Op-ed: Fright or fight

  • By Bob Franken
  • Tuesday, March 29, 2016 4:41pm
  • Opinion

To illustrate the differences between the Republican and Democratic primaries, all we have to do is note the latest bizarre developments that drew the most attention and Twitter conversation. For the D’s it was the Bernie Sanders bird, which dominated the, uh, tweets. Meanwhile, the R’s continued with their ongoing Trump/Cruz bird flip. It managed to get even tackier, dragging in their wives and charges of marital infidelity for bad measure.

Sanders was addressing one of his “yuuuge” crowds in Portland, Oregon, when along came a finch to filch the show. Actually, Sanders was perfectly willing to be upstaged as the little feathered tyke flitted around and finally landed at the podium. That set the huge audience into flights of applause, which is understandable. After all, most of those attending were so young that they remember seeing Disney animated movies like it was yesterday. Actually, it probably was yesterday. The films always included the cutest whistling creatures chirping along with some sappy song. That was cartoon fantasy. Sanders’ skeptics argue his promises to accomplish social reform or wrest power from the country’s entrenched interests are real-life fantasy. Still, the rally provided some comic relief, which was harmless, particularly since nothing was left behind, if you know what I mean.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz were dumping plenty of you-know-what-I-mean on each other, managing to splatter their wives in the process. If that wasn’t enough droppings, the National Enquirer, that paragon of journalism, added to the pile. Let’s review: Donald Trump said Ted Cruz hit the fan first with a digital ad showing his wife, Melania Trump, posing barely covered for GQ way back when and questioning whether she is first-lady material. Cruz said he had nothing to do with that. Still, Trump responded with an unflattering picture of Heidi Cruz, which allowed Hubby to forcefully state his righteous indignation for cameras. Then the Enquirer got into the act with an article accusing Cruz of having various affairs while married. Trump insisted he had nothing to do with that. Here is the question: Whom do you believe? Most probably would respond “None of the Above,” except those who consider all this simply a disgusting waste of time.

But then, who among us still buys anything our politicians say? Who really swallows it when Paul Ryan says he’s not willing to be drafted as the Republican presidential nominee, particularly after he gives a strongly publicized, holier-than-thou speech about the woeful state of the campaign. Gee, does he have anybody in mind as an alternative? Remember, he played that same hard-to-get game when it came time to replace John Boehner. Now he’s House Speaker Paul Ryan. Mitt Romney is putting on that same act, presenting himself as Lancelot, all but offering himself up to protect the round table of power brokers who run the GOP. He, too, denies that he’s interested in being the one to save the kingdom, but that sure looks like a white horse he’s riding.

Maybe we make too much of Hillary Clinton’s credibility perceptions. She certainly does have a trustworthiness issue. Polls consistently show large chunks of voters saying they consider her to be a liar. The real truth is that in the 2016 presidential election overall, honesty is in short supply. For the most part, we are exposed to calculated deceit, and when candidates do say what’s really on their mind, it usually is fanciful, grossly uninformed or dangerous as all get-out.

Let’s face it — most of us have little respect for those who aspire to be our leaders. And properly so. This may turn out to be overly skeptical, but would anyone be surprised to discover that the entire incident with Bernie’s birdie was staged, that the creature was a really really tiny paid actor? But then, most of the candidates are small actors.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

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