This was supposed to be a one-day story – the image of Melania Trump does looking pretty damned hot naked on that bearskin rug in the cabin of Donald Trump’s private Boeing 757 with those words – “Meet Melania Trump, your next first lady. Or you could vote for Ted Cruz on Tuesday.”
There’s a reason Trump came in a distant third in Utah that evening. That image popped up here and there. Straight and narrow Mormons don’t like the guy much, and this didn’t help much, but Kevin Drum had already explained where this came from:
Liz Mair was anti-Trump before being anti-Trump was cool. After being let go from the Scott Walker campaign last March, she spent months during the summer and fall trying to get conservatives to take the threat of Trump seriously. In December she started up a super-PAC dedicated to defeating him. But Mair also has a sense of humor – something that’s gotten her in trouble before. Her super PAC was called Make America Awesome. Anyway, Mair decided to run a Facebook ad in Utah that featured Trump’s wife, Melania, from a nude photoshoot she did many years ago…
Others pointed out this wasn’t really an “ad” – it was disseminated mostly over Facebook and Instagram – and this super-PAC was Liz Mair’s project alone. She’s no fan of Ted Cruz, she wasn’t working for him, but Donald Trump didn’t believe that. He knew this had to have come from Cruz himself, so he blasted out that series of Tweets telling “Lyin’ Ted” that he’d better be careful, because he’d “spill the beans” on his wife – and we had a day of nasty back-and-forth nonsense. Cruz was slut-shaming Trump’s wife – unacceptable – she is an accomplished woman. Trump was threatening Cruz and his wife – she wasn’t “hot” and she had once had a brief episode of something like clinical depression, so she was ugly and crazy – and that was unacceptable.
Which was worse? By the end of the day everyone seemed to agree that Cruz had done nothing – Liz Mair had – and that Trump was more of a sexist pig and schoolyard bully than anyone had previously imagined, which is saying something – and that was that. It was time to get back to talking about how Obama was dancing the tango in Argentina while ISIS was blowing up Brussels, and why no one is paying attention to the meteoric rise of Bernie Sanders.
Fine, but some people just can’t let go:
Liz Mair’s mother didn’t want her to go outside yesterday: She was convinced that Mair, a Republican political consultant who is running an anti-Donald Trump super PAC, would be hurt.
Mair is in Trump’s crosshairs – albeit obliquely – after her group attacked Trump via an ad that used an image of a nude-and-handcuffed Melania Trump, the Republican front-runner’s wife, from a 2000 photo shoot. The candidate blamed the ad on Ted Cruz’s campaign, but his supporters traced it to Mair anyway – and her mom, too.
“She woke up and there was a very, very nasty threatening voicemail from somebody who’s a Trump supporter. She’s going to make a decision about a police report,” Mair told MSNBC. “I’ve already had to file a police report about a Trump supporter who threatened to behead me.”
Yeah, she’d get this ISIS treatment, but she should have expected that:
“This is what life will be like under Trump,” conservative blogger Bethany Mandel told MSNBC. After she criticized the candidate on Twitter and in blog posts, she was routinely harassed by apparent Trump supporters.
As a result, Mandel recently bought a .22 Magnum revolver after receiving a seemingly an endless tirade of violent threats online. She said she was called a “slimy Jewess” and received death threats sent to her private Facebook account. Mandel reported it to her local police department, who she said didn’t take it very seriously.
“I have nightmares that someone’s trying to break into our apartment, and it’s going to take 10 minutes for a patrol car” to arrive, she added.
Many interviewed for this story, Jews and non-Jews alike, said the harassment has often referenced the Holocaust gas chamber. Mandel, who is Jewish and open about her faith online, said she’s not surprised the backlash has been anti-Semitic in part.
“When the mob comes after groups of people, it always ends up at the Jews,” Mandel said, adding that Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, converted to Orthodox Judaism in 2009 and openly practices the religion with her family. Mandel said she wanted Trump to confront the anti-Semitism his fans express online.
The candidate boasted of his daughter’s Judaism to an audience during a speech with to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Monday, but Trump has twice re-tweeted posts by a user who has expressed anti-Semitic comments and listed his location as “Jewmerica.”
Perhaps those amused Trump. He sneers at political correctness, but there’s a pattern here:
Rick Wilson said he and his family have been harassed for the last year on a daily basis. The Republican strategist, who has been one of the most outspoken Trump critics since the real estate mogul announced his bid last summer, receives at least 25 angry or obscene phone calls a week. He had to set up a filter for his email to prevent the angry messages and constant images of genitalia from making it into his inbox. Wilson has filed multiple police reports about the worst of it, including a rape threat sent to his daughter that listed her college address.
