The Cellar Door in the Campaign 2016 Basement

“May you live in interesting times,” goes the ancient Chinese curse, which may not be Chinese at all.

Chinese or not, that the saying is a curse feels right. The times are certainly interesting, and it’s not a pleasant experience. Over the last month or two, we have seen events that are certainly impactful, perhaps epochal.

We’ve seen the death of a long-standing, often controversial Supreme Court justice.

We’ve seen a sitting president make a historic — and controversial — trip to Cuba.

We’ve seen yet another devastating terrorist attack in Europe.

You’d think that events like this would dominate the news for days on end, and to some extent, they have — but perhaps not in the way you might prefer.

In one way or another, all of these events have become grist for the political mills of our times. We are living, after all, in a presidential campaign year.

More specifically, we’re living in the age of Donald Trump, and the degradation of our election process, which has hyper-elevated and showcased the divisions in our country.

Consider, for instance, the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Upon the news of his death, at warp speed, Republican stalwarts from the Senate majority leader to the GOP presidential candidates at that time flatly stated that they would not consider a nomination to the empty slot on the court by President Barack Obama, even though it is his constitutional duty to do just that.

This obdurate stance comes in spite of the fact that almost every national poll shows that a majority of the American people want a candidate nominated and voted on. The president has actually nominated a candidate who appears to be a moderate, non-ideological and highly qualified, who was approved by the Senate for his current position.

It’s likely that this will be a major and volatile campaign issue through the remainder of the election year (unless, of course, there are leaked nude pictures of John Kasich).

President Obama was blasted for his trip to Cuba, which was almost a given. His tango dance in Argentina also came in for criticism.

Last week, in Brussels, Islamic State terrorists killed 35 people in attacks at the airport and at a train station. Several of the dead were Americans. Donald Trump had said that he had predicted this catastrophe and blamed Belgium for intelligence failures. This was followed by an attack in Pakistan on a Christian enclave during Easter, killing more than 60 people.

It was a horrible reminder of the times we live in.

In Campaign 2016, however, the news was about the candidates’ wives, or rather, how they were being treated by the campaigns. A pro-Cruz PAC had published semi-nude pictures from a GQ photo shoot some years ago of Trump’s wife Melania. This appeared to incense Trump to the point where he threatened to “spill the beans” about Cruz’s wife Gretchen, releasing an unflattering photo of her alongside one of Melania. Then the National Enquirer printed a story claiming that Cruz had conducted several extramarital affairs. Cruz called the claims “garbage” and said Trump was behind it. Trump denied that.

While Bernie Sanders is still carrying on an all-in, all-out battle against Hillary Clinton almost unnoticed, this is what Campaign 2016 has become on the GOP side. We have found the cellar door in the basement. It should be noted that the media is aiding and abetting this process even while complaining about it on the air.

Amazingly, it appears that no one saw Trump coming, now that he’s within reach of the Republican nomination. And, as yet, no one has figured out a way to keep him from marching on. It’s likely that the only candidate who can undo Trump is Trump. (God knows, he’s tried.)

There is a hiatus now before the next big primary in Wisconsin next Tuesday. Maybe, instead of stoking incipient scandals that aren’t scandals, we ought to look around us. This week, in Washington, we’ve been blessed with the gift of cherry blossoms. Let’s take a deep breath. Let’s imagine a day without a tweet from Donald Trump or a scolding from Ted Cruz or a hug from John Kasich.

Maybe then the curse will be lifted.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *