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“The GOP Vulgarians”: On Track To Be The Crudest, Most Vulgar And Most Disgusting Campaign In Our Nation’s History

It was William J. Bennett, education secretary in the Reagan years and the Republican Party’s premier moralist, who embedded a phrase in the American consciousness when he bemoaned the fact that “our elites presided over an unprecedented coarsening of our culture.”

Well, to borrow another famous phrase, it is Bennett’s party and two of its presidential candidates in particular, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio, who are merrily defining our politics, our discourse and the American presidency down. The 2016 Republican primary campaign is now on track to be the crudest, most vulgar and most thoroughly disgusting in our nation’s history.

A policy wonk who has spent nearly two decades in politics was watching Thursday’s GOP debate with his two teenage daughters and was horrified when one turned to him and asked: “Is this what you do?” The dad didn’t want to be named because he didn’t want to embarrass his daughters.

And Republican voters in Saturday’s contests sent a signal they, too, were turned off. Both Trump and Rubio underperformed, particularly in Maine’s caucuses and among voters who cast ballots on primary day in Louisiana.

In the state that’s home to Mardi Gras, Trump’s unexpectedly narrow three-point margin over Ted Cruz was built by early voters immune from any debate revulsion.

Call me old-fashioned or even a prig, but I have a rather elevated view of what politics can be and what it can achieve. For decades, in good political moments and bad, I have repaired for inspiration and comfort to the political philosopher Michael Sandel’s description of politics at its best. “When politics goes well,” he wrote, “we can know a good in common that we cannot know alone.”

In the GOP right now, it’s not going well.

You can place a lot of the responsibility for all this on Trump and, yes, the media. As I was writing this, MSNBC (for which I’ve worked over the years) and CNN were simultaneously broadcasting live the same Trump speech. Welcome to Trump State Television. Broadcasters have reveled in the ratings to be gained from airing Trump’s stream-of-consciousness (if politically effective) rants, and the coarser the better.

We might let the blame settle there, except that Rubio got frustrated. The man the party’s leaders keep saying is the real challenger to Trump despite his early difficulties in winning actual contests decided that to beat Trump, he had to join him.

Thus began his own rants that reached a low point when he declared of Trump during a rally last month in Virginia: “I don’t understand why his hands are the size of someone who’s 5’2. Have you seen his hands? They’re like this.” Here, Rubio held his thumb and fingers closely together to depict something very small indeed. He added: “And you know what they say about men with small hands.”

My naivete extends to the fact that I did not know that small hands are often equated to diminutive endowments elsewhere. But Trump, obviously more worldly than I, went all defensive at the debate, held out his arms and declared: “Look at those hands, are they small hands? And he referred to my hands — ‘if they’re small, something else must be small.’ I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.”

Now we know.

Then there was Trump’s response earlier in the day to the attack on him by Mitt Romney. Trump had a point that Romney was happy to seek his endorsement in 2012 (and to ignore Trump’s birtherism and his other racially and religiously tinged comments about President Obama). But here is how Trump put the matter: “He was begging for my endorsement. I could have said, ‘Mitt, drop to your knees,’ and he would’ve dropped to his knees.”

We expect Trump to be loutish. Worse is Rubio’s refusal to take responsibility for the course he has chosen. Explaining that he would truly prefer to be talking about issues, Rubio went for the-devil-made-me-do-it defense. “But let’s be honest too about all this,” he explained. “The media has given these personal attacks that Donald Trump has made an incredible amount of coverage.”

Sure, he’s right about the media, but courageous politicians don’t blame someone else for what comes out of their own mouths.

By comparison, John Kasich and Cruz are looking almost as issue-oriented and responsible as, well, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. But the whole Republican race is now a moral and electoral wreck, a state of affairs that one conservative after another mourned during and after Thursday’s encounter.

Saturday’s voters quietly joined the chorus of dismay and rewarded Cruz and, to a lesser degree, Kasich.

Scattered primary results are almost always over-read, and Cruz’s Kansas victory was primarily a tribute to the influence of conservative evangelicals who delivered the state to Rick Santorum in 2012 and Mike Huckabee in 2008.

