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LUPICA: Presidential race an insult to U.S. values

LUPICA: Presidential race an insult to U.S. values

Donald Trump has made the election as ugly as a knife fight.

Donald Trump has made the election as ugly as a knife fight.

(Evan Vucci/AP)

Mike Lupica


Sunday, September 11, 2016, 8:08 PM

The greatness of the country showed itself through the greatness of this city, 15 years ago Sunday. It was because the city came together the way it did in those first terrible days and nights, because the city refused to stay down after the planes took down our buildings and killed nearly 3,000 of our own.

It was Pete Hamill who first said that Sept. 12, 2001, and Sept. 13, and all the days that followed were what he would remember best, because they spoke to the city’s heart. Pete always loved boxing. The late Jose Torres, once the light-heavyweight champion of the world, was one of his best friends. So Pete used a boxing analogy about the day after we were hit.

“We got to one knee,” he said.

All you heard at the time, here and everywhere, was that what happened at the World Trade Center — and at the Pentagon, and in a field in western Pennsylvania, too — would not just make us an even stronger country. It would make us better. But how can anybody look at this presidential campaign and say that we are better?

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Trump can’t stop talking about his favorite politician, Russian President Vladimir Putin.

(Mikhail Klimentyev/AP)

How does anybody see what we are seeing and hear what we are hearing on a daily basis, in a race mean and ugly as a knife fight, and think that our values and ideals are being honored? Or that we are somehow honoring the memory of the Americans who came together the way they did 15 years ago and fought back the only way we have ever really known how in this country, which means by going to work?

Even on another anniversary when we remembered tragedy at the same time we remembered courage as thrilling as America has ever seen, the courage that kept taking first responders back into those towers, we knew that tomorrow we would once again see politics, especially presidential politics, continue to divide the country as much as it has been divided since the Civil War.

This campaign does not honor our values. It insults them, and occasionally shames them. In the run-up to the ceremonies for Sept. 11, we heard Donald Trump, and not for the first time, celebrate the leadership of Vladimir Putin, as if somehow the coming election has devolved into some referendum on a murderous thug like Putin. Trump even talked, almost enviously, about how strong Putin’s polling is in a country that is like a neck under his boot.

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi

The view from the Empty Sky Memorial in Jersey City Sunday.

(Luiz C. Ribeiro/For New York Daily News )

This is where we are 15 years after Sept. 11, 2001. This is the campaign we witness, day after mind-numbing and soul-numbing day, still listening to talk about walls that will never be built, mass deportations that will never occur, some double-secret plan to take out ISIS, as if “Mission Accomplished” banners will be flying high again just as long as Trump can find a way to beat Hillary Clinton.

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Now Clinton is diagnosed with pneumonia, and you wonder how long it will take the other side to act as if she is more physically compromised than Franklin Delano Roosevelt because of that. Maybe they should have the increasingly unhinged Rudy Giuliani challenge her to an arm-wrestling match, as Giuliani continues to shame his own Sept. 11 legacy by becoming this kind of chief head-banger for Trump.

What really ought to make Clinton lightheaded these days is how she has let Trump, a dream opponent, one who looks as if he’s running to be leader of a post-factual world, take the play away from her. A private-email server, and even missing emails, were never going to disqualify her from being President. But the way she has handled that story from the start, never once acting as if she were out in front of it, just might. While Trump still acts as if he were practically buying newspaper ads to keep us out of Iraq in 2003, the way he once bought ads to rail against the suspects in the Central Park jogger case. As he continues to make you remember a famous old country lyric:

The darkest day brought out the best of America.

The darkest day brought out the best of America.


Who you gonna believe, me or your own lying eyes?

This is where we are all this time after the planes hit, and New Yorkers ran across our bridges to help, and ironworkers put on their tool belts and drove as close as they could to Ground Zero before walking the rest of the way downtown. And when police asked them where they thought they were going, the ironworkers said the same thing: “We cut steel.” Then went to work. That was the New York, and the America, the world saw. Now it sees this presidential campaign.

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We came out of Sept. 11, 2001, thinking we could take any kind of punch, and come away stronger because of that. The worst day we ever had produced the best in us. All of that was remembered again on Sunday, as we mourned the lives that were lost and celebrated the ones saved because of heroes who kept going back in. You know who deserves better than this campaign? Those victims do. Those heroes.

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