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Bill Straub: Take heart! Sorry race for president finally gliding toward its ignominious conclusion

WASHINGTON – It may seem like Halley’s Comet has circled back three or four times since the beginning of the 2016 election season but take comfort, the seemingly endless campaign is finally on a glide path toward its ignominious conclusion, with both parties offering reasons for keeping their hopes alive.

Coming down the stretch, Democrat Hillary Clinton maintains a precarious lead over Republican Donald Trump, who seems to be picking up steam as the days dwindle down to a precious few. By this time next week we’ll have a pretty good idea about what sort of country the United States of America has become in the year of our lord 2016.

After all these many months of speeches, accusations and other political whatnot, two essential questions remain open to discussion:

— How can it be logically explained that 60 million red-blooded Americans, give or take, will march to the polls on Nov. 8 and vote for an overt flim-flam man like Donald Trump, a blowhard of the first order who has no real grasp of the issues confronting the country and has consistently displayed the sort of temperament that makes Bart Simpson seem like a Presbyterian minister?

— And then, why are so many voters predisposed to despise Hillary Clinton, eager to embrace the most malicious claims issued against her and demand she be incarcerated for imaginary offenses despite a career of solid accomplishment and a firm understanding of the problems facing the nation?

It has been obvious for some months that a substantial number of voters are willing to overlook the obvious depravities consistently displayed, even boasted about, by Trump while damning Clinton to eternal hellfire for the most venial of sins. Much of it, of course, has to do with the normal partisan conflict that has defined the republic since its beginnings. But there exists a certain undercurrent in this race, a meanness that is not only unattractive but malignant.

Trump the demagogue hears cheers when he insults those who don’t emanate from his base of white guys without a college degree – African-Americans, Latinos, certain “nasty’’ women. They laughed uproariously when he mocked a physically disabled newspaper reporter. And they’ve nodded approvingly when their man has suggested that violence or jail should lie in the future of those who oppose his cretinous plans.

His sins are legion, and so apparent that they simply can’t be missed by his supporters, who therefore knowingly pledge their undying allegiance. He presents a real danger – questioning why the U.S. refuses to use nuclear weapons, expressing admiration for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, asserting that America shouldn’t be loyal to some of its NATO allies, advocating torture. He lies without compunction.

Reviewing all the issues that render Trump unsuitable for the office of dog catcher, not to mention the presidency, would take as long as replaying the campaign itself. Suffice to say one thing stands out – he has proved to be an unreconstructed racist, a bigot, a misogynist, an Islamphobe.

This, by itself, should disqualify him. But tens of millions will support him to the ends of the earth.

Why are folks flocking to the most unqualified and potentially dangerous presidential candidate in American history? His defenders cite the economy, trade deals that have led to losses in the manufacturing sector and concern about increasing opportunities for terrorism.

But the tenor of his rhetoric, and his barely disguised hate speech, indicates otherwise. Trump constantly plays to white fear, and his crowd enthusiastically digs in at the buffet. The Crusader, a Ku Klux Klan newspaper that describes itself as “the premier voice of the white resistance,” wrote glowingly about Trump in its most recent edition, offering a de facto endorsement by noting, “While Trump wants to make America great again, we have to ask ourselves, ‘What made America great in the first place?’

The short answer to that is simple. America was great not because of what our forefathers did — but because of who our forefathers were.

“America was founded as a White Christian Republic. And as a White Christian Republic it became great.”

This goes hand-in-glove with comments by Rocky Suhayda, chairman of the American Nazi Party, who told The Washington Post that a Trump victory would be “a real opportunity for people like white nationalists.’’

Nice company he’s keeping. Trump has spurned the Klan and the Nazis, insisting their support is not welcome. Yet it’s unlikely their kind words came as a result of his opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership. More likely it centers on herding some 11 million unregistered aliens, some of whom he characterized as racists, and tossing them back across the border, his pledge to keep Muslims out of the country and even his jocularity about grabbing women in an area that civilized folks consider off limits.

Yet about 60 million people will say they want this gentleman representing their country.

Then there’s Hillary Clinton – Madam DeFarge, the Dragon Lady, choose your contemptuous description. She mishandled emails in a stupid, haphazard and completely inappropriate way as secretary of state and must, therefore, not only be defeated at the polls but brought to justice before the Inquisition to face her punishment.

By almost any standard prior to the start of this campaign, Hillary Clinton’s sins would pale in comparison to those Donald Trump seemingly wears with pride. The sheer number of atrocious and all-around awful pronouncements that have dripped from Trump’s lips like bile should swamp almost any defect she might display. But from all indications a dog fight is developing.

It seems people, for whatever reason, have a hard time warming up to Hillary Clinton, something that can be traced to the beginning of her public persona. When her husband, former President Bill Clinton, lost a re-election bid for governor of Arkansas in 1980, a lot of folks blamed the first lady, who had up until then retained her maiden name and just wasn’t like the good folks from the Natural State.

By almost any standard prior to the start of this campaign, Hillary Clinton’s sins would pale in comparison to those Donald Trump seemingly wears with pride. The sheer number of atrocious and all-around awful pronouncements that have dripped from Trump’s lips like bile should swamp almost any defect she might display. But from all indications a dog fight is developing

And she was portrayed as an ambitious wheeler-dealer after entering the White House as first lady in 1993, accused of everything up to and including murder. The impression held by many Americans was summed up by Trump in the third presidential debate – “Such a nasty woman.’’

That phrase sort of sums up what’s wrong with this election and, ultimately, perhaps, this country. Trump can mock the physically disabled, heap scorn on the father of a fallen soldier who happens to be Muslim, call various women “pigs’’ and accuse a judge of being biased against him simply because the judge is Latino, and yet it’s Clinton who is cast as nasty for not only standing up to the bully but soundly beating him.

People have been searching desperately for a reason to vote against Hillary Clinton and they seem to have settled on the email contretemps because they couldn’t pin the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby on her. A new phrase has entered the lexicon – false equivalency – maintaining Clinton’s drawbacks are somehow just as bad as those attached to Trump.

Yet millions of people believe she is worse, much worse, and will vote accordingly.

For the record, Clinton carries deficiencies as a presidential candidate. She is secretive to the extreme – hence the email flap – flees from transparency and is somewhat paranoid about the way people react toward her. Those are not particularly good characteristics to exhibit as president of the United States.

But every chief executive brings some downside to the job. What can be said is Hillary Clinton is not a racist, she’s not a bigot, she’s not a misogynist, and she holds a record of real accomplishment on the public stage as both a senator from New York and secretary of state. Trump can claim none of that.

It was Garrison Keillor, author and radio personality who wrote a few months back that if Trump is not defeated, “then we are not the country we imagine we are.’’

So, come Tuesday, we’ll have a firm handle on what kind of country we have become.

A quick word, if you please, on a fellow named Jimmy Reis, who was, quietly, the heart and soul of the dearly departed Kentucky Post for more years than I care to remember.

Reisy, who died of Parkinson’s disease last week at the age of 65, was, first of all, the sweetest guy you could ever hope to meet and a wonderful family man, always excited to show off his kids when they were young. And he was a bona fide historian, putting together a justifiably honored weekly column, Pieces of the Past, which detailed bygone eras of Northern Kentucky.

But most of all Reisy was a newspaperman of the first order, the very definition of a workhorse over a show horse. If you were reading a story in the Kentucky Post and happened to look at the top and saw the name Jim Reis in the byline, you could make book on it. And that’s as high a compliment as any journalist could hope for.

Sad day.

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Washington correspondent Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.

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One Comment

  1. EH says:

    Well Stated!

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