Donald Trump has changed Presidential campaigning–perhaps forever.
First, He has made angry and brutal attacks on a wide range of persons and organizations–including his fellow Republicans, journalists, news organizations, other countries and even celebrities who have nothing to do with politics.
Among those groups–and the insults Trump has leveled at them:
Second, he has weaponized social media. He has made Twitter an essential arm of his campaign, swiftly insulting his opponents and keeping them constantly off-balance. He has proved himself a master at the tabloid news culture and thoroughly in tune with his target audience.
Third, since announcing his candidacy on June 16, 2015, he has gotten a year’s worth of free media publicity. This has nothing to do with a networks’ conspiracy to favor Trump.
Instead, it owes to the media’s lust for sensational copy. And scenes of conflict–such as making brutal attacks on others–generate huge viewership.
This has been most apparent in debates, during which he belittled his Republican opponents with insulting nicknames.
- “Little Marco” – Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio
- “Goofy” – Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren
- “Lyin’ Ted” – Texas U.S. Senator Rafael Eduardo “Ted” Cruz
And looking beyond the Republican primary cycle, he created one for his future Democratic antagonist: “Crooked Hillary”–Hillary Clinton, former First Lady, U.S. Senator from New York and Secretary of State.
Political pundits have marveled at Trump’s ability to cast aside the long-held niceties of political discourse and not have to pay an electoral price for it. But that time may be coming to an end.
On July 22, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
Cyber-security experts believe the hackers originated from Russia–and that Russian President Vladimir Putin may well have authorized it.
The emails revealed the DNC’s bias for Clinton for President. And they showed clear animosity toward her lone challenger, Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.
Sanders’ supporters had long charged that the DNC and its chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, were plotting to undercut his campaign. Now thousands of them were descending on the Democratic nominating convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as furious protesters.
Five days later, on July 27, Trump held a press conference in Doral, Florida. Always ready to pounce on any perceived sign of weakness, he aimed yet another attack on Clinton:
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
Trump hoped to score points on Hillary Clinton’s using a private email server as Secretary of State. Instead, he ignited criticism–of himself–on both Left and Right.
“This has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent,” said Jake Sullivan, Clinton’s chief foreign policy adviser. “This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue.”
Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan was equally quick to react: “Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug,” said Brendan Buck, Ryan’s spokesman. “Putin should stay out of this election.”
“If he is talking about the State Department emails on her server, he is inviting a foreign intelligence service to steal sensitive American government information,” said Michael Hayden, head of the CIA under President George W. Bush.
“In addition to its implications for national security today,” wrote Benjy Sarlin, political reporter for MSNBC, “the incident raised disturbing questions about how Trump would govern as president. If a leader is willing to turn to ask foreign spy agencies to target a political opponent, what would he ask of his own spy agencies?”
The avalanche of criticism has led Trump to claim: “I was only being sarcastic.”
Only his most hardcore followers seem to believe it.
Since the end of World War II, the Republican party has taken an intensely anti-Communist stance. Now its nominee for President has not only exchanged compliments with an ex-KGB agent but has even invited him to target his Democratic opponent.
For at least one normally conservative newspaper, that’s simply too much. In a July 27 editorial, The Dallas Morning News declared:
“Words have meaning. The world is listening. And what the world is hearing is a man demonstrating that he is unfit to sit in the Oval Office.”
The ancient Greeks believed hubris–overweening pride–to be the greatest of sins. And, they warned, it was usually punished by divine wrath.
In his book, The World of Herodotus, Aubrey de Selincourt writes that the Greek historian filled his book, The Histories, with “stories of the perils of pride–pride of wealth, pride of power, pride of success, and, deadliest of all, the pride which leads a man to forget that he is a nothing in the sight of the gods.”
Trump has long boasted of his wealth, power and success. Perhaps his time of reckoning has finally arrived.