Senator Kelly Ayotte did not have a great moment on the debate stage when she was asked whether she would tell a child to aspire to be like Donald Trump — and whether, as the moderator put it, she would “point to him as a role model.”
Ayotte seemed caught off guard by the question. “I think that, uh, certainly there are many role models that we have, and, um, I believe that he can serve as president, and so absolutely, I would do that,” she stammered. Democratic challenger Maggie Hassan later released an ad highlighting the remark, which in turn led the Ayotte campaign to release an ad of its own, in which Ayotte offered a quasi-apology.
Trump couldn’t make his unsuitability as a role model any clearer if he tried. So yes, Ayotte’s made a glaring mistake. But there’s something insufferable about the way Democrats are pouncing on this as if Hillary Clinton weren’t herself a terrible role model.
Because there’s no escaping the fact that Clinton is a terrible role model. Unless, of course, you want your child to become a habitual liar and a walking conflict of interest, file false tax information, berate aides, reflexively defend herself by ridiculing women who made other choices, label political opponents “enemies” engaged in a vast conspiracy against her, demand six-figure checks from universities to speak for an hour about the rising cost of higher education, and get rebuked by the FBI for being “extremely careless in handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
Some have tried to turn Clinton into a role model by shoehorning her life into a traditional narrative of adversity overcome, but to do so you have to ignore her epic fumbling of health-care reform early in Bill Clinton’s presidency, the public sympathy for her after the Lewinsky scandal, the New York Senate seat that was gift-wrapped and delivered to her in 2000, the spectacular collapse in the 2008 Democratic primary, and her modest-at-best record of accomplishment as secretary of state. In other words, to write a story that turns Hillary Clinton into an inspiring role model, you have to fudge the facts.
Hassan’s attack ad on Ayotte plays audio of some of Trump’s most obnoxious comments — “Miss Piggy,” imitating the disabled reporter, “her fat, ugly face,” “blood coming out of her wherever.” But if treatment of women is the measuring stick for whether a man is a role model, there’s something particularly detestable about hearing Democrats argue that Trump is disqualified after they pulled out all of the stops to defend Bill Clinton from the most unsavory series of claims of sexual misconduct Washington had ever seen. Look past Clinton’s consensual affairs with Monica Lewinsky, Gennifer Flowers, Elizabeth Ward Gracen, Sally Purdue, Dolly Kyle Browning, and Myra Belle “Sally” Miller. Turn instead to Juanita Broaddrick’s allegations, Kathleen Willey’s allegations, Paula Jones’s allegations — all shoved down the memory hole. Remind a Democrat of these women and you’ll hear all kinds of bizarre excuses and explanations: Those allegations are from a long time ago. It’s none of our business. Bill Clinton does what he does in private, while Trump insults women in public.
James Carville dismissed Paula Jones by declaring, “Drag a hundred dollars through a trailer park and there’s no telling what you’ll find,” and he remains a member of the punditry in good standing to this very day. Democrats are perfectly fine with smearing a woman who alleges sexual assault as untrustworthy because of her social class if the accused is on their team. Horrible treatment of women bothers them only when it comes from someone in the other party.
#related#Ayotte issued a statement after the debate, declaring, “I misspoke tonight. While I would hope all of our children would aspire to be president, neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton have set a good example, and I wouldn’t hold up either of them as role models for my kids.” Polling indicates most voters agree with her: A new Politico survey finds that 72 percent of registered voters don’t think Trump is a role model, and 54 percent say the same about Clinton. Democrats can try to sell her as a paragon of virtue, but the electorate doesn’t appear willing to buy it.
It would be ideal if every presidential race offered two adults that Americans of all political stripes could agree were role models. Some years, it offers only one. This year, it has given us none.