Saturday, July 1, 2017

Trump's assault on the media is undignified, indecent, but totally in-character

UPDATE: You should view last night’s Rachel Maddow Show (June 30). It should be released mid-day today (July 1st) via email. Rachel has the most incisive and insightful analysis of why everything that follows in this post represents getting suckered into Trump’s game plan.

It’s already available - here’s the video.

“Rachel Maddow explains that because Donald Trump does not own or value the presidency, the harm his offensive behavior does to the office and the U.S. generally for political gain is not something he cares about. Duration: 22:30”

What Trump did here was to distract us from important concurrent events, notably the effort of the Trump administration, via Chris Kobach, to assemble a national roster of registered voters and their social security numbers and party registrations and voting records.

UPDATE to the UPDATE: The update was written yesterday evening (June 30th). The Daily Star reports on its front page this morning (July 1st) that SoS Michele Reagan will comply with Kobach’s request and provide him with the state’s voter records. See Arizona to give voter info to Trump fraud panel. I’ll have a separate post on this one.

I return to the Trump tweet story now.

In his latest misogynistic tweets Trump Mocks Mika Brzezinski; Says She Was ‘Bleeding Badly From a Face-Lift’. Here is what set off a firestorm of media push-back and condemnation from members of Congress, quoting from John Cassidy’s article in the New Yorker, Donald Trump Will Go Down in History as the Troll-in-Chief.

Donald Trump promised to bring the country together, and he’s finally accomplished it. On Thursday, people from across the political spectrum were unified in their condemnation of his incredibly crass and sexist attack on Mika Brzezinski, the co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

In a pair of tweets he posted from the White House just before 9 a.m., Trump wrote, “I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to … to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!”

The targets of Trump’s twitterade responded in a Washington Post op-ed yesterday morning (June 30th) by asserting that Donald Trump is not well. Here is some of what they had to say.

[They addressed] Mr. Trump’s continued mistreatment of women. It is disturbing that the president of the United States keeps up his unrelenting assault on women. From his menstruation musings about Megyn Kelly, to his fat-shaming treatment of a former Miss Universe, to his braggadocio claims about grabbing women’s genitalia, the 45th president is setting the poorest of standards for our children. We were heartened to hear a number of Republican lawmakers call out Mr. Trump for his offensive words and can only hope that the women who are closest to him will follow their examples. It would be the height of hypocrisy to claim the mantle of women’s empowerment while allowing a family member to continue such abusive conduct.

We have known Mr. Trump for more than a decade and have some fond memories of our relationship together. But that hasn’t stopped us from criticizing his abhorrent behavior or worrying about his fitness. During the height of the 2016 presidential campaign, Joe often listened to Trump staff members complain about their boss’s erratic behavior, including a top campaign official who was as close to the Republican candidate as anyone.

We, too, have noticed a change in his behavior over the past few years. Perhaps that is why we were neither shocked nor insulted by the president’s personal attack. The Donald Trump we knew before the campaign was a flawed character but one who still seemed capable of keeping his worst instincts in check.

MSNBC voiced its unequivocal support for the two co-hosts of Morning Joe: “It’s a sad day for America when the president spends his time bullying, lying and spewing petty personal attacks instead of doing his job.”

Before proceeding, I need to explain what I’ve done here and why it departs from my usual practices. The reactions to Trump’s tweets are varied and spread across multiple reports. To gain some coherence I’ve organized those reactions by individual. So, for example, I pulled together as many quotes as I could find from Sen. Susan Collins, regardless of source, and printed them here with light editing. You can check my work if you wish. I’ve listed the sources. Onward.

I gleaned reactions from several sources detailing responses from MSNBC and from the Republican lawmakers mentioned by Scarborough and Brzezinski including these in addition to those already mentioned.

Mika Brzezinski (via John Cassidy): Although Trump claimed that he no longer watches “Morning Joe,” the timing of his tweets suggests otherwise. On Thursday’s show, according to a report by the Washington Post, Brzezinski mused aloud about what would happen if someone “took over NBC and started tweeting wildly about people’s appearances, bullying people, talking about people in the competition, lying every day, undermining his managers, throwing them under—the person would be thrown out. It’s just not normal behavior. In fact, there would be concern that perhaps the person who runs the company is out of his mind.”

John Cassidy: This was not a flattering peroration, certainly. But Brzezinski was only saying what others, including me, have said before: if Trump were a corporate C.E.O., he would have been fired by now. Brzezinski also wasn’t the first to suggest that Trump may be losing his marbles: at water coolers and bars across the country, this is an everyday topic of conversation. But Presidents are supposed to rise above such speculation and chitchat.

