The New York Times characterizes Donald Trump’s attitudes toward women as “debasing” and “degrading” in a lengthy investigatory article this week. The presumptive Republican presidential nominee shoots back that the Old Gray Lady’s favored candidate’s husband stands accused of raping an older, graying lady back when she was a blonde 35-year-old and Bill Clinton served as his state’s attorney general.
The controversy illustrates the problem of advancing a narrative in the face of uncooperative facts. “Facts are stubborn things,” the second occupant of the office that Trump and Hillary Clinton aspire to once famously said. Blind partisans are stubborn, too.
The boomerang hit-piece roots Trump’s attitudes toward women in his father’s paternalistic penchant for overruling the orders of female dinner companions, in the candidate attending an all-male military academy, and in other psychobabble even as it concedes, with no on-the-couch explanation provided, of his stellar record in employing women executives during a time when few did. Perhaps the twice-divorced man married to a woman 24 years his junior exhibits caddish tendencies. But, when touting the candidacy of a longtime enabler of an accused rapist and sexual assailant, chronicling the boorish utterances of the opponent works more as an invitation to attack than a well thought out attack.
The article subheads that suggest sexism by describing the beauty pageant owner (“A Preoccupation with Bodies”), presidential candidate (“The Alpha Trump”), and coiner of “Lyin’ Ted” and “low energy” Jeb (“Dismissive Nicknames”) as a creepy, insecure narcissist say more about the Times’s biases against Trump than Trump’s biases against women. “At Trump Tower,” the article quotes a former employee in support of that last subhead, “he called me Honey Bunch.”
Bill Clinton’s aggressive, dehumanizing treatment of the gentler sex meshes with the martial language of a “war on women.” (Remember his command to Paula Jones and the war wound on Juanita Broaddrick’s lip?) So, too, does his wife’s attacks on the platoon of women issuing complaints about her husband’s uncouth advances upon them. “Honey Bunch” lacks that bellicose tone.
The Times poured major resources into this in-kind unkind contribution to the opposition research efforts of the Democratic National Committee. The newspaper of record boasts that its reporters interviewed more than 50 ladies in a six-week period.
Kathleen Willey, Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones, and still others wait on their calls from the 212. They don’t fit the worn-out narrative the Clinton campaign seeks to recycle this election cycle. Neither do the facts. That cliché about “people in glass houses” seems to undermine the “war on women” cliché.
So, too, does the Republican candidate’s refusal to oblige and play the dutiful punching bag. Donald Trump’s modus operandi strikes as entirely transparent. When someone attacks him, he responds by bringing up the most embarrassing occurrence in his critic’s life.
When Oscar De La Hoya accused him of cheating at golf, Trump obliquely referenced the boxer’s gender-bending romp in which he dressed as a woman. After Senator Elizabeth Warren labeled Trump a “loser” and a demagogue, Trump ridiculed the blue-eyed blonde’s claims of Indian ancestry that helped the Rutgers Law graduate somehow land a position at Harvard Law. “She’s got about as much Indian blood as I have,” Trump explained. “Her whole life was based on a fraud. She got into Harvard and all that because she said she was a minority.”
“Amazing that Crooked Hillary can do a hit ad on me concerning women when her husband was the WORST abuser of woman in U.S. political history,” Trump characteristically tweeted in response to the most recent salvos fired against him.
It’s all not very nice, but neither are the pejoratives hurled at the billionaire businessman. In ways good and bad, Trump differs from past GOP nominees. His unwillingness to stoically endure attacks stands as the most stark difference, and if it occasionally reveals the candidate’s dark side it also shows the former fight promoter as the most effective counterpuncher in recent political history. His virtues are his vices and vice-versa.
Blind partisans appear blindsided. USA Today called the allegation Trump repeated as “old” and “unproven.” MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell labeled the charges “discredited.”
This curious descriptive more readily applies to Clinton surrogates imagining they enlisted on the right side in the war on women. The people who have lionized Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy, Julian Assange, and other do-as-I-say-but-not-what-I-do liberals surely know a great deal about “discredited.”
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