Clarence Fanto | The Bottom Line: Trump the monster cynical GOP politics have wrought
LENOX >> Two stalwart local citizens holding Hillary for President signs at the war monument downtown intersection were verbally abused on primary day last Tuesday.
I saw and heard a "gentleman" lean out of his SUV window, yelling "Vote for Trump" and directing a four-letter obscenity at the Clinton supporters and their preferred candidate. I found out that this was not an isolated incident.
Later that day, a prominent Pittsfield professional and lifelong Republican told me he could never vote for Trump and would either stay home or fill in the ballot for Clinton on Election Day in November.
"Something dark has spread over this country," he said ominously but accurately.
On Thursday night, we were treated to the repellent spectacle of the billionaire con artist — Rubio is right about that — touting the size of his genitalia in only very thinly veiled language. This is the buffoon who has a realistic chance of moving into the White House next January as the leader of the free world.
The Republican Party is at war with itself, no question. Good on Romney for finally speaking out forcefully, but far too late, against the likely nominee.
His critique pulls no punches: "Unfit for office," "a con man, a fake, a fraud a phony playing the American public for suckers: He gets a free ride to the White House and all we get is a lousy hat," "the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics."
But it rings a bit hollow when we see video of the former candidate's enthusiastic embrace of Trump's endorsement for his presidential run in 2012.
Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz played tag team on the Fox News Channel debate from Detroit, pummeling Trump and throwing him off kilter at times. John Kasich was the only adult on the stage, as usual. The Fox panel — Megyn Kelly, Brett Baier and Chris Wallace — deserve major credit for their hard-hitting, well-researched questions.
But rowdy audience members, acting as if they were attending a World Wrestling Entertainment event or a bullfight, exhibited outright hooliganism with constant catcalls and screaming in the background. Most third-graders would be better behaved.
In their responses to the questions, all three candidates monkeyed around with the truth, as chronicled by the Associated Press fact-checkers.
• Trump claimed families of the 9/11 hijackers were allowed to leave the U.S. around the time of the attacks. Wrong: No relatives of the hijackers were known to be in the U.S. before or after the attacks.
• Cruz called for abolishing the IRS because his tax plan — returns written on a postcard with a 10 percent rate for everyone — would only require an office in the Treasury Department. Absurd: Where's the enforcement? Besides, the proposal is balderdash since it would push the nation toward insolvency, eliminate most government programs, cripple the military and give the wealthy huge tax cuts.
• Trump repeated his claim that if Medicare were allowed to negotiate prescription drug prices from Big Pharma, $300 billion would be saved. Since the entire country spends that amount on drugs, his savings would be real only if drugs were free.
• Rubio's contention that Trump became a billionaire mogul because he inherited more than $100 million is vastly overstated. But Trump's insistence that he received "only" a $1 million loan from his father is downright false, since dad not only guaranteed financing for the Grand Hyatt, the first hotel in Donald's empire, but bailed out one of Trump's Atlantic City casinos in 1991 with an illegal $3.5 million loan.
• Trump overstated by many billions U.S. trade deficits with China and Japan, claiming $614 billion. Actual total: $434 billion.
• Trump's insistence that the military would follow his orders to torture terrorism suspects flies in the face of the Uniform Code of Military Justice: Soldiers must refuse to follow an order that is illegal or risk punishment.
• Cruz repeated his bald-faced lie that Obamacare is "the biggest job killer in America." When President Obama signed the health care law six years ago, the unemployment rate was 9.9 percent. Now, it's 4.9 percent, and 13.6 million jobs have been added.
But to the supporters of these candidates, reality intrudes on their fantasy world in which only their own made-up "facts" matter.
Thus, the fact-checking and Republican Party civil strife are all for naught. Unless Rubio wins his home state of Florida on March 15 — and the polls indicate he won't — and Kasich wins Ohio, a possibility, the delegate math points to a Trump nomination at the GOP convention this summer.
As talk-show host Bill Maher put it on HBO recently: "The people who hate Trump really hate him, and the people who hate Hillary really hate her. And that's what we're going to fight over. People need to learn the difference between an imperfect friend and a deadly enemy. You want to tear Hillary Clinton down? Great. Then enjoy President Trump."
Democrats, independents and even some Republicans — will need to unite forcefully and enthusiastically behind the Democratic nominee if they want to stop the Trump juggernaut in November.
Sadly, Rubio, Cruz and Kasich won't be among them, as they ended Thursday night's debate with a promise to support Trump if he's the choice.
Putting party above country is a perfect example of the cynical politics that turns off so many Americans, part of the reason outsiders have gained such traction in this never-ending campaign season.
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