Trump-Clinton nasty? Not compared to these campaigns


As Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton prepare to square off Monday night in their first debate, the expectations are clear: Political bloodsport in primetime.

The 2016 race has been notably nasty, with Trump assuming the attack dog role campaigns have traditionally outsourced to running mates and surly surrogates. Clinton too has shown a willingness to blitz Trump -- though in less graphic terms -- during speeches and interviews on the trail.

But does the current election season represent a new low in American politics? History says no -- and a group of historians interviewed by CNN agree.

Exhibit A: "That hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman."

Exhibit B: "Around him, as the candidate for the highest office in the gift of the people, the most corrupt, the most designing and the most dangerous of the community rally."

Exhibit C: "We are Republicans, and don't propose to leave our party and identify ourselves with the party whose antecedents have been rum, Romanism, and rebellion."

Presidential candidates, their campaigns and supporters have been slinging mud since the Founding Fathers were jockeying for power in the aftermath of the revolution. The contests of the 19th century routinely descended into cesspools of public deviance, racism, and religious and personal slander. ...

"The campaign of 1828 was very nasty, a campaign in which supporters of Andrew Jackson called John Quincy Adams a 'pimp' (the rumor, started by Jackson allies, was that Adams during his time as the US minister to Russia had provided female companionship for the czar) and supporters of John Quincy called Jackson and his wife 'polygamists' because they had married before her divorce came through," said CNN presidential historian Tim Naftali. 

Kerwin Swint, an author and professor at Kennesaw State University, recalled it being particularly hard on the Jackson family.

"Andrew Jackson's mother was caricatured as a common prostitute that the sailors brought over for the benefit of the English Navy," he said, while Jackson himself "was called a murderer, a traitor, and mentally unstable." ...

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