The president of the United States began this morning as he often does, tweeting juvenile insults at the news media. But even by Donald Trump standards, today’s jabs at TV hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski were unusually gross. Taken together, they read: “I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!”
There’s a lot you can say about these tweets; among other things, it’s striking that Trump thinks that when journalists seek access to him, it means they like him. But I was most struck by Trump’s raw misogyny. Obviously, that’s not because Trumpian misogyny is anything new, but because, from the time he was inaugurated until this week, he’s mostly been holding it in.
Trump does not get much credit for being disciplined, but for the last five months, he’s mostly checked his tendencies to leeringly appraise women’s looks, at least in public. (Vanity Fair did report in April that during a visit by the Japanese Prime Minister, “the president told an acquaintance that he was obsessed with the translator’s breasts.”) So far, there’s been no reported pussy-grabbing in the Oval Office, no stumbling in women’s changing rooms or fantasizing aloud about female subordinates on their knees. Instead Trump, like other Republicans before him, has sublimated his misogyny into policies: expanding the global gag rule, sabotaging federal family planning programs, eroding enforcement of the law against gender discrimination in education.
But Trump appears to be feeling a lot of strain. He’s obsessed with the Russia probe, and a recent Washington Post story reported that his friends “privately worry about his health, noting that he appears to have gained weight in recent months and that the darkness around his eyes reveals his stress.” When you’re under pressure, it can be harder to hide your true self. And Trump’s true self is a pig.
On Tuesday, Trump interrupted a phone call with Ireland’s Prime Minister to sexually harass an Irish journalist named Caitriona Perry. Calling her forward, he said, “And where are you from? Go ahead. Come here, come here. Where are you from? We have all of this beautiful Irish press.” She stepped forward awkwardly and he looked her over. Then, returning to the call, he said with a smirk, “She has a nice smile on her face so I bet she treats you well.”
Trump’s insult of Brzezinski is the other side of this connoisseurship. To Trump, women’s worth lies in their fuckability; it’s why he’s praised his own daughter by saying he’d sleep with her if they weren’t related. Trump’s tweet was meant to make Brzezinski seem grotesque and pathetic, a failure in the struggle to remain attractive—the only struggle that, in his eyes, really matters for women. (Another Vanity Fair story alleged that he only let his third wife, Melania, have a baby on the condition that she would “get her body back.”) The reference to Brzezinski “bleeding badly,” of course, also recalls his claim that Megyn Kelly had “blood coming out of her whatever” when she aggressively questioned him during a debate; he instinctively projects his own revulsion toward menstruation onto women who threaten him.
I’m not sure that even well-intentioned men understand how relentlessly degrading this presidency is for many women. Having a man who does not recognize the humanity of more than half the population in a position of such power is a daily insult; it never really goes away. Perhaps this is why many women found the TV version of The Handmaid’s Tale so resonant, even though Trump, the former owner of a casino strip club, is the last person one can imagine instituting a Calvinist theocracy. Gilead’s fictional dystopia captures our constant incredulous horror at finding ourselves ruled by thuggish, unaccountable woman-haters who appear to revel in their own impunity.
If there is the barest sliver of consolation, it’s that Trump appears almost as miserable and anxiety-ridden as we are. He’s losing the tiny bit of control he had. It’s better for Trump to show us all who he really is than to let his lackeys pretend he’s remotely worthy of his office. Every time he tweets, he reveals his presidency as a disgusting farce. Let’s hope he keeps doing it.