We’ve already learned so much this election year. Besides the importance of not bragging about girl-grabbing when there’s a microphone pinned to your lapel.
For instance, boring people have never looked better. This is a seldom-defended subset of the American population, but after a year or so of the exciting Donald Trump, we have a new appreciation. Right now, many voters may be looking at their local congressman — a person they would change lines at the grocery store in order to avoid having to engage in conversation — and thinking, “Wow, Fred may be a snooze, but when you think about it, there are so many worse possibilities.”
Can you imagine how deliriously happy the Republican Party would be if Trump woke up one morning feeling boring? But no, he’s still bounding from one rally to the next, attacking members of his own party and demanding that Hillary Clinton go to jail. The new WikiLeaks from her campaign, he thundered on Wednesday, “make more clear than ever … how unattractive and dishonest our country has become.”
Unattractive? Is there no entity this man doesn’t judge in terms of physical appearance? Do you think Trump secretly believes America has gained weight? Had an unsuccessful breast enhancement?
The WikiLeaks, so far, have just underlined how blessedly boring Clinton’s campaign has been — it turns out that her talking points sometimes include instructions on when to smile, and that some of her major tweets have been the work of up to four aides. Deep in their hearts, most Americans know that’s way better than having a president who wakes up at 3 a.m. and just starts free associating.
Another important lesson of 2016: There are a lot of things worse than political correctness. Trump brags constantly about his own freedom from that particular defect, and some of his followers feel liberated to attend the rallies wearing signs or shirts that call Hillary Clinton every conceivable vulgarity.
During the last debate, a sad-looking Muslim woman asked how she could deal with “the consequences of being labeled as a threat to the country.” Trump replied, “You’re right about Islamophobia and that’s a shame,” without any particular tone of sympathy. “But,” he continued, “one thing we have to do is, we have to make sure that, because there is a problem. I mean, whether we like it or not and we could be very politically correct, but whether we like it or not, there is a problem.”
Not often you can avoid political correctness in a way that mangles so many sentences. Trump then veered off into a complaint about how neighbors of the San Bernardino shooters noticed a whole ton of armaments at the family home but failed to say anything about it, presumably because they didn’t want to look anti-Muslim. We could point out that this is a make-believe story, totally unsupported by fact. Except that it would sound so darned you-know-what.
On the plus side, the campaign’s recent unpleasantness has provided a wonderful opportunity to randomly torture irritating Republican officeholders. Ted Cruz — who insulted Trump by failing to endorse him at the convention, then panicked and gave him a nod just before the trash-talk tape went public — must be having the worst week of his political life. Which certainly is a mood raiser.
Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas, whose long-standing flirtation with the birther movement led him once to aver that there were enough votes in the House to impeach President Barack Obama, fell into a rabbit hole this week while he was defending his Trump endorsement on MSNBC. Anchor Chris Hayes prodded, asking whether he’d feel the same if a tape came out with Donald Trump saying, “I really like to rape women. …”
“That would be bad and I would have to consider it,” said Farenthold, who then followed up with a desperate series of Twitter retractions. (“During an interview on MSNBC with Chris Hayes tonight, I was thrown off by the anchor’s use of a hypothetical question.”) Which then gave Austin political writer Jonathan Tilove a chance to revisit a conversation he had with the congressman about Trump’s appalling attacks on a Mexican-American judge. “He may have crossed the line there, but I don’t agree with everything I say sometimes,” Farenthold explained.
Trump’s campaign, meanwhile, is obsessed with the Republicans who’ve gotten … cold. The candidate himself complains at his rallies that the speaker of the House failed to congratulate him after the last debate. (“So wouldn’t you think that Paul Ryan would call and say, ‘Good going?’ ”) Attacking members of Congress who’ve dropped off the team, Trump said he “wouldn’t want to be in a foxhole” with people like John McCain. And campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told Chris Matthews that some of the congressmen who’ve complained about Trump’s sex remarks were known for “sticking their tongues down women’s throats uninvited.”
It’s always possible to learn more than you really want to know this season.