But the gap between early voters and the far more pro-Cruz primary day voters in Louisiana speaks to a shift in sentiments. And Kasich ran ahead of Rubio in Maine, which Cruz also won, and was behind in Kentucky by only two points, a surprisingly small deficit. Rubio’s attacks on Trump seem to have been a double-edged political sword: He wounded the front-runner but also hurt himself.

For decades, conservatives have done a great business assailing liberals for promoting cultural decay. Sorry, guys, but in this campaign, you have kicked away the franchise.

 

By: E. J. Dionne Jr, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 8, 2016

March 9, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Habitual Cruelty To Others”: Ranting On Robin Williams, Limbaugh Exposed A Hole In His Own Soul

Having infuriated millions of Robin Williams fans with insensitive remarks on the late actor’s suicide, Rush Limbaugh now blames the “liberal media” and “despicable leftists” for distorting his innocent message.

This is an old dodge for Limbaugh. Yet however he parses his language, there can be no doubt that he sought to exploit a tragic event for what he likes to call “political education.”  His attempt to brand Williams’ suicide with “the leftist worldview” was perfectly plain. And as usual, his alibi is plainly false.

In his original commentary on Williams, Limbaugh quoted Fox News – hardly a “liberal media” source even by his elastic definition – about the great comic’s possible motivations for taking his own life:

I mean, right here there’s a story on the Fox News website.  Do you know, it says right here, that the real reasons that Robin Williams killed himself are he was embarrassed at having to take television roles after a sterling movie career….He’d had some divorces that ripped up his net worth, and he had a big ranch in Napa that he couldn’t afford any longer and had to put up for sale, and a house in Tiburon that he couldn’t afford anymore.  This is all what’s in the Fox News story.

He had it all, but he had nothing.  He made everybody else laugh but was miserable inside.  I mean, it fits a certain picture, or a certain image that the left has.

Pursuing this tendentious theme, Limbaugh went on to mention the “survivor’s guilt” that Williams reportedly suffered over the early deaths of three close show-business friends, Christopher Reeve, John Belushi, and Andy Kaufman. “He could never get over the guilt that they died and he didn’t. Well, that is a constant measurement that is made by political leftists in judging the country,” he harrumphed, concluding with a few incomprehensible sentences about “outcome-based education.” (Even more oddly, Limbaugh promoted a wonderful appreciation of Williams in the Guardian by Russell Brand — an actor with very strong left-wing opinions.)

Still, his point was unmistakable: If you’re concerned about life’s unfairness – as Robin Williams, a dedicated lifelong liberal, certainly was – then you probably suffer from a dark and pessimistic worldview that may very well lead you to kill yourself.

Insofar as Limbaugh pretends to be educating the public, let’s school him by turning around his exploitative blather and putting him in the place of his rhetorical victim. A decade ago, when the radio talker’s addictive dependency on prescription painkillers was first exposed, it would have been easy enough to lampoon his behavior as an expression of his right-wing worldview.

Popping mouthfuls of oxycontin? He thought he could get away with it because of his wealth and status, like so many other millionaire crooks. Violating the narcotics code? He hates government and thinks he can ignore laws that inconvenience him, just like the Bundy Ranch gang. Publicly urging criminal prosecution of drug addicts while indulging the same weakness? He is just another moral hypocrite, like so many of his cronies on the right, from William Bennett to Newt Gingrich to… Rush Limbaugh.

As America watched Limbaugh struggle with his own personal issues, nobody tried to claim that he became a junkie because of his political attitudes. Indeed, most liberal commentators wished him a full recovery, even while noting his frequent failures of empathy. A few even suggested that he seize the opportunity to contemplate his habitual cruelty to others — and try to change.

Sadly, that never happened. If it had, then Limbaugh might have come to understand depression and substance abuse, which evidently killed Robin Williams, as illnesses rather than political or moral failing – exactly like the addiction that harmed Rush’s hearing and could have claimed his life. He might even have experienced an emotion so often mocked as “liberal” and too often absent from conservative moralizing:

Compassion.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, The National Memo, August 15, 2014

August 16, 2014 Posted by | Mental Health, Rush Limbaugh | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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