January 2, 2019

Really, Mr. President? This is the best you've got?

In an exclusive interview aired during Fox News' "All-American New Year" special Monday night, President Trump suggested that only U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren's "psychiatrist" knows whether she thinks she can win the White House in 2020....

Fox News' Pete Hegseth asked Trump whether Warren really thinks she could make him a one-term president.

"Well, that I don't know," Trump responded. "You’d have to ask her psychiatrist."

Donald Trump's nickname insults have always been childish -- as far back as 2016, Stephen Colbert imagined that Trump was being advised by a middle school bully:

But most of Trump's previous insults at least made some reference to traits associated (rightly or wrongly) with the targets: Low Energy Jeb, Crooked Hillary, Liddle Little Marco. When Trump really has nothing, the best he can come up with is to call someone insane -- hence Crazy Bernie for Bernie Sanders, which never really caught on. And now he's repeating himself with Warren.

And it's a insult to say someone has seen a psychiatrist? This is Trump (b. 1946) showing his age, and showing how mired he is in the cultural zeitgeist of approximately half a century ago, when he was a young man. He grew up at a time when the gang members of West Side Story would talk about being taken to a "headshrinker," and he was in his early twenties when the most talked-about book in America -- I'm sure even Trump knew about it, though it's hard to imagine him reading it -- was Philip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint, which was written in the form of a patient's monologue to his psychoanalyst.

A farce called The President's Analyst hit movie theaters the year Trump turned 21, and then, five years later, George McGovern's first running mate, Tom Eagleton, had to leave the Democratic ticket when it was revealed that he'd been hospitalized for depression and undergone electroshock therapy.

But Trump is living in the past. I suspect a psychiatric history like Eagleton's wouldn't even be disqualifying now, assuming the candidate had discussed it openly in a recovery memoir and on daytime talk shows (or maybe, these days, in livestreamed video and a podcast or two). Maybe Trump's elderly base still thinks it's shameful to have sought mental health treatment, but I have my doubts. In any case, it hardly seems like the right attack on Warren -- the unkempt Bernie Sanders bears a vague resemblance to Christopher Lloyd's mad scientist from the Back to the Future movies, but the (unfair) stereotype Warren is fighting is just the opposite: that she's bloodless and hyper-rational.

Try harder, Mr. President. Or, better yet, compete like an adult.


On Fox, Pete Hegseth gave Trump an opening to attack Warren on her ancestry -- and Trump didn't even trust his own infantile instincts:

“She did very badly in proving that she was of Indian heritage,” Trump reminisced ... with FNC’s All American New Year Special co-host Pete Hegseth. “I think you have more than she does, and maybe I do too – and I have nothing!”

That's not even Trump's line. That's Lindsey Graham's line:

Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said in an interview that he might be more of an Indian than the Massachusetts Democrat....

“I’m going to take a DNA test,” he told “Fox and Friends” on Tuesday. “I’ve been told my grandmother was part Cherokee Indian. It may be just talk. But you’re gonna find out in a couple of weeks.” ...

“I didn’t think about it much, but if she’s less than one tenth of one percent, I think I can beat her,” he said.

If Trump is borrowing other people's insults, he's really out of gas.

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