Steve Benen: It’s hard to know or understand the motivation behind presidential messages like the one we saw this morning. Perhaps Trump is trying to distract attention away from the Republicans’ woefully unpopular and regressive health care plan. Maybe he thinks online rants help take the focus off his Russia scandal and the reported criminal investigation. Perhaps the pressures of the office are simply proving to be overwhelming. No matter the circumstances, it matters when the sitting president of the United States adopts an abusive posture towards women. It matters when the leader of a global superpower displays a temperament that raises questions about his ability to do the job. And it matters when an American leader too often seems incapable of dignity and decency.

Christine Matthews, a Republican pollster who specializes in the views of female voters, said the president’s use of Twitter to target a prominent woman was particularly striking, noting that he had used only one derogatory word — “psycho” — to describe the show’s other co-host, Joe Scarborough, and the remainder of his limited characters to hit upon damaging stereotypes of women. “He included dumb, crazy, old, unattractive and desperate,” Ms. Matthews said. “The continued tweeting, the fact that he is so outrageous, so unpresidential, is becoming a huge problem for him,” she added. “And it is particularly unhelpful in terms of building relationships with female Republican members of Congress, whose votes he needs for health care, tax reform and infrastructure.”

Comments from individual members of Congress follow the break. Here’s a sample what they had to say.

“uncivil”, “embarassing”, “Stop it!”, “beneath the office”, “beneath the dignity of [the] office”, “isn’t normal”, “not ok”, “monstrous”, “viciously sexist comments”, “If anyone on my staff did this they would be fired instantly.”

And why is the Republican leadership dodging this matter?

House speaker, Paul D. Ryan, said during a Capitol Hill news conference: “Obviously, I don’t see that as an appropriate comment,” Then he told reporters he wanted to talk about something else.

Senior Republicans, including Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, cycled through what has become a familiar series of emotions and calculations after the Twitter posts, according to staff members: a flash of anger, reckoning of possible damage and, finally, a determination to push past the controversy to pursue their agenda.

And one person in the White House thinks Trump’s tweets are just fine.

The White House said Thursday that Trump was responding to liberal bullying when he tweeted about the MSNBC host.

“I don’t think that the President’s ever been someone who gets attacked and doesn’t push back,” deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Fox News. “There have been an outrageous number of personal attacks not just to him but people around him.”

“This is a President who fights fire with fire and certainly will not be bullied,” Sanders said.

NBC News and MSNBC has an appropriate last word.

Mark Kornblau, the head of PR for NBC News and MSNBC, also weighed in on Twitter, saying, “Never imagined a day when I would think to myself, ‘it is beneath my dignity to respond to the President of the United States.’”

Senator Susan Collins (R, ME): “I don’t think it directly affects the negotiation on the health care bill, but it is undignified — it’s beneath a president of the United States and just so contrary to the way we expect a president to act,” she said. ”People may say things during a campaign, but it’s different when you become a public servant. I don’t see it as undermining his ability to negotiate legislation, necessarily, but I see it as embarrassing to our country .“ ”My first reaction was that this just has to stop, and I was disheartened because I had hoped the personal, ad hominem attacks had been left behind, that we were past that,” “The President’s tweet was completely inappropriate. I think he needs to better appreciate the roles played by the three branches of government and by the media. We’re not going to agree. We’re not always going to get along. But there’s no need for such uncivil language.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R, AK):Stop it! The presidential platform should be used for more than bringing people down.” ”@POTUS, do you want to be remembered for your tweets or your accomplishments?"

Senator Lindsey Graham(R, SC), who is a strong critic of the Trump administration, tweeted, “Mr. President, your tweet was beneath the office and represents what is wrong with American politics, not the greatness of America.”

GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch(R, UT) didn’t directly acknowledge Trump’s remarks but tweeted an article where he is quoted saying, “It’s incumbent on all of us, then — from the President to Congress on down — to be responsible for our speech.”

Senator Ben Sasse (R, NE): "… implored him to stop, writing on Twitter that making such comments “isn’t normal and it’s beneath the dignity of your office.”

Senator James Lankford (R, OK): “The president’s tweets today don’t help our political or national discourse and do not provide a positive role model for our national dialogue.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D, CT) tweeted, “(Trump) mocks people (with) mental illness. Cheerleads effort to end their insurance. Not sure how much more monstrous this can get.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D, NY) tweeted, “This is not okay, Mr. President,” later adding, "Since our President clearly has a problem with women, let’s send more to Congress.

Sen. Brian Schatz (D, HI): tweeted, “If anyone on my staff did this they would be fired instantly.”

Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kansas, tweeted: “This is not okay. As a female in politics I am often criticized for my looks. We should be working to empower women.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D, CA):, tweeted a thread that began, “I want my GOP colleagues to explain to my 3 granddaughters why they think these viciously sexist comments are acceptable from our President.”

Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, demanded an apology, calling the president’s Twitter posts “sexist, an assault on the freedom of the press and an insult to all women.” “I just don’t know why Republicans, they can tolerate almost anything.” Speaking at a news conference, she added, “The tweets from our President, they set a low standard for public officials in terms of their demeanor. It’s really sad, though.”

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