The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump’s familiar attacks on Meghan Markle unhelpful in both the States and abroad

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump paid respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in London's Westminster Abbey on June 3. (Video: Reuters)

President Trump’s attacks on Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, ahead of his visit to London after learning that she had previously criticized his worldview were familiar and unsurprising. But for many, they were simply the latest reminder of something that has been clear throughout Trump’s presidency: Instead of reflecting on criticism, he appears to double down — to the detriment of America’s image around the world.

The Washington Post’s Rick Noack reported:

During the 2016 election campaign, the duchess — then Meghan Markle — called Trump “misogynistic” and “divisive.” The American actress also said she might move to Canada if Trump was elected president. Instead, two years on, she married Prince Harry and became part of Britain’s royal family.
Suggesting that he had been unaware of the duchess’s 2016 remarks ahead of preparations for his upcoming state visit to Britain and his royal reception on Monday, Trump said in an audio recording released by the Sun: “I didn’t know that she was nasty," in response to a question that cited Markle’s earlier remarks.

“Nasty” is a slight Trump often lobs at women who criticize him. And it is very common for the origin of these women’s criticism to be rooted in their belief that Trump is sexist and misogynistic.

Disgust with Trump’s response to the duchess was pretty widespread among those who have regularly criticized Trump for sexism.

One of Trump’s main issues with his 2016 rival Hillary Clinton was that she was “a nasty woman” — which in general can be defined as “a person (usually a woman) who criticized Trump.”

After Barbara Res, a former executive vice president at the Trump Organization, wrote a book in which she chronicled Trump’s sexist comments and behavior in the workplace, he responded on Twitter:

“I gave a woman named Barbara Res a top N.Y. construction job, when that was unheard of, and now she is nasty. So much for a nice thank you!”

When San Juan, Puerto Rico, Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz criticized the Trump administration’s response to 2017′s Hurricane Maria, saying that the administration was “killing us with inefficiency,” the president took to social media to argue that she was under the influence of the Democrats.

“The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump,” he tweeted.

He has called Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) nasty since before she launched her 2020 presidential campaign for her criticism of him.

“Pocahontas is at it again! Goofy Elizabeth Warren, one of the least productive U.S. Senators, has a nasty mouth. Hope she is V.P. choice,” he tweeted.

And Trump once went on a riff about April Ryan, a veteran journalist who regularly asks Trump about his policies related to people of color, for her coverage of him.

“You talk about somebody that’s a loser. She doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing. She gets publicity, and then she gets a pay raise or she gets a contract, I think it’s with CNN. She’s very nasty and she shouldn’t be,” he said.

To be fair, nasty is not a jab Trump reserves just for women. He uses it on men as well, but usually in ways that seem emasculating. On Monday, while landing in London, Trump called London Mayor Sadiq Khan “nasty” while also attacking his height. The president tweeted:

“.@SadiqKhan, who by all accounts has done a terrible job as Mayor of London, has been foolishly “nasty” to the visiting President of the United States, by far the most important ally of the United Kingdom.”

“Kahn reminds me very much of our very dumb and incompetent Mayor of NYC, de Blasio, who has also done a terrible job — only half his height,” he added.

Britain is one of the United States’ oldest and strongest allies. But that could be hard to tell based on how he’s been received in the country. While Trump is scheduled to have a private lunch with the queen and tea with Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, on Monday, he will not meet with Meghan, who gave birth last month. Considering how unpopular Trump is with many Brits — there are large-scale protests in London during his visit, and many British lawmakers tried to prevent the visit from happening in the first place — building positive relationships with as many influential voices in the country that he can could ultimately be in the best interest of the president.

First lady Melania Trump once notably said about her husband: “When you attack him, he will punch back 10 times harder.”

This method of leading is something many Trump supporters love most about him. But a president more concerned with diplomacy than getting even might conclude that building a strong relationship with an American-born royal — or encouraging the first lady or Ivanka Trump, senior adviser to the president, to do it — would be time better spent. But that is not how Trump governs, and his inability or unwillingness to focus on the bigger picture could be to Americans’ detriment in the long term.