Analysis: Send in the clowns

People wait in the hall for the presidential debate between Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
People wait in the hall for the presidential debate between Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

2016 will go down as the year of the creepy clown and the clown-car election.

The disturbing clown sightings by children in multiple U.S. states this fall are legion, as are the questions about whether they are actually real or prompted by active, young imaginations.

What undoubtedly exists in 2016 is a clown car of an election we’re watching. It is very real.

Behavior you would scold your children for displaying is flaunted for millions to see in forums coordinated by the Presidential Debate Commission.

We’re supposed to learn something. We’re supposed to decipher something from the candidates in order to cast ballots.

Much of what we’ve learned is that the candidates are rude, coarse, flip, snarky.

Granted, Lester Holt and Elaine Quijano, who were handed herculean tasks as debate moderators, asked thoughtful questions.

But the candidates have acted like incorrigible witnesses on the witness stand.

They couldn’t plead the fifth. They wouldn’t self-incriminate.

So instead of truthfully answering Quijano and Holt’s questions, they feigned outrage and created diversions.

Trump, Clinton, Kaine and Pence were at the ready to whack their opponents with charges of being mean, unstable, unsteady, unreliable and feeble—questions be damned.

A Saint Louis lawyer friend says, you only cry “poor form” when you’ve run out of a solid argument or want to change the subject.

Yes, candidates for the most important election for the most important office in the free world have turned into Miss Manners, scolding and lecturing their opponents about bad, boorish behavior when they are ALL guilty of it.

After leaving the vice-presidential debate at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., I looked at an Arizona media organization’s comments section from Facebook .

I cringed. Comment after comment about ‘Crooked Hillary’, Trump the narcissist, Pence the hater and Kaine the interrupter.

And those were the nice comments.

It’s no wonder a Reuters/Ipsos poll finds that 65.3-percent of Americans think the country is heading in the wrong direction.

This election has become corrosive because neither side believes it can win without disqualifying or destroying their opponents.

Yet, the problem is Americans elect their presidents as people who have a vision for the country. A place they want to take it. A better America. A brighter America. A renewed American spirit.

Think of Presidents Reagan, Clinton and Obama—you may not have liked one or any of them, but they had a vision.

Reagan for smaller government and lower taxes. Clinton, a course for the forgotten middle class. And Obama’s “Hope and Change” for a country weary of war and economic downturn.

We are much better than what we’re seeing in this election. We deserve better.

With about a month left until the election, we will not get what we deserve in time.

We are stuck with the two most unlikeable candidates in modern American presidential election history.

The best hope is that the voters, once they make a selection, inspire the new president to chart a clearer, more positive vision for the country.

It’s supposed to be the other way around, folks. They are supposed to inspire us.

Sorry to say, not this year.

Jim Osman is the Washington Bureau Chief for Media General.

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