I am beginning to worry that when I die, the highlight of my obituary will be that I was once called “a dog” by Donald Trump.
Hey, it was long ago, but it still comes up. Particularly now that we’re making lists of all the women our president has ever compared to a canine. Back when I worked for New York Newsday, he sent me a copy of a column I’d written, scrawled with objections, along with an announcement that I was “a dog and a liar” and that my picture was “the face of a pig.”
At the time, he was only a flailing real estate developer trying to make a deal with the city, yet it still seemed so weird that at first I wondered if it might be a joke, or some enemy of Trump’s trying to embarrass him. But no, it was a missive from the man himself.
This week, of course, Trump referred to his ex-friend Omarosa Manigault Newman in a tweet as “that dog.” I am going to go out on a limb and say that when the president of the United States insults a woman that way in a public statement, it’s a little bit more of an issue.
The blowback was enormous. So intense that the president tried to change the subject by revoking the security clearance of ex-CIA director John Brennan, a frequent critic. And warning that he was considering doing the same to other former officials. All of whom, coincidentally, also seemed to be frequent critics.
One of the worst things about this moment in our national lives is the fear that if Trump gets into trouble for doing something dumb and obnoxious, he'll respond by doing something huge and maybe dangerous. Have you heard that Stormy Daniels is going to be on the British version of “Celebrity Big Brother”? What happens if she tells that story about a hotel room spanking session to a house full of smirking Europeans? He could declare a war.
Lately, everything seems to start with reality TV. You'll remember that Omarosa appeared on a U.S. version of “Big Brother” and dished the dirt on her former boss. “The bad tweets happen between 4 and 6 in the morning,” she confided to a fellow contestant. “Ain’t nobody up there but Melania.” But this was pretty small potatoes compared to what Stormy might come up with. (Plus, people, do we really think Melania was up there?)
Omarosa was saving her good stuff for the book tour, and then dribbling out one embarrassing-to-outrageous revelation after another. Trump’s response has been somewhere between hysterical and totally nuts. We’ve been plunged into a discussion of whether his howls of rage at a black woman are racist, particularly since they came at the same time he was calling other black Americans “the dumbest” or “low IQ.”
Actually, we’ve already got so much evidence on the racism front that the tweets are barely a footnote. Just listen to the pained silence when an administration spokeswoman is asked how many African-Americans are working at the White House now that Omarosa’s gone. (“We have a large number of diverse staffers from various backgrounds. …”)
One thing that’s for sure is that the tweets tell us a lot about the president’s own miserable insecurities. He’s been shooting off insults about people’s intellect for years, from Robert De Niro to Arianna Huffington to Lindsey Graham, who not only got called “a total lightweight” and an “idiot” but also, in the cruelest cut of all “not as bright as Rick Perry.”
We could go on and on. It’s pretty clearly all coming from a deep, deep fear that everybody else has a better mind than he does. “Trust me, I’m like a smart person,” he pathetically told the country shortly after his inauguration, when the country was already getting a pretty good idea that this wasn’t the case.
During the campaign Trump continually pointed out that he went to the Wharton School of Business. (“It’s like super genius stuff.”) That gave many people the impression he’d gotten the high-prestige Wharton MBA, but he was really just a transfer student into the undergraduate program. Skeptics suggested he only edged his way in because of family connections. He graduated without any honors or distinction, and went on to publish a best-selling memoir that was written by somebody else.
No reason to say he’s stupid. Maybe just a little dim by presidential standards.
And about him calling people a “dog.” This all goes back to the fact that Trump hates animals. Particularly friendly animals. (You don’t see him constantly saying an enemy is a “coyote” or “hyena” or “python.”) Trump has never even owned a goldfish, as far as anybody knows. No pets at all, except a poodle named Chappy that belonged to his first wife, and which he tried to evict. (Ivana Trump said in her recent autobiography that Chappy “had an equal dislike of Donald.”)
When he calls someone a “dog,” he’s just reacting to a pathological fear that he’s unlovable. Just as when he calls someone “dumb,” he’s trying to get past the fact that he’s not all that bright.
And whenever I tell the “dog” story, I always enjoy pointing out that Trump misspelled the word “too.”