In the matter of the President of the United States hurling misogynistic abuse at Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC, the righteous indignation is misplaced.
There is no end to the man's vileness and he is incapable of reform. That's the truth. It is far better to see the incident as an illumination of a mind and a culture, and to recognize that not everyone thinks of the man's actions as vile.
The sooner the media deals with this, the better. The other day, just after Trump's juvenile tweets about Brzezinski were unleashed, I happened to be watching CNN. The topic to which anchors and pundit panels clung was the idea of "presidential." By heavens, it was "unpresidential" to take to social media to attack Brzezinski and assert she was bleeding after a facelift. Yes, definitely it was "unpresidential."
There is a time, and it is now, to acknowledge that what Trump did, and the general tenor of his behaviour, is how the world works. Okay, perhaps it is a stretch to say "the world," but it is certainly how a large portion of the American culture works, in business and other areas. It is crude, viciously sexist and obsessed with personal image. Every time Trump erupts in casual misogyny, it is salutary reminder that many powerful men believe that standards of decency and polite behaviour do not apply to them. It is unrealistic to expect otherwise.
There is something just so phony and pious about the outrage directed at Trump's sneering disdain for Brzezinski on Twitter. It's hardly the first time and listen, the Republican party agreed to have this man as its candidate and he won the presidential election. He was endorsed through the system that elects American presidents. During the campaign it was revealed countless times that he is a scoundrel and a boor, but it mattered not a jot. He won.
We should in fact be thanking Trump for saying unsayable things. It's helpful in understanding why he was elected and why he has so many passionate advocates. He understands the public's obsession with personal image and he understands the power of vicious personal attack. It behooves people to learn from it and it is darn hard to learn from it if everybody is super-busy being pious and sanctimonious about it. I mean, some of the sanctimony is risible. Almost everybody who works for CNN retweeted this statement from CNN's PR arm, "We stand with @MSNBC's @MorningMika and @JoeNBC." That's nice, but that is nowhere near the role of journalism.
It is surely the role of journalism not simply to complain or fret or condemn, or engage in endless hand-wringing, but to unearth why the behaviour erupts and why it is acceptable to some and loathsome to others. What is conveniently forgotten, or glossed over, in the fuss about what Trump flung at Brzezinski, is the source of his rage.
During Thursday's Morning Joe show on MSNBC, Brzezinski mocked Trump's hands and sneered at the fake Time magazine covers of Trump that were discovered by the Washington Post to be hanging in his golf club resorts. Yes, it was mean and tawdry, the start of all this. And then Brzezinski's response to Trump's insults about her was to take to Twitter and post an image of a Cheerios cereal box featuring the phrase "Made for little hands." All of this is juvenile. All of it.
The incident is also a useful reminder to ourselves that the Trump administration will not back down from the President's crudeness. At a testy White House media briefing, deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, about the incident, American voters "knew what they were getting." She simply denied that Trump had gone too far with the tweets. "I think the President has been attacked mercilessly on personal accounts, by members on that program, and I think he's been very clear that when he gets attacked, he's going to hit back," she told the briefing. "I think the American people elected somebody who's tough, who's smart and who's a fighter and that's Donald Trump."
There's truth in that, no matter how distressing it is to some. See, every time Trump unleashes his viciousness on Twitter, it is an expression of the man's ideas and values. The problem, however, is obvious. Trump's goal isn't to persuade; it's to intimidate. Intimidation made him rich and got him elected. After the discourse on the vileness, it's better to dissect that fact – a lot of America runs on intimidation and a lot of Americans are obsessed with personal image. Dissect the culture, not just the tweets of the man at the top.