Presidential qualities missing in Graham-Trump insults

Presidential candidate behavior dropped to another low in the Lindsey Graham-Donald Trump exchange of personal insults. The senator repeatedly called The Donald a jackass and the tycoon-candidate termed Graham an idiot. Then Trump gave out Graham’s personal cellphone number at a campaign speech in Bluffton.

Graham responded by appearing in a sophomoric video destroying flip phones.

Graham was upset about Trump declaring that five years as a prisoner of war (Vietnam) did not make Sen. John McCain of Arizona a hero. McCain and Graham are friends, beyond U.S. Senate colleagues, and McCain was the Republican presidential nominee in 2008. One may quibble about the strict definition of hero, but many Americans recognize that Trump took a cheap shot.

On “CBS This Morning” Graham said, “You don’t have to run for president and be the world’s biggest jackass. I’m looking for him [Trump] to be a responsible member of the 16-person primary and stop saying stuff like this. The world is falling apart.”

Trump also has claimed the government of Mexico is sending criminals, including rapists, to the United States. He has denigrated Mexican immigrants generally, in his criticism of illegal immigration.

Unfortunately, many Americans cannot or do not distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants, especially those from south of the border. Trump has played – quite successfully from a campaign strategist’s point of view – to this xenophobia.

Trump’s candidacy for the Republican nomination in 2016 is doing well in the polls. Trump’s appeal to potential Republican primary voters is surely frustrating to many moderate Republicans who are dismayed by boorish behavior. What sort of person makes public another individual’s personal phone number? Is that the sort of behavior everyday Americans want from the president?

The popularity of Donald J. Trump as a presidential candidate is a reflection of the tremendous disillusionment of everyday Americans with politicians in general and with the failure of the major political parties (Democratic and Republican) to work together in Washington. It is well-documented that many Americans see more failure than success in Congress.

Granted, this is perception, but for many it is governance and political reality. So when a non-politician (that is, a tycoon who doesn’t hold state or national elective office) spouts off about immigration, or Israel vis-a-vis Iran, or whatever, a lot of folks feel he’s refreshingly “telling it like he sees it.” Never mind if the facts do not support the campaign claims. Trump is skilled at rephrasing comments, such as claiming he is talking about the government of Mexico, not all immigrants.

The presidential election of 2016 is 15 months out. Republican and Democratic candidates will be determined in approximately a year, so we have a long way to go. So far, most of the 16 Republicans seeking the nomination and the two or three Democrats have refrained from personal insults. The huge Republican field will be narrowed considerably in coming months as candidates fail to gain traction.

Myrtle Beach is actively seeking the area’s third Republican presidential primary debate since 2008, when the city also hosted the Democratic presidential primary. The debates are a terrific economic boon, regardless of the names of the candidates.

Whoever they are in six months, we hope they demonstrate more presidential leadership qualities than voters have seen up to this point.