In a solemn moment at the Al Smith dinner, Hillary Clinton said, “We need to get better at finding ways to disagree on matters of policy while agreeing on questions of decency and civility — how we talk to each other, treat each other, respect each other.” And she’s right. She absolutely needs to salute that flag.
The dinner, we know, is mostly a joke fest. Every four years, with some exceptions, the two principal presidential candidates show up in formal dress. Each has self-deprecating humorous moments, slinging just a few funny lines at the other side, and everyone is happy. The Catholic Church, sponsoring the affair, gets lots of money to help needy children, and people leave with good feelings.
This year was different. Donald Trump told some great jokes on himself and Clinton — and then seriously hit Clinton, rightly earning boos. Clinton then did much the same, going after him with some pretty tough zingers, getting a few boos, too, and then, at the end getting preachy in a semi-disguised diatribe.
It may have sounded to some like a general statement of ideals, but it was clearly meant to smear Trump as she discussed those who appeal to “fear and division” in contrast to the godly command of loving one’s neighbors.
To underline Trump’s position on immigration, she talked about Catholics as the descendants of immigrants who had to fight their way up. She pointed to all the prejudice Catholics have faced as a way of knocking his once calling for a ban on Muslims coming here. She talked about a need “to build bridges, not walls,” as a not-so-hidden reference to you know what. She cited Pope Francis as warning against a “mindset of hostility,” meaning Trump’s hostility, of course.
So here is question one: Is it civil, reflecting a mindset of love, to spend a fortune on TV ads depicting Trump as a woman-hater, a vulgar and rotten human scarring children with his talk, a Ku Klux Klan sympathizer and falsely as someone who would nuke our allies in Western Europe? That’s just for starters, because there are scads of other such ads, plus Cher calling Trump Hitler at a Clinton rally.
Well, you say, he deserves it. But isn’t that a way of saying two wrongs make a right, and what about the millions of his followers Clinton described as racists, sexists, xenophobes, homophobes and otherwise deplorable? Is that what she thinks of as building bridges? Is that her idea of how to end division?
In the discussion about police shooting blacks, Clinton has also said that cops are racist, at least “implicitly,” which merely means their actions show as much. That’s no way to bring people together, and, when pushed on it, she said, well, the whole country is racist. In other words, it is not just the cops and half of Trump’s supporters, but all of us, apparently including Hillary herself.
Clinton’s campaign honchos have also discussed Catholicism in a dismissive way, leading one archbishop, first describing her as “a scheming, robotic liar,” to add that she has an “entourage riddled with anti-Catholic bigots.” He was not warmhearted about Trump, either, it should be said.
Trump did once say a protester should be punched in the face. Some of Clinton’s supporters, including Vice President Joe Biden, have talked about punching him. It bears repeating by me and others that, as secretary of state, Clinton once said that a drone should be used to take out Julian Assange.
Our Democratic candidate, who is almost sure to win the election, is also known as being rude to the point of slinging curse words at Secret Service agents and others trying to serve her. Trump is unquestionably indecent and uncivil, but Clinton is no sweetheart, either, despite her deceptions to the contrary.