blunt: “No, not at all, we had a lotta fun.”
Oh, well, if the possibly soon-to-be-leader-of the-free-world had fun — I guess that pretty much covers all the bases.
Of course, we’ve all gotten wincingly accustomed to churlish, public misbehavior from this fulminating man-child. In the past several months alone: his impossible-to-excuse slander of John McCain’s POW status; the gross attack on Carly Fiorina’s appearance (by the way, is he blind as well as crude?); his revolting mockery of Dr. Ben Carson’s Christian testimony; his despicable and demeaning imitation of a physically disabled reporter; the routine cursing during campaign addresses (utterly unnecessary for a more imaginative and thoughtful speaker).
Candidly, after all that, Trump’s belching out “p*ssy” before assembled thousands — men, women and, I presume, children — doesn’t much surprise. But it still disgusts lots of people who don’t find potty talk from adult professionals entertaining. It furthermore curdles the environment of what is supposed to be a somber, dignified process: selecting the person who will eventually occupy the planet’s most powerful position.
I’m old-fashioned, I guess: I prefer my government leaders — those who make decisions that exert enormous influence on my world, the culture in which my children and grandchildren will grow up, the laws and system under which I’ll live — I prefer they be individuals who can manage some respectable level of prudence and self-control. It’s not as if widespread society is not already scabrous enough — even the casual participant gets hammered unrelentlingly by profanity and salacious images and proclamations from music, television, film, literature; for that matter, casual conversation. Then along comes White-House aspirant Trump to spasmodically heap buckets of scurrilous gasoline on the leprous fire.
We can thank another president — curiously, the husband to Trump’s likely, eventual Democratic opponent — for mainstreaming dinner-table chat about certain sexual acts, interns crawling on the Oval Office carpet, cigars and soiled blue dresses. Just the other day, a locally prominent political figure reflected to me (paraphrasing), “It seems like this trend for not ‘judging’ even political leaders for their behavior went to a whole new level following Bill Clinton.” Now it seems we can look forward to a putative President Trump adding his scatological flourishes and dragging the national conversation to even sleazier depths.
Like it or not, the Chief Executive of the United States sets an example, a tone for the country. By definition of the office, the way he/she speaks and conducts him/herself matters.
America’s twenty-fifth president, William McKinley, once mused, ” [A]ll a man can hope for during his lifetime [is] to set an example – and when he is dead, to be an inspiration for history.” Presumably he’d lump the occupant of the White House into that company. McKinley’s successor, Theodore Roosevelt, minted the phrase “bully pulpit” to describe the presidency’s capacity for influence.
Justice Louis Brandeis once wrote: “Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or ill, it teaches the whole people by its example.” (The U.S. government’s most visible representative is …?)
What has candidate Trump taught “We the People”, thus far? How would a President Trump, even more consequentially, shape the nation that had elected him?
Have you noticed, the braggadocious reality-TV celeb seems to coax to the surface some his cult following’s worst reflexes? What kind of a candidate makes a female groupie comfortable yelping out a sordid epithet normally only favored by guys in the confines of the locker room or sports field? And which not a few gentlemen would forswear using under any circumstance? I’m guessing that foul-mouthed Trumpette’s father, brother, husband or significant other didn’t exactly swell with pride over her nationally televised debut.
Trump’s stubbornly crass temperament, his vulgarly tell-it-like-it-is shtick, seem to hold an especial appeal for those of like-minded bent. They gleefully cheer on his unseemly instincts; he cheerleads back at them, accordingly. And where most other campaigners would presumably exert some pressure on their supporters — subtly, at least — to be on their grown-up behavior? The “New York Values” billionaire appears to embolden his to indulge their baser selves; to their sneering hearts’ content.
Exactly what twenty-first century society needs: more enthusiastically ill-mannered louts. Who vote, too.
Yet, that may not be the worst of Trump’s outrages.
Apparently, his beef — among others — with Cruz is that the Texas Senator had been insufficiently chop-licking over the prospect of waterboarding terrorists. Uber-Stud Donald pledged he’d revive that enhanced-interrogation technique and “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.” (Again, never pass on an opportunity to season your on-the-record statements with a “h*ll” or “d*amn” or even “sh*t”.) In the Granite State forum, Cruz made the optical mistake of pausing before he declared on the question; and then made clear: a) he wouldn’t want every service-member resorting to that particular method in each encounter with a captive enemy; but b) he’d not hesitate to recur to it, or to whatever means necessary, when matters of genuine national security were in view.
For daring to exhibit that smidgen of pensiveness in the presence of the posturing Trump, Cruz earned the now famous and feculent “p*ssy” put-down. The implication? Ted Cruz is a coward.
A curious charge, certainly — particularly since, as Trump never tires of reiterating, “nasty guy” Cruz has garnered the ire of many an upper-chamber colleague. Left unmentioned by the front-runner is the reason for Cruz’s unpopularity: he serially stands nearly alone on barbed issues; thus, making things stickier for the Democrats and the go-along-to-get-along GOP set.
Most recently, Cruz seized media attention for stepping out against tax-payer underwritten ethanol subsidies — in Iowa! His prez ambitions are kaput! the solons of political strategy head-shakingly intoned.
Except that Cruz went on to win the state’s caucus.
Trump, on the other hand? He debased himself by obeisantly towing the party line — literally reading a pre-written statement calling for heightened mandates. Yeah, you read that correctly: the otherwise frenzied, seat-of-the-pants, borderline incoherent, stream-of-consciousness, can’t-be-bought mogul went scripted –awkwardly reciting words, dense with industry jargon, scribbled on a scrap of paper.
Who, then, buckled to political pressure? Who acted the quisling?
So, Trump’s “p*ssy-gate”: emblematic of the man: low-brow, corrosive, dishonest.
Who, other than people just like him, would want that taking up residency at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave?