Friday, March 04, 2016

EDIROTIAL >> Debate below the belt

We thought we had seen everything in the wildest presidential debates ever seen or heard. Then came the last two Republican debates and the great dispute over the size of the candidates’ sexual organs. Now we hope we never see the likes of them again.

The verbal battering, particularly among Donald Trump, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, had become so personal, brutal and crude that Senator Rubio decided he had to bring down the macho and swaggering Trump by questioning his manhood.

He asked Americans to look at Trump’s “small hands” and he insinuated, with a grin, that it was commonly known that this meant that another part of a man’s anatomy was equally small. In Thursday’s debate, fuller yet with slurs and taunts, Trump dismissed Rubio’s taunt and said Americans could rest assured that he was more than adequate.

Before he ran for president, Trump boasted about his romantic and sexual prowess.

On the popular television show “Morning Joe” the next day, one commentator said Rubio missed the perfect squelch at the debate: “Prove it!”

The country has not seen such vulgar depths in presidential campaigning since, well, since 1800.

Thomas Jefferson, who was campaigning against President John Adams, called the Federalist president “a hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensitivity of a woman.”

Then there was the slightly more circumspect President Martin Van Buren, campaigning against the Whig William Henry Harrison, the hero of Tippecanoe, who called his challenger “a man who wore corsets, put cologne on his whiskers, and slept on French beds...” Voters chose the man who wore corsets.

Is there a high road in this salacious era or do we sink ever lower?

Ernie Dumas, the dean of Arkansas journalists, writes editorials for The Leader.