If you want to start a vigorous discussion, ask this question: Do you think we are too politically correct in this country? Let’s thank Donald Trump (I never thought I’d say those words) for raising the issue, which he did in the highly entertaining first Republican debate.
Trump pushed our buttons with: “The big problem this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been challenged by so many people, and I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either.”
Obviously, “The Donald” won’t ever be accused of being P.C., and there is certainly the other side for those who care more than he does about being an offensive blowhard: Avoiding demeaning or offensive insensitivity, which he does not, is what allows a community to reach common ground in a constructive way, as opposed to angrily tearing itself apart.
Is it the hated “P.C.” to avoid words that reflect vicious bigotry, to not make degrading comments about people with disabilities or about someone’s physical appearance or to stay away from out-and-out misogyny? Isn’t that just being minimally polite?
Of course, there are those — many of those — who take the civility concept and stretch it to extreme absurdity. College campuses are crawling with these pinheads who dance on the head of a pin to justify their existence as self-appointed enforcers of semantic rectitude. Should we allow them to cloud the issue? Just because they go too far, should we not go far enough toward simply being considerate?
Donald Trump apparently has decided that he’s so rich he doesn’t have to. That’s what led to the persistent questioning from Megyn Kelly, one of the outstanding Fox News moderators, who said: “You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals …” And on it went. And that’s when he decided the world needed to know his thoughts about political correctness.
Typically, when it hit the fan, Trump doubled down. After the debate, he tried to rip Kelly to shreds, retweeting someone’s comment that she was a “bimbo” and going on CNN himself to tell his interviewer: “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.” He did slightly wimp out when he had a spokesman insist that “wherever” referred to Kelly’s “nose” and that anyone who thought otherwise was “deviant.”
That presumably would make deviants out of the hard right-wingers at the Red State gathering where “The Donald” quickly was told he was not welcome. A Trump spokesman called that “another example of weakness through being politically correct.”
Actually, it’s kinda fun to say whatever comes to mind, without any filters. So let’s turn the tables a bit with some tweets of our own:
How about “Wouldn’t ‘fat pig, dog, slob and disgusting animal’ describe @realDonaldTrump?”
Perhaps this: “Even tailored clothing can’t hide that @realDonaldTrump is bloated with more chins and twaddle than a turkey.”
Or “Has anyone noticed how @realDonaldTrump has a face that resembles a pig with a scowl.”
Great sport, yes, but some of us do have limits. So, no bad taste responses to The Donald’s menstrual/nose reference with innuendo about his private manhood, no speculation about his marriages.
Let’s simply put it this way: One of the skills that a president must be able to master is diplomacy. In fact, all of us need to in order to avoid being punched in the mouth, which might happen to Trump if he didn’t have so many bodyguards. It is true, as another candidate, John Kasich, says, that he’s “struck a nerve,” that of widespread resentment at our society’s worsening raw deal.
Trump is funny, but what would happen if he was elected would not be funny at all. The last thing we need is to hand the bully pulpit to a bully, particularly one who is so truly impotent. It is definitely politically correct to state that Donald Trump is politically a disaster.
Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.