It is Trump, after all, who says he might not accept the outcome of the election, talks about jailing his opponent, behaves like a cyberbully and boasts about the size of a certain appendage.
But that does not mean Hillary Clinton is guiltless, despite the suggestion of some supporters that she has played within normal political bounds and that criticism is rooted in a media false equivalency.
1. Trump attacks Hillary with brazen lies— Peter Daou (@peterdaou) November 4, 2016
2. Hillary attacks Trump with his own words
3. Big media: Both sides are equal
The idea that the press has taken a “both sides are equal” approach to covering campaign rhetoric is total nonsense. Article after article after article has described Trump's style as unique in American politics.
“Never in modern presidential politics has a major candidate made false statements as routinely as Trump has,” the Los Angeles Times reported in September.
When Trump said during a debate last month that Clinton would be in prison if he were president, the Chicago Tribune described the remark as “an unprecedented break with U.S. political decorum.”
“There is a long tradition of presidential candidates ratcheting up their language when they are trailing in the closing weeks of an election,” the New York Times reported in October. “But in the same fashion Donald J. Trump has broken with other political traditions, he is taking a long-standing rite of fall to new heights — or perhaps new lows.”
These are excerpts of news stories, mind you, not editorials or opinion columns. Over and over, the media has made clear that Trump is in a class by himself.
Yet Clinton has contributed to a toxic political environment, too, albeit on a smaller scale. This week, she appeared to question Trump's patriotism when she told a crowd in Cincinnati that her rival “seems not to like America.”
As The Fix's Aaron Blake noted, Clinton has often said that Trump's ideas are un-American, but to say that he doesn't like his country is pretty extreme. When Rudy Giuliani said in February 2015 — before Trump or Clinton launched their campaigns — that he does “not believe that the president loves America,” the former New York mayor was widely criticized in the media for a remark that seemed over the line.
Also this week, Clinton conjured the famous/infamous “Daisy” ad from 1964 that cast that year's Republican nominee, Barry Goldwater, as a dangerous figure who might spark a nuclear conflict. The provocative original spot aired only once. Clinton used the same actress (now an adult, obviously) in her ad, and made essentially the same argument against Trump.
“The fear of nuclear war that we had as children, I never thought our children would ever have to deal with that again,” Monique Corzilius Luiz says in the Clinton ad. “And to see that coming forward in this election is really scary.”
And while Trump's rude treatment of journalists is unparalleled, Clinton also has abandoned such precedents as allowing reporters to observe fundraisers and accompany her in a protective pool that would enable coverage of her every move on the trail. The White House Correspondents Association has written letters to both candidates expressing concerns about lack of access.
So, yes, Trump is the No. 1 offender in this unpleasant election season. But his overshadowing of Clinton's role in the tumult does not mean she hasn't played one at all.