“All this completely nutcase racist shit. The Trump world – they’re lovely people,” he said sarcastically.
Even those whose work doesn’t put them in the public eye said they’ve routinely been harassed online for criticizing Trump. Daniel Windham, who was an active Twitter supporter of Sen. Marco Rubio before he suspended his presidential bid, mocked Trump’s Nevada speech in a Twitter exchange.
A Twitter user whose avatar is a “Make America Great Again” hat superimposed on a photo of Thomas Jefferson reminded him that his account included photos of his family. “Ye be warned,” the user wrote.
Where did that come from? Donald Trump has repeatedly said that one way to defeat ISIS is to kill the wives and children of the terrorists, presumably before their very eyes. That would get their attention – they’d never do a bad thing again. After key people in our military said they’d never carry out such an order, Trump backed down a bit – he’d have Congress change our laws and treaty obligations to make that perfectly legal, so our guys could do what he knew they really wanted to do, and what must be done. His fans think the same way. Oppose Donald Trump at your own risk. They know where your wife and daughter are right now.
Things are spinning out of control, as some see it:
A nasty feud that escalated Thursday between Donald Trump and his chief Republican rival over their wives set off a new wave of alarm among establishment Republicans, who fear that the GOP front-runner would drive away female voters in a general-election fight with likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s gender problem flared again this week as he and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas traded insults while Cruz’s wife, Heidi, became the target of vitriol on social media from Trump and his supporters. At one point, the real estate mogul re-tweeted an unflattering image contrasting Heidi Cruz’s appearance with his wife, Melania, a retired model.
“The images are worth a thousand words,” read the caption on the photo that Trump retweeted to his 7.2 million followers.
That photo is here and a problem:
That message and others have prompted an outcry among Republicans and Democrats alike, while Cruz said Thursday that “real men don’t bully women.”
“Our spouses and our children are off-bounds,” Cruz told reporters while campaigning in Dane, Wis. “It is not acceptable for a big, loud New York bully to attack my wife. It is not acceptable for him to make insults, to send nasty tweets.”
He added: “Donald, you’re a sniveling coward. Leave Heidi the hell alone.”
Of course a cheeky reporter asked if he would be true to his word, if he would support the Republican nominee, whoever it was, and his only answer was Trump would NOT be the nominee – he’d beat him. That cheeky reporter told him that he hadn’t answered the question. He again said that Trump would NOT be the nominee. She asked again. He gave the same answer-that-wasn’t-an-answer. He was trapped. If he said he’d not support the sniveling coward who had gone after his wife he’d get the women’s vote back for the party, and destroy the party. If he said he’d support the sniveling coward anyway, there goes the women’s vote, but the party survives, and all his colleagues who hate his guts might hate his guts a bit less. But then they’d lose the election:
Polling shows Trump sliding sharply among women in recent months, hurting the GOP’s already shaky position with that demographic. Trump’s favorability numbers have decreased 10 points among women nationwide since November, to 23 percent, while his unfavorable number among women has jumped to 75 percent from 64 percent, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll taken this month.
And add this – Poll: Nearly half of Republican women wouldn’t vote for Trump – so the party would fall apart anyway.
Maybe everything is falling apart anyway, as Slate’s Michelle Goldberg argues here:
One accomplishment of Donald Trump’s campaign for president has been to reveal that American politics had not previously been as degraded as some of us thought. Before he entered the scene, many of us assumed our politics were in the gutter. We’d passed through Nixon, Gary Hart, Willie Horton, and Bill Clinton’s impeachment. We saw the 2000 whisper campaign about John McCain fathering a black child and the spectacle of vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin whipping crowds into a völkisch frenzy. Trump, however, reminds us that even in the midst of all this debasement, certain norms remained in place, invisible and taken for granted until he started going after them with a sledgehammer.
See, for example, the trashing of Heidi Cruz at the hands of Trump and his supporters. I’m not just talking about Trump’s Twitter mockery of Ted Cruz for not having a hot trophy wife, though that’s also a new low in modern political life. I mean the Trump-inspired Twitter pile-on over Heidi Cruz’s mental health. In the past, candidates’ psychiatric histories have come under scrutiny – the paradigmatic case was Thomas Eagleton, who briefly served as George McGovern’s running mate – but the mental health of spouses generally has not. No one, after all, benefits from a situation in which all politicians’ relatives are subject to a reputational free-for-all. No one, that is, except Trump.
