- - Thursday, October 6, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The 2016 presidential campaign will go down in U.S. history as a nasty, below-the-belt, political brawl, filled with ugly, juvenile, mean-spirited behavior that has embarrassed our country before the world.

Take the first campaign debate where the Republican front-runner suggested that one of the anchors, who asked why he insulted women he didn’t like — calling them “fat pigs,” “dogs,” and “slobs” — was on her menstrual cycle.

For Donald Trump, it was the beginning of his immature, school yard rants in which he bragged about his manhood, insulted a fellow candidate on her looks and mocked a New York Times reporter who suffers from a physical disability.

In the general election, Mr. Trump praised Russian dictator Vladimir Putin — whose war planes are killing men, women and children in Syria and bombing their hospitals — as a “strong leader,” insisting that the former KGB thug would never invade Ukraine when the opposite was true.

Some of these and other bombastic statements made by Mr. Trump over the course of this election were raised by Hillary Clinton’s running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, in this week’s vice presidential debate with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.

In most cases, Mr. Pence just shook his head and insisted Mr. Trump never said these things, or he refused to respond to Mr. Kaine’s charges and changed the subject.

As Mr. Kaine brought up one insult after another by Mr. Trump, Mr. Pence was incredulous, replying in mock surprise, “Ours is an insult-driven campaign?”

But the day after the debate, the Clinton campaign sent out a video showing Mr. Kaine leveling his charges, followed by tape recordings of Mr. Trump saying what Mr. Pence insisted he never said.

Yet even Pence wasn’t willing to fully embrace Mr. Trump’s over the top praise of Mr. Putin’s murderous policies in Syria in support of Bashar Assad’s reign of terror.

“I just have to tell you that provocations by Russia need to be met with American strength,” Mr. Pence said. “If Russia chooses to be involved and continue, I should say to be involved in this barbaric attack on civilians in Aleppo, the United States of America should be prepared to use military force to strike military targets of the Assad regime.”

While Mr. Trump was calling Mr. Putin “a strong leader,” whom he liked and said he could work with, Mr. Pence made it clear he didn’t share his running-mate’s dopey views — calling Mr. Putin “a small and bullying leader.”

Meantime, over the past several weeks, Mr. Trump’s reality show candidacy has been hit by one political bombshell after another.

There was The New York Times’ report, based on one of his tax filings, that Mr. Trump’s casino and other real estate investments lost close to $1 billion in the 1990s that would have allowed the billionaire businessman to write off all of his federal income taxes over an 18-year period.

Yet during this period, he bought a luxury 727 jet for his personal use, and a string a real estate properties in New York, Palm Beach and Colorado.

That, say observers, is the reason why he refuses to disclose his tax documents — something that every major presidential nominee has done in the last four decades — which would reveal his real annual income.

This week, Forbes magazine published its annual list of the 400 richest Americans that showed Mr. Trump at No. 156, with a fortune of $3.7 billion.

On Tuesday, in a “notice of violation,” New York’s attorney general ordered his personal charity, the Trump Foundation, to cease fundraising immediately, because he had been raising money without legal state authorization or annual audits.

In a stunning investigative report earlier this week, The Washington Post reported that since 2008, his foundation depended entirely on other people’s donations, and none of his own.

Meantime, Mr. Trump has been showing signs of increasing erratic behavior by attacking Alicia Machado, a stunning former Miss Universe beauty queen whom he mocked and embarrassed for her weight gain 20 years ago; decided to make former President Bill Clinton’s sexual affairs a major issue in his campaign; raised new political questions about Hillary Clinton’s health; and renewed his war on the news media.

With polls showing that voters are worried most about the weak economy, jobs and falling incomes, Republican officials feared the Trump campaign was going off the rails in the wake of last week’s first presidential debate.

“Can this thing just end — please?” Ohio’s Republican Party chairman Matt Borges said. “My God, what a nightmare.”

There certainly were bigger issues for Mr. Trump to flog in erratic campaign.

The Obama economy has nearly stopped moving under the Democrats’ rule, growing at little more than 1 percent. Consumer spending slowed sharply in August, turning in its weakest performance in five months. Personal income was nearly flat throughout the summer.

Obamacare was coming apart at the seams as health insurers were leaving the program in droves, forcing the administration to try to prop up health plans with billions of dollars from an obscure Treasury fund to circumvent the Republican Congress.

Of course, Hillary Clinton, who would raise taxes on the economy, saddle businesses with more regulations, and sharply raise spending, would be no better.

Sadly, one of them is going to become president.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

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