Make the Cartoon Campaign Stop!

A few weeks back, Molly Ball wrote in the Washington Post about the 2016 Presidential Campaign’s “…rich irony that America’s first woman to head a major-party ticket finds herself running against the cartoon of masculinity, the parody of machismo, that is Trump. On the other hand, it might not be a coincidence at all.”

Earlier I had a different title in mind for this column: “Dicking Around with the Election,” because so much dickish male behavior was taking center stage in this final stretch toward Election Day.

But that was before Clinton aide Huma Abedin got drawn in by her sexting-addicted husband, and before temporary DNC chair Donna Brazile was accused of passing debate questions to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. More on both of those later…

As I write this on the Tuesday one week before the election, who knows the gender of the new FBI leaker publishing years-old internal research documents on the Clinton Foundation? J. Edgar Hoover would be proud. “Will FBI be posting docs on Trump’s housing discrimination in ’70s?” tweeted Brian Fallon.

Wait, there’s more! The latest WikiLeaks document drop has John Podesta referring to a bunch of emails on Hillary’s private server with “…we are going to have to dump all those emails so better to do so sooner than later.” Uh! It’s not the smoking gun that it sounds like, but Trump’s candidacy knows very well how to sell appearance and wish over reality.

Forget reality—the whole damn thing has become a cartoon.

How in HELL did 650,000 (!!) emails that do not concern Abedin’s husband Anthony Wiener wind up on his computer? They may not even concern Hillary either, but we won’t find out before the election—which makes FBI Director James Comey’s announcement of last Friday sound more and more like a violation of the Hatch Act.

Trump is calling the discovery of these maybe-new emails “bigger than Watergate!” …or they may be nothing at all. One thing is certain: there is no chance to exonerate Clinton before the election but then, Trump’s people would just begin shouting “rigged!” again.

Taking Comey’s unwarranted and unprecedented announcement and this new leak of FBI internal research documents together, mix with the steady release of email from WikiLeaks, and you gotta wonder which campaign should be muttering “rigged!”

It’s easy to surmise that there is nothing incriminating in those emails, but who in hell knows? There was nothing happening in Kenneth Starr’s investigation of the Clinton Whitewater “scandal” during the 90s—until he stumbled across Monica Lewinski.

So I can give Abedin sympathy for being married to Anthony Wiener and the benefit of the doubt concerning the emails, innocent until proven guilty, even if Trump’s people wouldn’t dream of it. I feel less confident exonerating Donna Brazile, who as a CNN employee appears to have leaked questions in advance to Hillary’s campaign for a debate with Bernie Sanders.

That the questions were obvious: on the subjects of the death penalty and the Flint, Michigan, water crisis is doubly vexing. First, a debate-sponsoring network always brags that ABSOLUTELY NO ONE has seen the questions in advance, except the debate host.

Second, just last week I was praising Hillary’s many days of debate preparation and you can read countless articles about her obsession with every detail. That she would not prepare for these two questions anyway—that’s, well, cartoonish thinking.

Brazile getting caught passing obvious debate questions may not be bigger than Watergate, but it is every bit as stupid. Nixon had the election in the bag without cheating. And once upon a time, so did Clinton.

What has happened this election season has me wondering which cartoon I’m watching: Animal Farm or The Roadrunner. I don’t need to explain the Orwell reference, do I? The latter metaphor has Trump playing the part of Wiley Coyote, getting bonked again and again, but getting back up every time. Hillary as the Roadrunner keeps getting away and staying ahead, b-b-but here’s where reality warps that fantasy: as the cartoon drags on, she gets slower and slower. Old Wiley keeps getting closer.

I read the tightening polls in the morning and terror strikes, and after a nervous day it takes Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC to calm me down. He touts a new Florida poll that showed a lot of Republicans claiming to advance vote for Hillary. I pray that they were not messing with their survey interviewers. And with me.

But the cartoons still won’t stop. I listened to an account of what’s it’s like to live in Battleground:Ohio, where the campaign ads attack you from the time you wake up ‘till the time you go to bed, from the TV and the telephone and the doorbell.

Here in nearly ad-free California, the torture is voluntary. The politicians like our money but they take our liberal majority for granted. I’m glad that they do; you could not pay me to live in Ohio or Florida these past few months.

Cartoonish behavior, mostly male, is so prevalent in this campaign season that I imagine it as a graphic novel set in a warped comic book universe. Trump has the ego of Ironman Tony Stark but an approach to politics more like the Incredible Hulk. The comic Tom Tomorrow has spent a lot of ink portraying him as an orange-skinned brute shouting “Trump smash everything!” No wait, maybe I saw that on CNN?

Trump’s most dedicated surrogate Rudy Giuliani can be so cartoonish that when he speaks, er, bellows, I expect the cameraman to wipe spittle off the lens. I recall a surreal televised press conference during the 90s, when Giuliani was still mayor of New York City, where he explained that he was not an adulterer even though he had a mistress—because he was impotent.

Although Newt Gingrich serving divorce papers to his wife on her cancer deathbed is a myth, he did serve papers in their ongoing divorce to her hospital bed, as she recuperated from an operation to remove a tumor.

And he does spend part of every presidential campaign speech hawking one of his many books on his visions for America. One of his speeches from 2012 is a favorite of mine: “Near the end of my second term, we will have a base on the Moon. And it will be American!”

Chris Christie IS a cartoon, but not so much because of his weight. I recall video of him denying involvement in Bridgegate, sneering at reporters that “I worked the cones on the bridge” that day. He loved to play the angry man card, attacking his inquisitors in lieu of answering them.

Now in the trial of Chris Christie’s former Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly, her lawyer is playing the “Christie Culture Card” and it feels like sweet poetic justice. But he is still in charge of Trump’s presidential transition team. So if the unthinkable happens, he’s likely to be right there with The Donald to torture us for four fucking years.

Friends still ask me, WHAT did Hillary do to deserve all this hate? The term “uppity” comes to mind because we’re dealing with the same threatened white male mindset that brought on the Obama birther “movement” and the accompanying racist resurgence—this time it’s a drive to delegitimatize a woman.

For starters, Hillary dissed Tammy Wynette’s iconic song “Stand By Your Man” in one interview during the 1992 presidential campaign. Later she offered what have become iconic words: “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life.”

Uppity woman. Nasty woman. Any number of baser epithets that you can hear at any given Trump rally. It’s our Election. And it’s a cartoon. God help us.

Vote. Don’t let someone else decide your future. Get out there and vote!

To fortify you with a few laughs until then, here’s Samantha Bee with a conspiracy theory that Donald Trump is illiterate:

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Written by

Steve Schlich is retired after 35 years of writing fiction about software: “easy to use,” “does what you want,” and the like. Hobbies include webmaster for, writing songs and short stories. In 2004, he created, a website chronicling the naughty public art in Washington, D.C. He lives happily with his wife and cats, north of San Francisco.

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