Monday, August 10, 2015

Megyn Kelly is the Victim Here Folks

I can't think of any other way to start this post than to just state outright how absolutely appalled and flabbergasted I am at the public response to the exchange between Megyn Kelly and Donald Trump in Fox News debates that were staged last Thursday.  I am mortified that people are attacking the victim and blaming a journalist for asking "inappropriate" questions to a rich and powerful man who wants to be president of the United States of America. Whether it was appropriate or not, is not the issue. The more important issue is how Trump has responded to the question.  To fully appreciate how deplorable Trump's behavior is, we need to walk through the exchange step-by-step.

KELLY: Mr. Trump, one of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don’t use a politician’s filter.

This is a most charitable characterization of Trump's speaking style. I would not put it this way at all, but many people do appreciate his bluntness and candor. Clearly Megyn wants to remind Trump that he is among friends.

KELLY: However, that is not without its downsides, in particular, when it comes to women.
You’ve called women you don’t like “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.”

OK, first, why are people laughing?  What does that say about this audience?  If this is such a serious important event for discussing serious issues, then why are people so amused by this?

KELLY: Your Twitter account…
TRUMP: Only Rosie O’Donnell.

First question in his first ever presidential debate, and Trump interrupts the questioner with a joke.  He knows the audience has no love for Rosie O'Donnell, so they're not bothered that he has repeatedly insulted her in the past and makes no apology for it.  But it's OK to poke fun at a slightly overweight, highly outspoken middle-aged lesbian liberal, right?  And even though this is a super-serious forum where only important topics should be discussed, it's totally fine for Trump to crack a joke.

KELLY: No, it wasn’t.

No it certainly wasn't.

KELLY: Your Twitter account…
TRUMP: Thank you.
KELLY: For the record, it was well beyond Rosie O’Donnell.
TRUMP: Yes, I’m sure it was.

Here Trump freely admits to making these comments and others.  Later he claims to not even remember saying these things.  Which is it Trump? Are you standing your ground that whatever you said in the past is irrelevant, or are you going to try to weasel out of each and every comment by claiming you were just somehow misunderstood?

KELLY: Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women’s looks. You once told a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees.

Praying, of course.  Trump claims that he was not alluding to the performance of a sex act. This is a man who has divorced 2 wives for much younger women, owns the Miss USA Pageant and routinely boasts about his prowess with women. He once said “You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”  There's plenty in his history to suggest that he has quite a healthy interest in sex. So even if he didn't intend this comment to imply a sex act, it certainly should have occurred to him that it would be interpreted that way.  He just didn't care. 

KELLY: Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who was likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?

This is whole point of the question - Donald Trump will be attacked as a misogynist, whether he is one or not.  Megyn announced earlier that the first round of questions were meant to determine whether the candidates had a reasonable chance of winning the general election.  All the questions pointed out each candidate's alleged weaknesses, and challenged them to offer a defense in front a friendly audience before they would have to face their real opposition.  For most other politicians, this was a lobbed soft-ball that would have been hit out of the park.

TRUMP: I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct.

No actually, this is not about political correctness. This is about your attitude toward women. It was rude, disrespectful and a sign of stupidity to inject insults about a person's anatomy long before the term "political correctness" was ever invented.

TRUMP: I’ve been challenged by so many people, and I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness.

Mr. Trump is so important, and has so little free time, that he can't be bothered to answer a question like this, and he certainly doesn't have time to think carefully about his words and refrain from saying wildly inappropriate things.  But he does have time to search Twitter later for insulting comments about Megyn Kelly and re-tweet them.  And of course he has time to go on every other network the next day to talk about how he was so unfairly attacked.

TRUMP: And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either. This country is in big trouble. We don’t win anymore. We lose to China. We lose to Mexico both in trade and at the border. We lose to everybody.

This is the only point in this exchange where Trump attempts to say something that is even close to a reasonable debate response.  He is using the standard debate technique called "changing the subject".  He would much rather talk about how much of a winner he is, and how every other candidate, and elected official (particularly the President) is a loser.  And he wants to make sure you believe that America is "losing" in the world, even though we still have the largest military and largest economy by far.  This is Trump's main message, and he could have just stopped here, showing that he would parry the attacks from his opponents by bringing us back to his core message.  If he had stopped here, he may well have been declared the winner of this debate, even though he offered no substantial response.

