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OPED: America's slide into madness continues
When veteran newswoman Cokie Roberts asked Donald Trump this week what he thought of reports that children are telling darker-skinned playmates they will be deported or that a wall will be built to keep them out, Trump said it was a "nasty" question.
He didn't know anything about such things, he said.
Parents are wondering how they can insist their children not use bad language or potty humor, say awful things to others, boast, flaunt their ownership of stuff, bully, make promises they can't keep and be openly and crudely disrespectful of adults when one of the most lionized men in America proudly does all those things.
After Michigan, Mississippi and Hawaii voters became the latest to announce they'd like a billionaire bigot for president, Republican establishment figures finally — finally — woke up to the fact that Trump is on his way to winning the GOP nomination and quite possibly the presidency.
Leaders of other countries say the know-nothingness of Trump supporters reminds them of the xenophobic, racist, misogynistic ways that Mussolini and Hitler came to power. People have been thinking that for months; now they give voice to it. It means something when the British, our closest allies, publicly debate whether to ban Trump from entering the U.K.
There is one man in particular to blame for this mess: Roger Ailes. He is the former behind-the-scenes Republican political manipulator who decided to make millions by creating Fox News to pit conservatives against liberals, coarsening political dialogue and encouraging celebrities such as Sarah Palin to bandy about unfounded, outrageous charges.
Ailes picked up on the entertainment value of Rush Limbaugh's diatribes, helped destroy civility and, perhaps to his chagrin, made Trump a viable candidate. He put Trump on the air, letting him spout off on whatever he wanted. The wily Trump, with his outsized thirst for self-aggrandizement, ran with it.
Now Trump is exploiting families' economic worries, fear of globalization, the puzzled anger of the dwindling middle class, the impotence of "poorly educated" white men who don't have job skills needed in a changing world, and frustration at the work ethic of immigrants determined to succeed. He is massaging the worst instincts of the haves and the have nots.
It has always been easy to get a mob together and foment ferment. TV is made for creating mass anger, especially when many people no longer read, watch or care about serious news.
To Trump, facts and fairness mean nothing. He openly admires dictators who commit mass murder. He outsources jobs to China, then vows to stop job flight. But he's getting what he wants because millions also don't know or care about the facts. It's easier to shout, jeer, sneer and proclaim, "I'm for Trump," whatever that means, than try to understand that bloviating does not equal a workable plan of action.
Even as president, Trump cannot force Mexico to pay $10 billion for a wall. Trump cannot keep Muslims out of the country based on their religion. Trump alone cannot keep nations from manipulating currency. He cannot shut down trade. He cannot create millions of skilled, well-paying jobs. He won't even pay a living wage to his hotel workers.
Elites ignored the Trump threat. Just look at a pillar of the establishment, wealthy Mitt Romney. Desperate for the GOP nomination in 2012, Romney wheedled Trump into endorsing him, even as Romney winced and held his nose. Too late, Romney now leads the failing campaign to try to force voters into seeing the self-absorbed, vapid, whiny, scary, vindictive man that Trump really is. Trump supporters are paying no heed to Romney, except to scoff.
Another New York establishment figure, billionaire Michael Bloomberg, said he'd run if it looked as if Trump would get the nomination. He now sees he could not win and would merely take votes from Hillary Clinton, thus assuring Trump victory in November.
Trump supporters don't care that Trump displays no understanding of the presidency, especially its responsibilities, let alone the nuances of foreign policy. They like the bombast, the bravado, the boorishness.
Living in a democracy is harder than it looks.
— Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service.