That Trump-inspired Twitter pile-on over Heidi Cruz’s mental health was particularly brutal – or the new norm. The odd thing was that it wasn’t news:
Heidi Cruz’s depressive history was hardly a secret; BuzzFeed reported on it last year. On the night of Aug. 22, 2005, police found her sitting, head in hands, on the grass near an Austin, Texas, freeway. She wasn’t intoxicated, but an officer on the scene concluded that she was a danger to herself, apparently because she was so close to traffic. “About a decade ago, when Mrs. Cruz returned from D.C. to Texas and faced a significant professional transition, she experienced a brief bout of depression,” an adviser to Ted Cruz told BuzzFeed’s McKay Coppins and Megan Apper. “Like millions of Americans, she came through that struggle with prayer, Christian counseling, and the love and support of her husband and family.”
If you’re a normal person, it’s easy to sympathize with Heidi Cruz’s misery, and not just because Ted Cruz is her husband.
But normal people have nothing to do with this:
The Cruzes knew Heidi’s brief breakdown was going to come out during the course of the campaign, but they had no reason to suspect that their opponents would make much of it. After all, anyone who smeared Cruz for his wife’s mental illness would be subject to widespread opprobrium. Further, Cruz’s greatest weakness is his repulsive personality. His apparent loyalty to his intelligent, complicated wife may be his lone redeeming quality; highlighting her struggles only humanizes him.
But Trump doesn’t think in terms of ordinary political strategy. His thuggery is blunter. He seeks to intimidate, hurt, and humiliate his opponents in any way he can, even if it costs him personally.
That’s how the guy works:
Trump doesn’t appear to care about approval ratings. He seeks to destroy people who stand in his way, especially women, even if he looks disgusting doing it. Trump’s attacks on Heidi Cruz are unlikely to hurt her husband politically, but they’re surely painful personally. And when he rips into the Clintons’ marriage, it probably won’t help him win the election. But it will make Hillary suffer, and that, for Trump, might be its own reward.
If so, then it doesn’t really matter if Cruz throws his wife overboard to save the party, or does the right thing and stands by his wife, like a good man, even of the party splits apart. This isn’t about that. Trump just likes to inflict pain. By the second day of this odd and nasty story, that was only supposed to last one day, the whole thing turned into a serious of discussions about Donald Trump’s odd personality. He’s a bully and a sexist pig, but that’s just name-calling. That needs to be fleshed out. Someone needs to explain that.
Franklin Foer, a fellow at the New America Foundation, decided to do just that, and offers this:
Donald Trump holds one core belief. It’s not limited government. He favored a state takeover of health care before he was against it. Nor is it economic populism. Despite many years of arguing the necessity of taxing the rich, he now wants to slice their rates to bits. Trump has claimed his nonlinear approach to policy is a virtue. Closing deals is what matters in the end, he says, not unbleached allegiance to conviction. But there’s one ideology that he does hold with sincerity and practices with unwavering fervor: misogyny.
And it works:
On its face, Donald Trump’s hateful musings about women and his boastful claims of sexual dominance should be reason alone to drive him from polite society and certainly to blockade him from the West Wing. Yet somehow his misogyny has instead propelled his campaign to the brink of the Republican nomination. Each demonstration of his caveman views – about Megyn Kelly’s menstruation, about Carly Fiorina’s face, about the size of his member – produces a show of mock-horror before Trump resumes his march to the nomination. It fits a familiar pattern. Trump rose to fame on the basis of our prurient interest in his caddishness and amusement at his vulgar provocations.
That is, in fact, what fascinates so many, perhaps because it is so primitive and elemental:
Trump wants us to know all about his sex life. He doesn’t regard sex as a private activity. It’s something he broadcasts to demonstrate his dominance, of both women and men. In his view, treating women like meat is a necessary precondition for winning, and winning is all that matters in his world. By winning, Trump means asserting superiority. And since life is a zero-sum game, superiority can only be achieved at someone else’s expense.
That may be seen as a retrograde view, and wrong, but it did not come from nowhere:
This was a view etched in Trump from an early age. He was the archetypal brat. His father, himself a successful real estate developer, endlessly expressed a belief in his son’s greatness. “You are a king,” his father would tell Donald, according to his biographer Michael D’Antonio. His son took that to mean he could set his own rules. In elementary school, he gave one teacher he didn’t like a black eye; others were pelted with erasers. At birthday parties, he would fling cake.
Not even Trump’s father’s wealth, nor his father’s faith in his son’s destiny, could save Trump from incessant discipline. At the age of 13, he was shipped off to the New York Military Academy, which employed brutal tactics for the remaking of delinquent character, even resorting to violence to assert control over the boys. “In those days they’d smack the hell out of you. It was not like today where you smack somebody and you go to jail,” Trump has recalled. The struggle for domination permeated the culture of the place, especially the manner in which boys treated one another. According to one NPR report, Trump would tear off the sheets of boys who didn’t make their beds properly; he would laugh while his classmates spoke, putting them in their place.