TRUMP: And frankly, what I say, and oftentimes it’s fun, it’s kidding. We have a good time.

Yes, I'm sure Rosie O'Donnell really enjoys being called those names.

TRUMP: What I say is what I say. And honestly Megyn, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry.

That is not an apology.  This really means "I don't give a damn what you think, Megyn."

TRUMP: I’ve been very nice to you,

Let's pause mid-sentence here and ponder why it is that Trump has always been very nice to blonde, thin, 40-something Megyn Kelly, as opposed to Rosie O'Donnell.  Hmmmm, that is a tough one!

TRUMP: although I could probably maybe not be, based on the way you have treated me.

This is a threat, plain and simple. Trump is reminding her that he has the power to destroy her for asking questions he doesn't like. Forget about the charge of sexism, let's talk about the fact that this man has just openly threatened a reporter in front of millions of people and nobody calls him on it - they applaud! When did it become acceptable to trash reporters for asking tough questions? How is it possible that the rest of the candidates don't see it, or are too cowardly to actually defend her? I honestly have always thought that the so-called "war on women" was an embarrassing hyperbolic excess of the Democratic party, but this makes me wonder whether they were right after all. All these people are witnessing the textbook defense of the guilty against charges of sexism, and they can't even see it. I have to wonder whether it's willful ignorance.

TRUMP: But I wouldn’t do that.

Yes, he would.  And the next day he proved it.

TRUMP: But you know what, we — we need strength, we need energy, we need quickness and we need brain in this country to turn it around. That, I can tell you right now.

Trump may be right about this.  But if he wants to prove that he's the person with that quickness and brain we need, he certainly failed here. If this was a truly impromptu response, then he utterly failed to think on his feet about the implications of what he was saying.  But this was certainly not an unscripted response. Trump had to have known he would be asked a question like this, and he most certainly went through some pre-debate preparations. In fact, I would not be at all surprised if he was even provided the questions in advance.  So there is no excuse for Trump to not have a reasonable answer to this question.

One could argue that I'm choosing the worst possible interpretation of everything Trump said. Yes, I am. But the next day, Trump went on to prove that Megyn's worst fears about him were completely justified.  He chose to re-tweet a comment that called her a bimbo which is a cowardly pathetic maneuver to say something and disavow the comment simultaneously.  He says he finds it amusing that social media has erupted with scorn for this woman who had the audacity to challenge the future king of America. Could it be that he is the one manufacturing this public outrage? Why is Trump so indifferent about making enemies of the news media?  Could it be that he has another weapon he intends to use to manipulate the public, so he doesn't need them?

The final straw is that he proved the exact allegation against him by actually saying that “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.”  What?  Oh, he meant her NOSE!  Ohhhh, I guess I my 12 year old daughter must be a total deviant then, because when I told her about this comment, she knew exactly what body part Mr. Trump was thinking of when he said this. He insults our intelligence by claiming he wasn't implying that she was menstruating, thus reminding everyone why exactly women can't be trusted in positions of power.

But even if you give him the benefit of the doubt that this was an unintended unfortunate gaffe, he still can't be defended for claiming she was a raging Trump hater with blood coming out of her eyes.  I watched her very carefully and politely ask the question with a friendly smile.  She stated up-front that this was a dress rehearsal for questions he was inevitably going to be asked.  He had every opportunity in the world to rebut the accusations honorably and put the issue to rest.  Instead Trump chose to whine and complain and attack someone who would have been among his most likely allies.

Whether you think the question was inappropriate or not is entirely irrelevant.  How Trump responded speaks volumes about his character and fitness for the office of the presidency.  Megyn Kelly showed the world who the real Donald Trump is. In thanks for that, she is being vilified mercilessly on social media.  Her Facebook post about the debate contains tens of thousands of negative comments suggesting she should be fired, or worse. I sincerely hope that the thousands of Tweets and Facebook comments being hurled at her are actually being generated by bots run by Trump, because if these are the sentiments of real human beings, I shudder to think what could happen in our next presidential election.