Clarence Fanto | The Bottom Line: Campaign's misogyny, fear mongering show no sign of abating
LENOX — So this is what we've come to.
Just four hours after the horrific atrocities in Brussels, NBC News sought reaction from foreign policy "expert" Donald Trump as the media obsession with the Republican front-runner continues to rake in huge TV ratings, a commercial bonanza and the equivalent of nearly $2 billion in free publicity.
As CBS chieftain Les Moonves acknowledged a month ago in a widely quoted burst of candor: "It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS. The money's rolling in and this is fun. I've never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It's a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going."
On the "Today" show, Trump's predictable prescription — prevent Muslims from entering the United States and adopt torture, well beyond waterboarding, as a new legal strategy and national policy — was matched by second-place Ted Cruz. His recommendation on Facebook: "We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized."
As critics accused the candidate of advocating a military-style occupation, Cruz attempted to walk back his statement, pointing out that during the Bloomberg administration, New York City police used to do just what he was suggesting.
(The NYPD did monitor mosques and Muslim student groups at area colleges as part of a secret "Demographics Unit," later renamed the "Zone Assessment Unit," until Mayor de Blasio disbanded the counter-terrorism operation).
In response, the city's widely admired police commissioner, Bill Bratton, denounced Cruz as "out of line" and unfit to be president, pointing out that the NYPD has more than 900 Muslim officers.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham had it right months ago when he sort-of joked that Cruz could be murdered on the Senate floor and no one would be convicted.
On "The Daily Show" this week, Graham tried to explain his current support of Cruz. "He was my 15th choice, what can I say? One, he's not completely crazy," he told host Trevor Noah, explaining that all he likes about the candidate "is that he's not Trump," and that he's a Republican.
Noah showed a clip of Graham describing the choice between Cruz and Trump as "like being shot or poisoned, what does it matter?" Giggling, Graham finally delivered the ultimate truth: "My party is completely screwed up."
As if more evidence were needed, the Cruz-Trump campaign circus moved into a totally ridiculous tent after a Cruz super-PAC unaffiliated with the candidate posted an ad ahead of last Tuesday's primaries displaying a nearly-naked Melania Trump on a GQ magazine cover 16 years ago, long before the billionaire took her as his third wife. The ad asked voters to consider whether she would be an appropriate first lady. Oh, and by the way, vote for Cruz.
A "social media" brawl erupted as Trump tweeted: "Be careful, lyin' Ted or I'll spill the beans on your wife."
Nobody seems to have any idea what beans he was talking about — the sleuths at The New York Times found only that Heidi Cruz suffered a brief bout of depression in 2005, as her husband has acknowledged and as many Americans have endured.
Trump, who has asserted with a straight face that "nobody respects women more than I do," is well-known for his misogyny, such as repeatedly labeling respected Fox News host Megyn Kelly as "crazy" and "sick" for the unpardonable sin of asking him tough questions.
In high dudgeon over the slur against his wife, Cruz told reporters: "Donald,you're a sniveling coward and leave Heidi the hell alone. Donald does seem to have an issue with women. Donald doesn't like strong women, strong women scare Donald. Real men don't try to bully women. That's not an action of strength. That's an action of weakness. That's an action of fear. That's an action of a small and petty man who is intimidated by strong women. Real men don't do that. "
However, when asked to explain why he has not withdrawn his pledge to endorse Trump if he's nominated, the best Cruz could come up with was, "Donald Trump will not be the nominee because he is a train wreck."
"Donald has a very unfortunate habit," Cruz added. "When he gets scared, he lashes out, and he insults and attacks whoever is standing near him."
And, for good measure, Heidi Cruz reminded us: "You probably know by now that most of the things that Donald Trump says have no basis in reality."
It was amusing, but also sad, to hear Melania Trump's attempt to defend her husband: "I see him in life, he treats women the same as men." Hmmm, an equal-opportunity bully? Sounds like faint praise.
NBC News sought out an unidentified female Trump supporter at a campaign rally for comment: "We have some foreign leaders out there that are tough and ridiculous and rather nasty, maybe we need one of our own," she offered.
Or maybe not. A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 47 percent of female Republican voters can't imagine Trump as the party's standard-bearer. Overall, among all female voters, 70 percent view him negatively. Voters under 30 overwhelmingly oppose him.
No doubt, Hillary Clinton has high negatives even among Democrats while Bernie Sanders, the most likable candidate, won't be on the November ballot, even though recent national polls show him burying Trump by 12 to 15 percentage points, while Mrs. Clinton wins by 6 to 10 points, still a landslide.
And that's our glimpse at The Week That Was as our national political nightmare rolls on.
The bottom line: It will only get worse.
Contact Clarence Fanto at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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