Breathtaking Grotesquerie

#violenceagainstwomen | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. President Donald Trump pauses as he talks to members of the travel pool aboard Air Force One during a trip to Palm Beach, Florida, while flying over South Carolina, 3 February 2017. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

“The latest excuse for assaulting women minimizes the violence so much we can contain it in just one short word: ‘it’.”

Laura McGann

Quibbling over what passes for mastery is probably not helpful. To go down the line from Vox:

• Coaston, Jane. “The White House had to protect Rob Porter to save Donald Trump”. Vox. 9 February 2018.

For the White House, the politics are simple: Protect Trump. Because Trump himself is accused of assaulting dozens of women, they’ve had to lower the bar for male behavior so that even he can meet it. Any allegation of misconduct made against anyone close to Trump, then, must be dismissed as if it were being made against Trump himself.

• Kirby, Jen. “A second White House aide resigns over domestic abuse allegations”. Vox. 9 February 2018.

Another Trump administration official is resigning amid accusations of domestic abuse, just days after White House staff secretary Rob Porter stepped down after he faced similar allegations . . . [Speechwriter David] Sorensen denied the allegations to the Post, saying that he was the victim and that he resigned because he didn’t want the allegations to be a “distraction.” The Post was working on the story when he resigned.

• McGann, Laura. “Trump just taught a master class in manipulating language to excuse abuse”. Vox. 9 February 2018.

Trump’s attempt to help Porter on Friday shows he understands the root of #MeToo’s power. When victims speak, when they take action, when they force us to see, the power of predators fades away. The best Trump could do for Porter was to take away his victims’ humanity, their active descriptions, and replace it all with just one word: ‘it’.

• North, Anna. “Trump’s long history of employing — and defending — men accused of hurting women”. Vox. 9 February 2018.

At least five administration and campaign figures (including Trump himself) have been the subject of abuse allegations. Rather than treat such allegations with gravity, Trump and his team have chosen to ignore them, to fire back at the women on Twitter, or to parrot men’s assurances of their innocence over women’s reports . . . [Staff Secretary Rob] Porter resigned amid public pressure, but Trump’s response is a good reminder of the lesson he’s learned from escaping the reckoning sweeping much of the rest of the country — #MeToo does not apply to him. And given his tolerance for men accused of abuse inside his very inner circle, it’s clear he doesn’t think it applies to his closest associates, either. Trump’s team may lose men like Porter periodically, but the message the president sent on Friday was clear: to him, violence against women really doesn’t matter.

What a day. That is, of course they did, of course he did, of course he did, and of course he does. Nor is that all.  

• Kirby, Jen. “John Kelly has a history of believing men over women”. Vox. 9 February 2018.

It was an odd line in an odd statement — one part poignant remembrance of his son, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2010, and another part an angry, disingenuous attack on a Congress member who had accused Trump of insensitivity during a condolence call with the widow of a slain soldier . . . Kelly’s “women were sacred” line feels particularly relevant now, months later, following Kelly’s role in the unfolding Rob Porter scandal.

• —————. “Trump reportedly thinks Hope Hicks put herself before White House in the Porter scandal”. Vox. 9 February 2018.

The fallout from the Rob Porter scandal has engulfed Trump’s inner circle at the White House. The president is reportedly angry at the handling of the situation, and is training his frustration on his top aide and close confidante Hope Hicks . . . . But the situation is even more complicated than Hicks’s possible misfire in the White House’s response. Hicks is reportedly dating Porter, and the president and others in Trumpworld are questioning whether her relationship with him clouded her judgment when responding to the unfolding crisis, according to CNN.

That is to say, of course he does, and . . . er . . . ah . . . of course he does.

This is just another day in the Trump administration. And, certes, such glib pretense might seem unproductive, but, to the other, the difference ‘twixt this White House and what came before is ineffable. Measuring the smartest or best would be one thing if that is who President Trump brought to the White House; his special talent, however, seems to be some knack for drawing antisocial elements into common orbit. Inasmuch as we might remember that fiscal conservatism is itself antisocial, the strong concentration of overt, unsubtle, and untalented—even compared to the usual noise of doctrinaire soccons—supremacists, and of particular note misogynists, something about Donald Trump’s business sense and ethical orientation goes here.

But therein lies the hook; that the Trump ethic is the bully game should surprise no one. The magnitude of normalization is breathtaking.


Image note: President Donald Trump pauses as he talks to members of the travel pool aboard Air Force One during a trip to Palm Beach, Florida, while flying over South Carolina, 3 February 2017. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

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