In politics, imitation is the sincerest form of hatred. And with Donald Trump having pulled just close enough in the polls to make Democrats sweat, they seem to be lining up to imitate Trump’s style.
First up, former Vermont Governor, presidential candidate and Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean, accusing Trump of being on cocaine with no evidence at all, asking on Twitter: “Notice Trump sniffing all the time. Coke user?”
Dean, who is a physician, clarified that he was not actually assigning Trump a cocaine addiction diagnosis – “You can’t make a diagnosis over the television; I would never do that,” he said – but maintained that Trump’s sniffling, as seen at the debate, “is actually a signature of people who use cocaine.” Then he pivoted the discussion to argue that Trump should release his tax returns and more detailed medical records.
“He sniffs during the presentation, which is something that users do,” Dean said, and then attributed a series of other characteristics to Trump that he said “accompanies that problem.” He has “grandiosity,” “delusions” and “trouble with pressured speech” and “couldn’t keep himself together” on Monday, Dean said. “I think it would be interesting to ask him and see if he ever had a problem with that.”
Only after having left the accusation hanging for several days did Dean kinda-sorta apologize, while effectively admitting he was sinking to Trump’s level:
“And so I apologize for using innuendo,” Dean told MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle Friday morning. “I don’t think it’s a good thing to do. I don’t think it’s the right thing to do. This entire campaign has been debased by innuendo.”
Next, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, trolling Trump about his weight: “The D women Senators have talked & we’re concerned about Donald’s weight. Campaign stress? We think a public daily weigh-in is called for.“
Then we have the Democrats’ Senate Leader for the past decade, Harry Reid, with a classic Trumpism, throwing out a random potshot at Tim Tebow’s NFL career in the middle of a screed against Trump:
“Tim Tebow, I’m sure, is a fine man,” Reid said. “His college career was terrific. Heisman Award winner. His professional career was kind of—wasn’t so good. But everything I know about the man, he’s a good person.”
Now, admittedly, a lot of this stuff is not new territory for Democrats. Dean, back in 2003 when he was leading in Democratic presidential primary polls, speculated that George W. Bush had advance knowledge of the September 11 attacks:
Dean: There is a report which the president is suppressing evidence for which is a thorough investigation of 9/11.
Diane Rehm, WAMU (public) radio: Why do you think he’s suppressing that report?
Dean: I don’t know. There are many theories about it. The most interesting theory that I’ve heard so far, which is nothing more than a theory, I can’t—think it can’t be proved, is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis. Now, who knows what the real situation is, but the trouble is that by suppressing that kind of information, you lead to those kinds of theories, whether they have any truth to them or not, and then eventually they get repeated as fact. So I think the president is taking a great risk by suppressing the clear, the key information that needs to go to the Kean commission.
And Reid has such a long rap sheet of Trump-ish rhetoric it would be futile to recount it all here. In 2012, he famously claimed without a shred of evidence that Mitt Romney had paid no taxes for ten years, and his response when called on this in 2015 summarized the Trumpish attitude perfectly: ”They can call it whatever they want. Romney didn’t win did he?” He matched Trump’s ignorance of the basics of the American legal system with the bizarre claim that voters should sue Marco Rubio for missing some votes in the Senate. Over the years, his many insults have included calling Clarence Thomas an “embarrassment to the Supreme Court” whose “opinions are poorly written” (Reid ended up being unable to identify a single actual Thomas opinion), calling President Bush “a loser” and “a liar” and telling him, “Your dog is fat,” calling General Peter Pace “a yes-man…what an incompetent man,” and Alan Greenspan “one of the biggest political hacks we have here in Washington,” and even complaining that tourists visiting DC smell bad: “You can always tell when it is summertime because you can smell the visitors. The visitors stand out in the high humidity, heat, and they sweat.”
So, part of what’s going on here is just Trump giving these guys permission to be themselves – Trump, a donor to Reid in the past, is as much an imitation of Reid as the other way around. But this much is clear: Democrats may decry the degradation of American political rhetoric that Trump represents, but they will be more than happy to follow him into the mud.