Op-ed: The civil war of words

  • By Bob Franken
  • Tuesday, October 18, 2016 4:52pm
  • Opinion

All the talk about Donald Trump coming “unhinged” is inherently invalid, as it assumes he was hinged to begin with.

This is the man, after all, who has since day one of his campaign insulted Hispanics, the disabled, blacks, Muslims, women, you name them. But now that the conversation has shifted from his insulting women to allegedly assaulting them, he’s going completely off the rails.

More and more of them are now going public with their claims that in past seemingly innocent encounters with Trump, he groped them, or that he popped in unannounced while contestants in beauty pageants he ran were in various stages of undress in their changing rooms. That one he even bragged about when he went on Howard Stern’s radio program and repeatedly competed for the poor-taste prize of the day.

Now, as his campaign is imploding, he’s exploding, blasting ever more scary promises about jailing his opponent, Hillary Clinton, if he’s elected, and coming close to inciting violence with charges that if he loses, it will be a “rigged” election and that his passionate — make that rabid — supporters need to plan for that.

It’s the kind of thing that might be worthy of, say, a totalitarian Russian leader. Oh wait, he and Vladimir Putin seem to be an item, although Donny says he doesn’t know Vlad personally. But he’s expressed such admiration for his comrade that he’s provided an opening for Hillary Clinton’s people to evade giving answers about the daily embarrassment of Wikipedia hacked emails from her campaign. U.S. intelligence people say they feel Russia is WikiLeaks’ source, so when the emails disclose dicey conversations by aides deriding Catholics, Mexican-American leaders or Bernie Sanders supporters, or when they portray Hillary as an ultracautious, two-faced politician, her spokespeople can try to change the subject to their indignation about Russians trying to influence the election in favor of Trump, who seems hellbent on turning the U.S. of A. into the USSR.

By the way, that’s Clinton Standard Operating Procedure. Back in the day, Hillary and the other Clintonistas would blame all their scandals on a “vast right-wing conspiracy.” Now it’s a Russian conspiracy. (I’ll spare you my usual joke about vast versus half-vast, since we’re talking the serious issue of whether one of our candidates for president is a madman or whether he is a sexual predator. Of course, those are not mutually exclusive.)

Many on the right, those who have dumped Trump and those who are staying with him, complain that we’re ignoring the email dumps that reveal Hillary and her people as nothing more than smarmy politicians because we’re out to get Donald Trump. First of all, Trump has viciously attacked the media, particularly any who had the audacity to do unfavorable stories about him. That’s another page from the Putin handbook. Second, where have his supporters gotten their knowledge of these emails? Could it be … THE MEDIA!!??

In fairness, it has taken the stories of Trump’s alleged sexual thuggery to finally put him on the defensive. Until now, even with all this constant lying and his dangerously bigoted comments, those of us in media gave him credibility because he was good for ratings. The sad truth is, this campaign has been a grotesque display of all that is wrong with our political system, has turned this election into a choice of which one of our picks voters find the least disgusting.

It’s easy to be pessimistic about the future. Donald Trump has given a substantial chunk of our citizens permission to express their bigotry openly, where before they hid it. How sad that Barack Obama’s presidency, in spite of his demonstrable decency, has become a motive for hatred among those who can’t overcome their prejudices instead of becoming an opening for racial reconciliation. This election will serve only to exacerbate the fact that our nation is becoming unhinged.

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

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