Kengor: Keep Donald Trump away from your kids
I was watching a Republican presidential debate as my 8-year-old, John, sat next to me.
Donald Trump, the front-runner, looked left and ripped Sen. Ted Cruz as a “liar” before seamlessly pivoting right and skewering Sen. Marco Rubio as a “sweating choke artist.”
My son laughed at the buffoonish spectacle, as if we’d just tuned in to Cartoon Network. “No, John,” I told him. “That’s not funny. We shouldn’t treat people that way.”
“Is that man going to be our president?” John asked. “I don’t know,” I replied.
I decided to turn off the TV while John is in the room with Trump. Who knows what might come next?
In addition to Trump mocking Rubio and denouncing Cruz, he labeled George W. Bush a “liar” and Jeb Bush a “joke.” As for Mitt Romney: dumb, stupid, “loser.” Megyn Kelly: a “bimbo” with “blood coming out of. ... ” If Donald Trump doesn’t like you, he lets you know.
Again, push the children away from the TV.
Not one for criticism, Trump instructs his supporters how to respond to the dissenters: “knock the crap out of them!” Don’t worry, the millionaire ensures: “Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees, I promise. I promise.”
One Trump supporter, 78-year-old John McGraw, sucker-punched 26-year-old Rakeem Jones, with no regrets. “You bet I liked it,” McGraw growled to the press. “Knocking the hell out of that big mouth.” Asked if Jones had it coming, McGraw affirmed, “Yes, he deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him.”
Again, I turn off the TV before the kids see. Even more unsettling, the man behaving this way could be my kids’ next president, and from my own political party. The party of Lincoln and Reagan.
Trump is now raising the prospect of riots if unjustly denied the Republican nomination. One of his surrogates tells CNN that “riots aren’t necessarily a bad thing.”
I recently asked my friend, a Hollywood evangelical, how he intends to explain Trump to his daughters. Trump is not only repeatedly divorced, but left his wives for mistresses and brags about his sexual conquests (including with married women).
My friend told me that he has had the “Trump talk” with his daughters.
He told them that, sadly, all morality could be out the window this election. Among the Republicans, there still are solid family men in Cruz and Gov. John Kasich. But the moral character that Republicans have demanded in their leaders has become a non-issue to angry advocates.
The presidency is preeminently a position of moral leadership. “Morality,” said our first president, George Washington, is an “indispensable support” to political prosperity. That has not changed. What is changing is the number of Americans who suddenly don’t care about moral behavior in their leader.
My advice to parents: If Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee, be prepared to sit down with your kids to have a frank “Trump talk.” Teach them not to be like that man. And always be ready to quickly change the TV channel.
Paul Kengor is professor of political science and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values at Grove City College.