Now even Obama is in the gutter

The president’s recent comment highlights how low the debate has become

Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (L) speaks as Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump listens during the town hall debate at Washington University. Win McNamee / Getty Images
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The United States presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton has changed American democracy, possibly for ever. Never before has such vitriol and hatred been spewed between candidates running for the highest political office in the US. From Mr Trump’s lewd comments about women and minorities to Mrs Clinton’s incredible secrecy, this contest has been a roller-coaster ride.

Outgoing president Barack Obama has largely shied away from the toxic discourse that has surrounded both of the candidates. While he did comment that he believes that Mr Trump is not fit for the Oval Office, he has mostly remained above the fray. This changed when Mr Obama said that Mr Trump was unsuitable for a job at a 7-Eleven convenience store because of his recent comments about women.

Not only was the statement insulting to convenience store employees but it is also entirely unbecoming for the president of the United States. Ironically, first lady Michelle Obama’s now famous line from the Democratic National Convention about going high when Republicans go low was used by Mrs Clinton in the second presidential debate. Mr Obama would be well served to listen to his wife’s advice for the remainder of the election.

Politics is a messy business and this election season has demonstrated just how dirty it can be. With less than a month to go before Americans head to the polls, it is almost certain that the rhetoric will get messier. After many Republican leaders abandoned their nominee following the release of a video in which Mr Trump bragged about sexual assault, the candidate tweeted that the “shackles have been taken off”. An ominous observation.

As this election season continues to hover just above the gutter, the American people need a leader who will aim high while everyone else is going low. In his final months in office, we hope that Mr Obama will rise above the nasty rhetoric and be that leader. But recent months have shown that anything is possible, so we are not holding our breaths.