WASHINGTON — Anyone surprised by President Trump’s tweeted attack on Mika Brzezinski early Thursday must have missed the 2016 presidential campaign.
“They knew what they were getting when they voted for Donald Trump,” White House deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of the electorate at Thursday, in defense of the president’s morning tweets.
Just as feminist writers saw a presidential campaign that raised Twitter trolling to an art form as an outgrowth of the sexist alt-right Twitter attacks they’d been living with for years, Hillary Clinton’s experience with Trump now looks like a curtain raiser for the president’s approach to powerful female critics.
From his icy press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to his mocking “low I.Q. Crazy” Brzezinski for “bleeding badly from a face-lift” — despite there being no evidence of anything like that in a photo taken the evening in question — Trump as president has proved as unable to contain his emotions when it comes to women as he was during the campaign.
This lack of self-control appears to be longstanding and is something he boasted of in the off-camera 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape released in October. He dismissed the lewd talk as “locker room talk.”
“You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. … Grab ’em by the p****,” he’d said.
His inability to restrain himself and consider his position and the standards of behavior expected of a U.S. president showed again this week, when he gestured to a female reporter to leave the press pack to join him before the cameras during a foreign leader call, to compliment her “nice smile.”
He showed little restraint with insults and threats during the campaign, attacking opponents both preemptively and defensively. He notably trashed rival Carly Fiorina’s appearance during the primary campaign.
“Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?” Trump told a Rolling Stone reporter as they watched her on the news. “Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?”
He added: “I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”
He later implied that there was something wrong with Clinton’s appearance too. “I just don’t think she has a presidential look, and you need a presidential look,” he told ABC News.
During the course of the campaign, more than 10 women came forward with allegations that Trump had sexual harassed them or made inappropriate advances. He threatened to sue them. “Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign,” he said during a campaign appearance in Gettysburg, Pa. “Total fabrication. The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”
He did not sue them.
Cruel insults, vicious attacks, and not-so-subtle threats have been part of his arsenal for years. “@ariannahuff is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man — he made a good decision,” he tweeted in 2012. “Hillary, when you complain about ‘a penchant for sexism,’ who are you referring to? I have great respect for women. BE CAREFUL!” he warned in a 2015 tweet. (That warning might have been a bluff, like his May 2017 tweet that “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations.”)
But by the time Trump invited women who had accused Clinton’s husband of sexual misconduct to sit in the audience while she took part in debate for the presidency, the threat and intent to harm was all too real.
“I was getting beaten up for 72 hours on all the networks for inappropriate words 12 years ago. Locker room talk, whatever you want to call it. But I said to myself, Wait a minute. And I just saw very inappropriate words, but Bill Clinton sexually assaulted innocent women and Hillary Clinton attacked those women viciously,” Trump said in a stump speech in Ambridge, Pa., last October.
“If they want to release more tapes saying inappropriate things, we’ll continue to talk about Bill and Hillary Clinton doing inappropriate things,” he warned, then boasted of the “four wonderful women” his campaign had brought to the presidential debate in St. Louis.
This is the president.
“When the president gets hit, he’s going to hit back harder,” said Huckabee Sanders.
Again: She’s right. That’s who he is — and how he won.
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