What an historic moment it was yesterday! Never before had the loser of a presidential debate licked his wounds in public by attacking a woman for gaining weight.
When Nixon lost a debate in ’60, when Carter lost a debate in ’80, when Gore lost a debate in ’00, they mostly stayed quiet or dispatched surrogates to say that all was well. But that’s not the way Donald Trump rolls. When he loses, he phones into Fox News and lashes out. Very presidential.
Yes, it’s altogether fitting that Alicia Machado has earned a place of honor, along with the Khans and Judge Curiel, as one of Trump’s objects of ire. They’re all people of color (natch), but, even worse for Machado, she’s a woman who used to be under Trump’s thumb. Her moment arrived at the tail end of the first debate, when Hillary Clinton sprang a brilliant trap and Trump blundered right into it. What followed – in an episode that continued to play out yesterday – was a classic window into Trump’s repugnant character, further proof that he’s manifestly unfit.
CLINTON: This is a man who has called women pigs, slobs and dogs, and someone who has said pregnancy is an inconvenience to employers….And one of the worst things he said was about a woman in a beauty contest. He loves beauty contests, supporting them and hanging around them. And he called this woman “Miss Piggy.” Then he called her “Miss Housekeeping,” because she was Latina. Donald, she has a name.
TRUMP: Where did you find this? Where did you find this?
CLINTON: Her name is Alicia Machado.
TRUMP: Where did you find this?
CLINTON: And she has become a U.S. citizen, and you can bet…
TRUMP: Oh, really?
CLINTON: … she’s going to vote this November.
TRUMP: OK, good. Let me just tell you. You know, Hillary is hitting me with tremendous commercials. Some of it’s said in entertainment. Some of it’s said – somebody who’s been very vicious to me, Rosie O’Donnell, I said very tough things to her, and I think everybody would agree that she deserves it and nobody feels sorry for her. But you want to know the truth? I was going to say something…
Rosie O’Donnell? Really? This guy aspires to own the nuclear codes and serve as America’s role model … and he’s bringing up Rosie O’Donnell? Who he slimed with sexist comments and thinks “everybody would agree that she deserves it”? Does this guy even hear himself? Or are narcissistic sociopaths deaf as well as dumb?
But more revealing was his sputtering response to the info about Alicia Machado, Miss Universe of 1996: “Where did you find this? Where did you find this? Where did you find this?”It wasn’t so hard to find. Machado has been in the press this year — The New York Times, TV interviews — talking about how Trump humiliated her in ’96, when he ran that beauty contest. Back then, she was a teenager from Venezuela. He also called her “Miss Eating Machine,” and hauled her to a gym so that cameramen could watch her as she burned calories. She says she gained 12 pounds after she won the contest; Trump went around saying that she’d gained 50. She was so traumatized by his body weight taunts that, as she told The Times in May, “I was sick — anorexia and bulimia for five years,” and shrinks thereafter.
This anecdote is a classic two-fer: It vividly illustrates Trump’s penchant for reducing women to sex objects (which suburban working women will not appreciate), with a tawdry dollop of racism thrown in (if the Hispanic woman isn’t hot, she’s a “housekeeper,” which Hispanic voters will not appreciate). And the Clinton campaign knows this darn well. With perfect timing, it has now released a two-minute web ad, aimed at those two demographics, that features Machado recounting her time with Trump:
“He was very overwhelming. I was scared of him. He yelled at me all the time. He’d tell me, ‘You look ugly’ or ‘You look fat.’ Sometimes he’d play with me and say, ‘Hello, Miss Piggy’ ‘Hello, Miss Housekeeping’ …. I would still see myself as fat because a powerful man had said so …. This is a man who doesn’t realize the damage he causes. He bears many grudges and harbors a deep racism ….”
A normal candidate would shut up and let this storm pass. But not our man-child.
Yesterday morning, he took refuge in the Fox News cocoon, and when his hosts asked whether Clinton had gotten under his skin, he brought up Machado on his own. It’s worth watching, just to check out the host’s faces. (Please. Make. Him. Stop.) But alas, he could not stop:
“I know that person. She was a Miss Universe person, she was the worst we ever had. The worst, the absolute worst, she was impossible. She gained a massive amount of weight, it was a real problem. Not only that, her attitude, we had a real problem with her. So Hillary went back through the years, talked to her like she was Mother Teresa.”
This small incident fits the big pattern. This new assessment of Trump says it well:
“Trump’s long history of objectifying women and his demeaning comments about women during the campaign are not just good-old-boy gaffes. They are evidence of deep character flaws. They are part of a pattern. Trump mocked a reporter’s physical handicap. Picked a fight with a Gold Star family. Suggested a Latino judge can’t be fair because of his heritage. Proposed banning Muslim immigration. Each of those comments show a stunning lack of human decency, empathy and respect. Taken together they reveal a candidate who doesn’t grasp our national ideals.”
So says The Arizona Republic newspaper, which endorsed Clinton yesterday — the first time it has rejected a Republican nominee in its entire history, dating back 126 years.