Trump’s Big Mistake Could Have Been Positive
Donald Trump’s response to Hillary Clinton calling him out on his treatment of Alicia Machado a former Miss Universe has been, typically, boorish. At the debate, and in the aftermath.
In challenging the source of Clinton’s information and later describing Machado as “the worst,” Trump was typically graceless and incompetent, a vial mixture. There plainly are better ways to have handled it.
What’s equally amazing, however, is the way the left-leaning media is portraying the original incident: a bullying man fat-shaming a woman who simply had gone from impossibly thin beauty queen to a healthy, strong sustainable weight after the pageant.
The first part might be true. The second, well, contemporaneous reports suggest Alicia Machado blew right through healthy and strong to plus-size in a matter of months, although the exact figure of her gain is a matter of dispute.
About that: Anyone who has endured, or merely observed, boomerang weight gain can sympathize, especially women who rightly agonize over body image.
The difference at the time for Machado was her contract as Miss Universe. She had one job: Look like Miss Universe.
This is from a report published by CNN at the time:
“When Alicia Machado of Venezuela was named Miss Universe nine months ago, no one could accuse her of being the size of the universe. But as her universe expanded, so did she, putting on nearly 60 pounds. …
“Rumors also surfaced that she might be forced to give up her Miss Universe crown.
“But Trump, as co-owner of rights to the pageant, said he would never let that happen. ‘We had a choice of: termination or do this,’ he said. ‘We wanted to do this.’
“The pageant’s meaning of ‘do this’ was for Machado to get her weight down to about 130 pounds. At a recent photo op, Machado — hardly a blimp at 5-foot-7 — pedaled a stationary bicycle and jumped rope in front of a pack of photographers and reporters who could themselves use a little training.”
Maybe Trump sputtered Monday night because time was short or he felt blindsided (it wasn’t the first time his lack of preparation showed) or he really was too out of gas to think on his feet. Whatever the reason, rather than pivot to an effective counterattack, he went into a defensive crouch and lashed out, only making things worse.
It would have been easy to turn the tables.
“Yes, Madame Secretary, I said some things about a beautiful young woman I regret. But all I did was bruise her feelings. And, with her cooperation, we got her the help she needed.
“But since you’ve opened that door, shall I remind America about how you have treated women who displeased you?
“You brought up a name from 20 years ago. How about if I do the same? Monica Lewinsky was a beautiful young innocent girl, too, and your husband used her in ways far worse than calling names.
“Of course, the way he abused Miss Lewinsky, an intern young enough to be his daughter, is on him. But the things you said about her, one woman attacking another and wrecking her reputation in ways that left her scarred for life, that’s on you.
“Yes, I called Alicia Machado ‘Miss Piggy’ and ‘Miss Housekeeping.’ And I regret that, deeply. But remember what you called Miss Lewinsky, this young woman far from home who was just barely out of college, who was just about the right age to be your daughter’s peer mentor?
“I’ll remind you. You told a confidant she was a ‘narcissistic loony toon.’ A ‘narcissistic loony toon.’ You never have disavowed that statement. You dismissed the early reports about her relationship with your husband as a ‘vast right-wing conspiracy.’ Was your friend part of the ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ too?
“There are other women’s names, so many other women’s names, too many to mention here. Always, your response has been to deny, then malign, then destroy. Your path is littered with the wrecked reputations of women who got in your way.
“Again, I said things about Miss Machado I regret. But I ask Americans, what is worse? My stupid comments about a young woman who was failing to live up to a contract that is the envy of thousands of other young women around the world, that thousands of young women strive to achieve? Or your participation in trashing women who proved inconvenient to you?
“Here and now I apologize to Ms. Machado. Will you do the same, right here, right now, to all the women you sicced your war room on over the years?”
Ah, who am I kidding? Pulling off such a reversal would have required a combination of mastering his homework, a willingness to rehearse, patience, courage in the face of the enemy and, above all, humility, a willingness to begin from a place of regret. Donald Trump doesn’t do regret, ever, even insincerely, even as a tactic, even when its expression can become a source of strength.
That single shortcoming could cost him the election. Wonder if he’ll regret that.