Trump, on Rob Porter: “[He] says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that. He said very strongly that he’s innocent.”
Trump, on Roy Moore: “Well, he denies it. Look, he denies it … He totally denies it, he says it didn’t happen, and you have to listen to him also.”
Anyone see a pattern here? Like the fact that the credibly accused men gets the benefit of the doubt, and the victimized women don’t even get a mention?
The misogynist-in-chief isn’t consciously trying to alienate women on the eve of a midterm election season when Republican candidates will need their votes. Truth is, Trump simply can’t help himself. He’s not capable of appreciating one of the most astounding stats of 2016, the fact that he won 53 percent of white women. He’s not capable of understanding that his instinctive piggery could alienate a hefty share of those women in November.
His instinct, in the Oval Office on Friday, was to say that he’s “very sad” for Porter the wife-beater, with nary a word of sadness for the beaten wives. He was sad because the man’s career was being interrupted; he wasn’t sad about the women’s lives because their narratives didn’t matter. Trump stays in character. Back when the news broke that Bill O’Reilly had paid sexual harassment hush money, Trump’s instinct was to praise Bill as “a good person. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.” Back when Fox News boss Roger Ailes got in trouble, Trump’s instinct was to defend Ailes, by insisting that the serial harasser had been nice to “the women that are complaining.”
And lest we forget, he spent much of the autumn ’16 campaign inveighing against the dozen-plus women who’d credibly accused him of sexual harassment. He threatened to sue them (he never did). He said they were liars. “Don’t believe the women” became a virtual campaign plank, good enough to help him squeak by in the Electoral College.
White women got what they voted for. The question now is whether they’ve come to realize that this sexist reactionary is a threat to their dignity as human beings and wildly out of step with the zeitgeist. At a time when women are coming out of the shadows to share their stories of sexual exploitation, Trump’s not-so-implicit message is that women should remain silent — or risk being disbelieved.
That’s the ‘tude at the top of the Republican Party, on the cusp of a midterm season when women — including an outsize number of female candidates — are threatening an anti-GOP backlash. House Republicans in vulnerable districts could arguably help themselves by distancing themselves from Trump’s misogyny, by standing up for Rob Porter’s ex-wives, but by this point most of their spines have been surgically removed.
You may have noted how few Republicans took issue with Trump’s weekend tweet, the one where he lamented his loss of Rob Porter: “Peoples (sic) lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused — life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?”
First of all, what happened to his staff secretary was not a “mere allegation.” The evidence, compiled by the FBI (and known to the White House since last year), included sworn affidavits from the two ex-wives, a court restraining order (which chief of staff John Kelly knew about), and a photo of an ex-wife with a black eye — which Porter admits he took. Plus, we have this priceless passage in a new report: “The FBI asked Porter to explain [the ex-wife’s] black eye. It’s unclear what he told investigators. He has privately told others that they were arguing over a vase, and she was somehow hit with the vase.” (Apparently vases have minds of their own.)
And wait a sec: In his eagerness to defend a wife-beater, was Trump actually invoking the sanctity of due process?
If memory serves, isn’t this the same guy who spent five years trying to destroy Barack Obama with the mere allegation about the president’s nation of birth? The same guy who, just two weeks ago, smeared non-applauding Democrats with the mere allegation of treason? The same guy who falsely accused Ted Cruz’s father of helping to assassinate John F. Kennedy? The same guy who, back in 1989, publicly called for the execution of five black teens who hadn’t yet gotten their day in court in the Central Park jogger rape case? (The teens were exonerated years later.)
In other words, Trump has no moral standing to talk about due process.
Of course, not all women are offended by Trump’s attitude. Take Kellyanne Conway, for instance. The alternative factress surfaced on two Sunday shows and tried to change the subject. The real issue, she insisted, is that Trump has been great for women. On ABC News she said: “You have 800,000 women took new jobs last year because of his leadership.” On CNN she said: “This president is responsible for 800,000 women taking new jobs in 2017.”
First, presidents don’t control job growth or the Dow or the economy in general; second, if she wants to play that game, it’s more valid to say that Trump in ’17 inherited Obama’s upward economic arc; third, if indeed that’s the game, more new jobs went to women in Obama’s final year than in Trump’s first year. But most importantly, Conway (as is her wont) tried to distract and deflect. The issue in play is the moral rot at the core of this White House.
And the abiding question, this November, is whether women in landslide numbers will use the ballot to tell Trump and his supine party that misogyny will no longer be tolerated.