No re­spect at all

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OPINION - Su­san Estrich is syn­di­cated by Cre­ators Syn­di­cate.

I thought Hil­lary Clin­ton did an ex­cel­lent job in Mon­day’s de­bate: She was well-pre­pared and ar­tic­u­late, which ev­ery­one ex­pects and she gets lit­tle credit for, but also ap­peared warm, smil­ing and nice — which she ac­tu­ally is, but of­ten doesn’t seem to be. If you went into the de­bate sup­port­ing Clin­ton, you left with a smile.

And Don­ald Trump? Trump was Trump. He got a small loan of $14 mil­lion to start a busi­ness. Is that small? He’ll re­lease his taxes some­day. He’ll give folks like him­self a big tax cut that will boost the econ­omy. Rosie O’Donnell is a “pig.”

Even if you’ve never seen a sin­gle episode of “The Ap­pren­tice,” just from watch­ing the de­bate you can un­der­stand why The Don­ald has been the most pop­u­lar and en­dur­ing star in re­al­ity tele­vi­sion, why he would even pre­sume to think he could trade­mark as his own the ex­pres­sion, “You’re fired.” His fa­vorite.

It wasn’t just that he made fac­tual mis­takes on Mon­day. Any­one can do that. What both­ered me is that he didn’t care.

It’s now been more than 20 years since I got an emer­gency call one day from the direc­tor of the Rea­gan Li­brary ask­ing if I could pinch hit for a miss­ing pan­elist on a pro­gram the next day to be head­lined by the new speaker of the House, Newt Gin­grich. I im­me­di­ately agreed. I re­mem­bered the close re­la­tion­ship Pres­i­dent Rea­gan had with my con­gress­man, former Speaker Tip O’Neill. Those were the days when Repub­li­cans and Democrats fought all day and then raised a glass to­gether at night. Those were the days when pol­i­tics was fun, and ex­e­cu­tions and pub­lic hu­mil­i­a­tions of can­di­dates and staff were not daily events. Peo­ple ac­tu­ally talked about pol­icy. And there was this idea we all seemed to share about re­spect for the pres­i­dency.

Sit­ting on the panel that day, as the lone woman and lone Demo­crat, I was asked to com­pare then-Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, who had ex­actly one sup­porter in the room (me), with Ron­ald Rea­gan. So I went to what I con­sid­ered the safest space in our land: re­spect for the pres­i­dency. I talked about the fact that I did not agree with Pres­i­dent Rea­gan on many is­sues, but I re­spected him as pres­i­dent and be­lieved such re­spect to be an es­sen­tial el­e­ment of our democ­racy, one that I hoped we could share in both Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic ad­min­is­tra­tions. Nancy Rea­gan, one of the most gra­cious ladies I have met, sit­ting in the front row, led the ap­plause of the dig­ni­taries join­ing her there. Ev­ery­one else in the room booed me. Loudly. On C-SPAN, no less. I couldn’t be­lieve it. Nancy Rea­gan sent me flow­ers and apol­o­gized.

No one apol­o­gized for Trump’s dis­re­spect Mon­day night. It wasn’t what he got wrong or didn’t know or wouldn’t do. It was that he didn’t take the de­bate the least bit se­ri­ously. He made fun of his ri­val for pre­par­ing.

They may not de­cide elec­tions, but tele­vised pres­i­den­tial de­bates have been a fun­da­men­tal as­pect of our democ­racy for the last half-cen­tury. To give them less at­ten­tion than the tap­ing of an “Ap­pren­tice” episode be­trays a lack of re­spect that goes to the core of Trump’s char­ac­ter.

Su­san Estrich

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