Paul Hampton

Column: In Ocean Springs, there's nothing to fear but a Donald Trump presidency

Paul Hampton

jphampton@sunherald.com

Watch: Donald Trump berates CNN photographer at Biloxi rally

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump berates a CNN photographer for not taking shots of the full house at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi.
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Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump berates a CNN photographer for not taking shots of the full house at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi.

In a political world where "compromise" has become a dirty word, there was a lot of cussing Thursday night in Ocean Springs.

For there, a fearless Gulf Coast League of Women Voters had the audacity to bring Republicans and Democrats together. What's next? Cats living with dogs? Geese and mongooses?

No. But it was Austin Barbour, longtime political player and senior adviser to the Jeb Bush campaign, and Brandon Jones, former state representative from Jackson County and until recently, head of the Democratic Trust in the state.

It was a simple format. They would show political ads -- some of the Iowa-centric and unseen on the Coast -- dissect them, then allow the audience to dissect the pundits -- and the ads.

And, no food was thrown. A few good-natured barbs? Of course.

"Barbours have big mouths," Jones said by way of introducing the format and giving himself the microphone first.

"It was a terrible ad," Barbour said after Jones showed the first ad, the latest from Hillary Clinton.

"Either you stand with the gun lobby or you stand with the president and stand up to them. I'm with him," Clinton closes the ad.

Stand with Obama? What a novel idea. You'd think he was the president.

But to the experts it represented a shift in the Democratic presidential race, once considered among Republicans and Democrats alike as all but over with Clinton the winner.

It's clear, though, that Clinton no longer sees Sen. Bernie Sanders as that wacky but lovable guy with the zinger about her emails.

"Sanders' campaign is no joke," Jones said. "We're starting to see a more pointed contrast to that seminal campaign moment when Bernie Sanders apologized to Secretary Clinton, on behalf of the country really, for making a big deal about her emails. Now they're ready to fight."

After Sen. Marco Rubio warned that "What happened in Paris could happen here," a woman in the audience responded, "I try not to act out of fear."

Someone reminded her, "You could say Hillary Clinton is playing on our fears."

Wait. Fear isn't driving voters to the polls? Not if they're paying attention.

But no one has played the death card -- which not so ironically is the 13th trump card of many tarot decks -- more than Donald Trump. He doesn't have a lot of ads to choose from. He's such a darling of television, he didn't have to buy an ad until early this year. But it's a doozy.

"I'll cut off the head of ISIS" is the laugh line. Get it?

"What Donald Trump is doing infuriates me," Barbour said.

No wonder. Trump takes "igniting the base" to a whole new level.

Trouble is, if Republicans are catching a whiff of smoke ("I don't think he believes anything he says," said Barbour), it could be the party catching fire.

And finally. Finally. Someone said what I've been thinking all along about Trump's big tag line: Make America Great Again.

"Who in this room doesn't think America is already the greatest country in the world?" asked someone.

And that's where that Trump circus (Barbour's words, not mine) has led us. To a point where we're in danger of losing sight of just how good we have it. And that, to me, is scary.

Contact Paul Hampton, politics editor for the Sun Herald, at 896-2330 or jphampton@sunherald.com. Fuss at him on Twitter@jpaulhampton.

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