The New York Times went after the Republican candidate hammer and tong Friday and Saturday on accusations of past sexual misconduct, while continuing to downgrade long-standing, mostly unaired charges made against Bill Clinton, a man who would return to the White House if his wife defeats Trump in November.
Reporter Jonathan Martin found Donald Trump flirting with anti-Semitism in “Trump’s Barrage Of Heated Speech Has Little Precedent.” (He also managed to bash 2008 Republican candidate John McCain while also patting him on the back for refraining from using Obama’s racist, conspiratorial preacher Jeremiah Wright against him.)
There is a long tradition of presidential candidates ratcheting up their language when they are trailing in the closing weeks of an election.
But in the same fashion Donald J. Trump has broken with other political traditions, he is taking a longstanding rite of fall to new heights -- or perhaps new lows.
On Thursday and Friday alone, Mr. Trump unleashed a barrage of near-apocalyptic warnings about the potential destruction of the country, broad accusations about the illegitimacy of American democracy, and crude innuendo about his opponent that is almost without precedent in modern presidential history.
Here are some of Mr. Trump’s own words and how they compare to the attacks wielded by some previous presidential candidates -- language that was, at the time, considered inflammatory or controversial but which now seems quaint by comparison:
“Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends and her donors.”-- Mr. Trump at a rally on Thursday in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Mr. Trump veers dangerously close to the territory of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a fabricated anti-Semitic text, in discussing the WikiLeaks hacks that revealed some of Mrs. Clinton’s speeches to financial institutions.
There is a long history in American politics of suggesting one’s opponent will do the bidding of a special interest, or highlighting nefarious connections. When Senator John McCain was trying to gain ground on Senator Barack Obama in 2008, he aired a television ad highlighting Mr. Obama’s ties to the 1960s radical William Ayers and said on the campaign trail that “Mr. Obama’s political career was launched in Mr. Ayers’ living room.”
But despite entreaties from supporters, including his own running mate, Sarah Palin, Mr. McCain refused to go a step further and hold Mr. Obama accountable for the inflammatory comments of his onetime pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.
Ashley Parker played the race card repeatedly in her Friday report, “Trump’s Rallying Cry: ‘Our System Is Rigged.’ -- In a Race Seemingly Slipping Away, Accusations of It Being Stolen Away.”
And on Monday, at a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., he worried that the election could be “stolen” from him and singled out Philadelphia, a city with a large African-American population, warning, “We have to make sure we’re protected.”
Mr. Trump’s ominous claims of a “stolen election” -- which he often links to black, urban neighborhoods -- are not entirely new. But in recent days, he has been pressing the theme with a fresh intensity, citing everything from the potential for Election Day fraud to news media bias favoring Mrs. Clinton to rigged debates.
The assertions -- which coincide with Mr. Trump’s decline in the polls after a shaky performance in the first debate and accusations that he forced himself on women -- highlight concerns that he may not accept a Clinton victory, breaking from the traditional decorum of defeated presidential candidates and undermining the legitimacy of the election result.
If Parker wanted an example of racial threats at the polls, Philadelphia provided one on Election Day 2008, involving the New Black Panther party and two men shouting racial slurs, one armed with a billy club. Democratic Attorney General Eric Holder did not prosecute the men for voter intimidation under the Voting Rights Act, even though there was video evidence that voters turned away.
Susan Dominus garnered a Page One slot Friday for a “Political Memo,” “How Trump Led Women To Speak Up.”
A week ago, it would have seemed wildly unlikely to most people that Donald J. Trump, not Hillary Clinton, would be the candidate more likely to provoke a culture-wide shift in how we think of and talk about sexual assault. But since the release on Friday of a recording in which Trump essentially admits he has a habit of sexually assaulting women, a series of stories involving the Republican nominee seems to be doing just that.
Did this paragraph hint at a focus on Bill Clinton’s long history of sexual misconduct at last?
This is not the first time that the subject of a man’s unwanted sexual overtures has emerged unexpectedly from the churning of the political process, and has then come to dominate it.
Of course not:
Fourteen years before Stoynoff’s experience, the law professor Anita Hill testified, during Justice Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings, that Thomas had sexually harassed her when she worked for him at, of all places, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The following year, record-breaking numbers of women swept into Congress -- many of them, some have argued, supported by women repulsed not only by Hill’s story, but also by the sight of so many white men on the Senate Judiciary Committee grilling Hill, a black woman, about her motives and questioning her character.
Dominus finally issued some subtle criticism of the hypocrisy 90’s-era liberal feminist silence on Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct, so very subtle one might miss it.
Perhaps Trump is the ultimate gift to feminists: a grabber and bragger who has focused the world’s attention on the outrages women quietly endure on a chronic basis without notice. And perhaps we can now see the mid-90s response to Bill Clinton’s own accusers -- subdued or defensive among liberals on account of his women-friendly politics -- as a near miss of an opportunity, a cultural shift that could have built on the momentum of Anita Hill, but never did.
The headline to Friday’s lead story by Patrick Healy and Alan Rappeport summed up the story’s tone, dismissing Trump’s criticism of media favoritism toward Hillary Clinton: “Trump Fires Back, Accusing Women Of ‘False Smears’ -- He Suggests a Conspiracy of Forces Against Him as Allegations Grow.”