But Trump’s primary method for asserting dominance was sex. The school’s yearbook – the perfectly named Shrapnel – anointed him the official “ladies man” of the class. He began his lifelong practice of advertising his bedroom exploits as a means of demonstrating his authority over the rest of the locker room. Decades later, he’s still trumpeting his sexual exploits. When Tucker Carlson once mocked him on air, Trump called the pundit and left a voicemail: “It’s true you have better hair than I do. But I get more pussy than you do.”…
It’s an entirely Darwinian view, where the alpha male has his pick of females, both as a perk and a means of flexing his power over lesser men. It’s the mindset that made his assertion of his penis size in a national debate almost an imperative – if he let the attack on his manhood slide, his entire edifice might crumble.
And there’s the other side of that:
Humiliating women by decrying their ugliness is an almost recreational pastime for Trump. When the New York Times columnist Gail Collins described him as a “financially embittered thousandaire,” he sent her a copy of the column with her picture circled. “The Face of a Dog!” he scrawled over her visage. This is the tack he took with Carly Fiorina, when he described her facial appearance as essentially disqualifying her from the presidency. It’s the method he’s used to denounce Cher, Bette Midler, Angelina Jolie, and Rosie O’Donnell – “fat ass,” “slob,” “extremely unattractive,” etc. – when they had the temerity to criticize him. The joy he takes in humiliating women is not something he even bothers to disguise. He told the journalist Timothy L. O’Brien, “My favorite part [of the movie Pulp Fiction] is when Sam has his gun out in the diner and he tells the guy to tell his girlfriend to shut up. Tell that bitch to be cool. Say: ‘Bitch be cool.’ I love those lines.” Or as he elegantly summed up his view to New York magazine in the early ’90s, “Women, you have to treat them like shit.”
When presented with the long list of his demeaning comments, Trump has responded, “I respect women, I love women, I cherish women.” Indeed, he has hired and promoted women within his companies. “They’re among my best people,” he wrote in The Art of the Deal. The line reveals more than he intends. He’s perfectly comfortable with female underlings, his people – less so when women question him sharply, as Megyn Kelly has, or compete against him, as Carly Fiorina did. He’s perfectly blunt about this power dynamic. In a 1994 interview with ABC News, he explained, “I have really given a lot of women great opportunity. Unfortunately, after they are a star, the fun is over for me.” He means it. He brought along one his deputies, Carolyn Kepcher, to appear on The Apprentice. But he couldn’t stand her growing fame, and fired her for becoming a “prima donna.”
Women labor under a cloud of Trump’s distrust. “I have seen women manipulate men with just a twitch of their eye – or perhaps another body part,” he wrote in Trump: The Art of the Comeback. Working moms are particularly lacking in loyalty, he believes, and thus do not make for good employees. “She’s not giving me 100 percent. She’s giving me 84 percent, and 16 percent is going towards taking care of children,” he told Mika Brzezinski. (Further evidence of his dim view of working moms: Trump once notoriously blurted that the pumping of breast milk in the office is “disgusting.”)
But for some, this is a good thing:
This is one reason that evangelicals, both men and women, gravitate to Trump, despite his obvious lack of interest in religion and blatantly loose morals. He represents the possibility of a return to patriarchy, to a time when men were men, and didn’t have to apologize for it. While he celebrates his own sexuality, he believes that female sexuality has spun out of control and needs to be contained. The best example of this view is a reality show called Lady or a Tramp, which Trump developed for Fox but never aired. The premise of the show was that Trump would take “girls in love with the party life” and send them off for a “stern course” on manners. “We are all sick and tired of the glamorization of these out-of-control young women,” he told Variety, “so I have taken it upon myself to do something about it.”
Did no one see that before? It was time for someone like Foer to lay it all out – and those were just a few excerpts. The party has a problem with Donald Trump – an arms race. The problem is escalating testosterone, leading to death threats against those who mock Trump, but there is a solution:
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, whose own presidential candidacy crashed quickly last fall, says that if Republicans end up in a nomination fight at the July convention, the eventual nominee could be someone not currently in the race.
“I think if it’s an open convention, it’s very likely it would be someone who’s not currently running,” Mr. Walker said Thursday, according to the Capital Times of Wisconsin. …
Mr. Walker’s ally, Representative Paul Ryan, the Republican speaker of the House, remains the fantasy draft pick at a brokered convention for a number of leading Republicans.
Yeah, but is he a real man? Trump’s minor spat with Ted Cruz wasn’t so minor after all. And the Democrats will run a woman, for those who are tired of this nonsense.