Donald Trump must be worried that headlines about his sexism are subsiding as he puts his feud with Fox’s Megyn Kelly in the rear-view mirror. To recap: Kelly did her job at Thursday’s debate, Trump attacked her with misogynistic insults, angry Trump backers swarmed Kelly and Fox, even leveling death threats – and weak-kneed Fox founder Roger Ailes sided with the sexist bully over his female primetime star. Trump won.
The GOP frontrunner hadn’t had a new controversy over his attacks on women in a few days. So in his first speech since the debate, at a Michigan Lincoln Day event, he smacked down Caroline Kennedy, the beloved daughter of the late President Kennedy who is now the ambassador to Japan. Earlier, he suggested Sen. Bernie Sanders should have smacked down the female Black Lives matters activist who blocked his speech in Seattle last weekend.
Trump mocked Kennedy as unqualified, and contrasted her with people like him who “toss and turn and toss and turn, and we’re thinking through the night.” Kennedy simply asked for her job, Trump said.
Now, that’s slightly different from the way he attacked her in Iowa last month. “We use Caroline Kennedy in Japan. She couldn’t even believe she got the job. They said ‘Would you like the job?’; she said ‘Really?’ — but my daughter Ivanka likes her, so she has to be a good person.”
But details about whether Kennedy asked for the job or had it handed to her don’t matter to Trump; the point is to single out a woman and deride her as unqualified, when less than a third of U.S. ambassadors today are women. The truth is, wealth and connections have always played a huge role in the selection of ambassadors, in both parties. He also insists she’s doing a bad job as trade negotiator with Japan – but that’s not her job at all. Not that we expect Trump to master the details of U.S. foreign service.
The first time I heard Trump insult Kennedy, who is widely respected for the family loss she has endured since early childhood, and for her career of public service, I thought it might hurt him. I’ve since learned his sexist bullying isn’t a problem for his supporters but part of his appeal. Still, if anyone questions whether Trump is trying to appeal to misogynists, they have one more piece of evidence. The repeated attacks on Kennedy are tough to stomach.
Tougher still was hearing Trump insult Sen. Bernie Sanders’ manhood, because Sanders turned over his microphone to female Black Lives Matter protesters in Seattle last weekend. “I thought that was disgusting. That showed such weakness, the way he was taken away by two young women,” Trump said. “That will never happen with me. I don’t know if I’ll do the fighting myself, or if other people will, but that was a disgrace.”
So he might “fight” the women from Black Lives Matter himself? Trump has the bearings of a physical coward, who lets his money and his mouth fight his battles, so I don’t expect to see that. But again, he’s telling his insecure male followers about the way he’d tame women – particularly black women – if they make him president.
Many people have questioned why Black Lives Matter activists are only targeting Democrats – they've disrupted Sanders twice, Martin O'Malley once, and tried to interrupt a Hillary Clinton event last night but reportedly arrived too late, and met with her instead. I was surprised there was no action at or outside the Republican debate in Cleveland last week, especially since BLM had a large conference there the week before, and the city is still seething over the police killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice last year.
But I get it: There’s a presumption on the white left that we don't “need” educating on these issues – we’re good allies! – when the indignant white response to the recent BLM actions shows that we very much do.
That said, I hope BLM activists hear what Trump said about Sanders and stage something creative for the next time he holds a public event. I don’t think it’s possible to “educate” Donald Trump, but I’d love to see him face what Sanders did. I don’t think he’s man enough either to tolerate the interruption or terminate it. Maybe we’ll find out.