Let’s have equal opportunity skepticism

KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. Senator and candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 (Shutterstock).

Let’s be fair to Donald Trump. No, seriously. That’s not a joke. When it comes time to judge the presidential candidates, we should remember what they say about geese and ganders, and apply the same standards to all members of this growing gaggle. Both males and females of this species should get equal treatment, in other words. That’s where the fairness to the biggest goose of all comes in.

A presidential campaign by anyone should be a brutal trial by fire. We hear nonstop from those who want Trump out of the White House that anything goes, even to the point of judging his opponents less harshly. This particularly applies to those of the female persuasion.

Already we are hearing complaints that women candidates are being required to cope with personal questions that the men are not. Who they slept with in the past is one (Kamala Harris); how abusive they have been to their subordinates is another (Amy Klobuchar). “Double standard,” their supporters bellow. “Guys are not held to the same criteria.”

Certainly Donald Trump has been. In fact, he built up his brand by bragging about his sexual adventures, most of them anyway. The demands he puts on his staff is the stuff of dark legend, to say nothing of the way he’s stiffed those with whom he’s done business. His life is an open book. No one can claim that he’s being judged differently because he’s a man. It’s a toxic but gender-neutral story, hanging out there for all to compare. What it means to the others is that there really isn’t a question that’s too impertinent to ask.

Even so, it’s the other stuff about Trump that’s been much more difficult to extricate, like his hideously complex or hidden financial dealings. Has his history with unsavory characters slopped over into lawbreaking? What effect did they have on his alleged collusion with the Russians? Was their collusion with the Russians done to throw the election his way? We might soon find out.

We should work just as hard to try to unearth any chicanery by each and every one of those who declare themselves fit for the highest office in the land and not be dissuaded by any complaints that such scrutiny is intrusive. Once elected, a person’s decisions as chief executive intrude on every aspect of our lives.

Sadly, at the bottom of this list is the substance. What a shame that we are too lazy and unwilling to plow through the weeds of policy recommendations. Who among us has really gotten past the demagogic name-calling to deflect serious discussion about complex issues like government-provided health care, tax policies or climate change, just to mention a few?

It’s all about the catchy sound bite or clever tweet, so those who want to make a quick buck can slip in and bamboozle their way into billions of quick bucks, at our expense. Man or woman, our leader is going to be required to try to make America great again after the Make America Great Again debacle. Man or woman, the stakes are too high to allow anyone to forfeit the next election.

A fair fight for power this time around could well determine the future of this country, or if we even have a future.

Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN. (c) 2019 Bob Franken Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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