As we endure Trumpnado and look for that chainsaw that finally kills his candidacy, I can’t shake two scenes from the past two weeks that highlight the absurdity of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. One was at a focus group conducted by John Heilemann of Bloomberg Politics. The other was at the Republican debate in Cleveland.
At the Bloomberg focus group of New Hampshire Republican primary voters late last month, Heilemann asked them what a Trump presidency would look like to them. The answer from Cheryl was illuminating. Fast forward to 7:35.
Heilemann: Cheryl, what do you think a Trump presidency would look like?
Cheryl: Like classy. And I feel like he’d bring a lot of companies back to our country and be a lot more promising than it is and has been.
“Classy.” An adjective Trump obliterated at last Thursday’s debate and in the days afterward. His tirades against Fox News’s Megyn Kelly were the definition of classless. But there was a moment in Trump’s answer to Kelly’s entirely appropriate question about his treatment of and respect for women that was widely seen and didn’t receive the condemnation it deserved.
Kelly: Mr. Trump, one of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don’t use a politician’s filter. However, that is not without its downsides, in particular when it comes to women. You’ve called women you don’t like fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals. Your Twitter account–
Trump: Only Rosie O’Donnell.
Kelly: For the record, it was well beyond Rosie O’Donnell.
Trump: I’m sure it was.
Kelly: Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women’s looks. You once told a contestant on “Celebrity Apprentice” it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president? And how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who is likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?
Trump’s proud name-checking of the actress and comedienne Rosie O’Donnell after a string of invective is one of those OMG moments tailor-made for reality television. The wild applause in response showed it was a go-for-the-jugular moment guaranteed to please “the people who used to have season tickets to the Roman Colosseum.” But it most definitely was not classy. It was deplorable.
That everyone got up in arms over Trump’s smearing of Kelly but was mute on his sophomoric putdown of O’Donnell is shameful. The mutual hatred between Trump and O’Donnell is long-standing and well-known. So it is no surprise he seized the opportunity to take slam her once more. But by doing so the Big Apple billionaire front-runner validated the concern that was the basis of Kelly’s question.
The Post editorial on Tuesday gets Trump’s behavior exactly right.
Where we part company with Mr. Trump is his apparent belief that calling people who disagree with him “pigs,” disparaging their looks or launching crude insinuations seemingly about their menstrual cycles amounts to some kind of brave rebellion against convention — rather than self-indulgent vulgarity. Mr. Trump seems to have confused political correctness with decency and civility; we need less of the former but more, much more, of the latter.
Cheryl looks forward to a “classy” Trump presidency. For a host of reasons, she won’t get one.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @Capehartj