Op-ed: The national unreality show

  • By Bob Franken
  • Saturday, August 27, 2016 10:52am
  • Opinion

I must say that I don’t understand why people try to make up stuff about our presidential candidates when there’s so much that’s real and so totally bizarro. For example, let’s consider the phony issue that shameless Trump supporters (excuse the gross redundancy) have created out of thin air that Hillary Clinton’s health is precarious. Trump, of course, exploits this fiction constantly, questioning her “stamina.” His mouthpieces, like Sean Hannity and the gruesome Rudy Giuliani, are constantly promoting the rumor, which is somewhat sexist when you think about it — that Hillary is weakened by all kinds of maladies. Giuliani even goes so far as to justify his claims by suggesting that one only needs to go online to see that he’s not making this up.

That’s part of the problem, of course. You can find anything online, and that includes wild rants that have no basis in fact whatsoever. So when Hillary moves her head back and forth to mock a reporter’s question, she’s having a seizure. And when she’s helped up the stairs, she’s obviously near collapse. And when those of us in the media show that the facts prove otherwise, we’re only secret supporters of hers, pretending to be journalists.

Of course, we are the very same ones who antagonize the Clintonistas by reporting on the unfolding email scandal. Yes, the ever-spreading indications are that her hidden emails reveal the staffs at the Clinton Foundation and the State Department may well have been involved in some sort of “pay to play” operation. If true, that would, in fact, be a “scandal.” It also might drip out in a way that brings her campaign down. Her people dismiss each disclosure by saying that it’s just another effort to discredit her by Judicial Watch, “a right-wing organization.” They say it so often, we might think we’re hearing an echo. And we’d be correct. It’s been more than 18 years since Hillary Clinton first talked about a “vast right-wing conspiracy” on the “Today” show. That was during the time of Monica Lewinsky, which showed that the right was not always wrong. We’ll see if they’re onto something again.

The point is that the Trumpsters don’t need to create nasty fiction — there’s real stuff out there. But they can’t seem to resist. As for The Donald, you just can’t make his stuff up. He’s a walking, talking sewage doll. Just press him, and out spouts something that is nutty, cruel, bigoted, simple-minded, an outright lie — you get the picture. How many times have we told the same old story: his Republican handlers, whoever the latest batch of them is, have gotten him under control? They have him reading from a prompter, saying stuff that marginally makes sense and is only mildly objectionable, by comparison, like his plea for black votes. This time, they say, he’s showing some discipline.

It happened again. For a couple of days, he stuck to his script; he even suggested that he’d scale back the horrors of his monstrous immigration/deportation promise. But suddenly, his Twitter demons took over. He couldn’t stop himself. This time, he fed his nastiness compulsion by spewing some tweets at MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, calling her “neurotic” and “not very bright.” She and her on-air partner Joe Scarborough on “Morning Joe” have had the audacity to criticize him. Then Donny took it a step further with a threat to tell the “real story” about their romance, which may or may not be a real story, except in the New York Post, and, of course, online. The big question is, Who cares? Should a candidate for president be spending his time and energy on such trivialities?

The point is that our country’s political system has been consumed by ugliness. We are choosing between a calculating liar and a nut-case liar. It’s hard to be confident in our nation’s future.

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

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