“So she calls me up: ‘It’s the nicest thing that’s ever happened, thank you so much,’” Trump said at the rally, mocking the congresswoman’s voice while recounting their call. (Dingell’s office said Trump is the one who called.) "’John would be so thrilled. He’s looking down.' … 'I said, ‘That’s okay. Don’t worry about it.’And then: “Maybe he’s looking up, I don’t know.”The crowd seemed unsure how to respond to Trump’s insult. Some groaned. Some cheered and clapped. Trump quickly added, “But let’s assume he’s looking down.”
There is no five-dimensional chess at work here — no strategy in crudely mocking the widow of a fixture in Michigan politics. The angry replies flooded in from both Democrats and Republicans, including Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.):
I’ve always looked up to John Dingell - my good friend and a great Michigan legend. There was no need to 'dis' him in a crass political way. Most unfortunate and an apology is due.— Fred Upton (@RepFredUpton) December 19, 2019
Most poignant was Debbie Dingell’s reply:
Mr. President, let’s set politics aside. My husband earned all his accolades after a lifetime of service. I’m preparing for the first holiday season without the man I love. You brought me down in a way you can never imagine and your hurtful words just made my healing much harder.— Rep. Debbie Dingell (@RepDebDingell) December 19, 2019
In a CNN appearance Thursday, she said: “We need more civility in this country. Some things should be off limits. And you know what, we’re all human beings.” She added: “I don’t want to politicize my husband. I don’t want to politicize his death.” You wonder whether first lady Melania Trump, who is so very worried about bullying, has asked her husband why he cannot refrain from taunting teenagers and widows. (“Be best!")
Boy, now is the time to recall lawyer Joseph Welch’s famous remarks at the Army-McCarthy hearings to the Wisconsin Republican demagogue: “Until this moment, senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness. ... Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?” In the case of Trump, the answer is plainly, no.
Trump’s feral instinct for finding and exploiting weakness, and his delight in cruelly wielding his power over others, serves him well in disorienting political opponents and endearing him to voters eager to have a bully on their side. However, operating without awareness of normal people’s sensibilities and values (i.e. empathy), he wanders off not infrequently into rhetorical minefields. His followers are momentarily dazed when their great leader’s inhumanity is weaponized not against “liberal elites” but against one of their own. It is then that they fleetingly recognize that he is missing a critical component of adult human beings: a conscience. One wonders whether any of his evangelical idolaters are the least bit sheepish.
As Trump lingered on stage Wednesday night in the cereal capital of America, delaying the inevitable moment when he would leave the stage and face the reality of being only the third impeached president, he occasionally sounded downright loopy. “Remember the dishwasher? You’d press it, boom! There’d be like an explosion. Five minutes later, you open it up, the steam pours out,” he said. “Now you press it 12 times. Women tell me ... You know, they give you four drops of water.” Was he referring to some regulation? Many in the crowd seemed to stare bug-eyed at Trump, as if waiting for a punchline that never came.
His remarks echoed his recent complaints about plumbing: ”We have a situation where we’re looking very strongly at sinks and showers and other elements of bathrooms where you turn the faucet on — and in areas where there’s tremendous amounts of water, where the water rushes out to sea because you could never handle it, and you don’t get any water," he told reporters this month. “You turn on the faucet and you don’t get any water. They take a shower and water comes dripping out. Just dripping out, very quietly dripping out. People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once."
You might simply try to ignore a relative who babbled this way. And yet, rather than deny him attention as a mother would when her child says a naughty word, Trump’s followers lionize him.
As you feel inclined to scream into your pillow or rail at the TV screen when his image appears, remember women all over America see how he treats women (and children and other innocents). Their revulsion will fuel their determination next November to throw him out of the Oval Office.