An absurd week in America's two-tier election - Macleans.ca

An absurd week in America’s two-tier election

Pundits claim Clinton had a bad week. Next to Donald Trump’s seven days of gaffes and scandal, that is insane.

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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waves after leaving an apartment building Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in New York. Clinton's campaign said the Democratic presidential nominee left the 9/11 anniversary ceremony in New York early after feeling "overheated." (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waves after leaving an apartment building Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in New York. Clinton’s campaign said the Democratic presidential nominee left the 9/11 anniversary ceremony in New York early after feeling “overheated.” (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

This may have been the most absurd week in U.S. politics in recent history.

Here is a list of gaffes, mistakes, or scandals that came out of the Trump campaign, just in the last seven days, just off the top of my head:

Let’s begin with the Commander and Chief Forum. Trump lavished praise on the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. He then made the unprecedented error of discussing his classified intelligence briefings and claiming his briefers were unhappy with the current President. After that, Trump lied, yet again, that back in 2003 he opposed the Iraq War.

It was then revealed by the Washington Post that Trump had taken credit for charitable giving by others. It reported he lied to the IRS, claiming donations he never made. What’s more, he illegally used $20,000 earmarked for his charity to buy a six-foot portrait of himself.

Trump then gave a TV interview to the Kremlin’s propaganda network RT, and afterwards claimed he only did it because he was “tricked” by Larry King. In another appearance he gave an incoherent monologue about something he called “nuclear warming,” which included false accusations against Clinton and sentences like, “Uranium is big, big stuff because it means the ultimate.”

Next, as the terror attacks of 9/11 were remembered, a radio clip emerged of Trump (on the very day of the attacks!) boasting that his building was now the highest in New York. Then it was reported Trump has publicly lied about helping to recover bodies at Ground Zero. He also claimed he personally had “hundreds” of friends who died in the attack, not one of whom his campaign was able to name.

While all of this was going on, he made an unprecedented personal attack on the chair of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen. He renewed his attacks on Elizabeth Warren, once again calling her “Pocahontas.” He promised he would start a war with Iran if its sailors made inappropriate gestures. After his VP released his own tax returns, Trump once again refused to do the same. His son tweeted a neo-Nazi meme. And one of his chief surrogates disavowed the Geneva Conventions.

By comparison, how was Hillary Clinton’s week? She failed to smile at Matt Lauer. She echoed numerous polls by asserting half of Trump’s supporters are racist. And she almost fainted while suffering from pneumonia. Which is all to say, the media consensus as delivered by the pundits and the headlines is that Clinton had a really bad week. This is absolutely, unequivocally, insane.

Every day, Trump says something or is revealed to have done something that would have disqualified every other candidate for president over the last 40 years. Howard Dean’s political career ended after he yelled too loudly at a campaign rally. All Michael Dukakis had to do was pose for a picture in a tank and his campaign was over.

By contrast, Trump is exposed as a liar, a fraud or a bigot on an hourly basis. He is shown repeatedly to be ignorant of the most basic elements of the U.S. Constitution or international affairs. You could describe his entire campaign as a train wreck, if a train was able to crash day after day non-stop. But still, the pundits roll their eyes—“That’s just Trump being Trump”—and turn to Clinton’s cough.

There are a few possible reasons for this. It could be the dog-bites-man problem: The media only focuses on what is new or unusual. Trump’s lies are neither. There could be a desire to ensure some obvious “balance” in the media coverage. If news outlets reported on every single Trump gaffe, there’d be almost no room left to cover Clinton. Others have speculated that it’s just sexism; Clinton is getting much more scrutiny because she’s a woman. It is hard to imagine a male candidate being criticized for not smiling enough. Clinton’s unique relationship with the media is to blame, too. She and her husband are notorious for cutting corners with the truth and hiding their activities. This has ensured she doesn’t get a pass on anything.

But it doesn’t really matter why it is happening. What matters is that it is happening at all. Everyone needs to step back from the daily coverage and cast their eyes over the massive smoking wreckage of this election. As soon as you do, it becomes painfully obvious that Trump is the most unsuitable candidate for president in living memory. My God, he isn’t even qualified to be president of the Hair Club for Men.

The absurdity of the last seven days has made it impossible to deny there aren’t two tiers of scrutiny in this election. Maybe, as a result, we’ll see a turn toward sanity. Maybe, the media will begin to judge Trump as a candidate for the office he covets, and not as the reality-TV star he is.