On Tuesday evening, President Donald Trump did one of this favorite things: appeared before adoring MAGA fans at a political rally in Southaven, Mississippi.
At these types of events, Trump is in his element. He can veer off of prepared remarks as much as he wishes, knowing that he’ll receive applause and praise for doing so. In Washington, D.C., spontaneous commentary of that sort isn’t received as warmly. But more often than not, this tendency to let fly whatever he is thinking is not good for the situation at hand. And that is exactly what happened on Tuesday night.
During his speech, he poked fun at Dr. Ford’s testimony, which he had previously remarked was “very compelling” while describing her as a “very credible witness.” In Southaven, the assembled crowd cheered and smiled at his jeering.
“I had one beer. Well, do you think it was — nope, it was one beer,” Trump said, mimicking Ford’s testimony last week to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“How did you get home? I don’t remember. How’d you get there? I don’t remember. Where is the place? I don’t remember. How many years ago was it? I don’t know.”
“I don’t know. I don’t know,” the President continued. “What neighborhood was it in? I don’t know. Where’s the house? I don’t know. Upstairs, downstairs — where was it? I don’t know — but I had one beer. That’s the only thing I remember.”
This is a bad look for several reasons.
First of all, it only adds to the humiliation surrounding the Kavanaugh-Ford debacle. As many – on both sides of the aisle – have stated, Dr. Ford seems to be a truly traumatized individual shouldering an immense amount of pain. Last Thursday, she seemed very credible. In fact, after her turn, and before Kavanaugh appeared before the panel, numerous GOP and Right-leaning pundits announced that she (and the Democrats) had the upper hand. She was likable, convincing to many, and passionate about her experience.
However, this doesn’t mean that she is correct in “her truth” (as Cory Booker described it) that Brett Kavanaugh was her attacker all those years ago. To date, the evidence doesn’t support her story. Witnesses can’t back up her claim. Even her good friend, Leland Keyser, has no recollection of the party and has stated that she does not even know Brett Kavanaugh.
But does this mean that Dr. Ford hasn’t been assaulted at some point in her life by another individual who she is misremembering as Kavanaugh? No, it doesn’t. In fact, Judge Kavanaugh has even stated that he believes she has been a victim, just at the hands of another.
Therefore, it’s highly inappropriate for President Trump to ridicule her trauma. The president should keep his mouth shut.
Second, the political toll his unconstrained immaturity has may be very, very costly.
Of the undecideds in the Senate, three Republicans could hold the key to victory or defeat for Trump’s second nominee to the Supreme Court. Senators Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski are swing votes and the GOP desperately needs them on their side. President Trump’s comments at the rally have already left a bad taste in their mouths.
“There’s no time and no place for remarks like that,” Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said on NBC’s “Today” show. “To discuss something this sensitive at a political rally is just not right. It’s just not right. I wish he hadn’t of done it. It’s kind of appalling.”
About two hours later, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, also took exception to Trump’s remarks, telling reporters: “The president’s comments were just plain wrong.”
It doesn’t matter what you think of Flake (who in my opinion is aptly named), or Collins and Murkowski. The fact remains that they are, for lack of a better term, the three politicians the GOP should want to impress with their dedication to the truth and consideration of Dr. Ford, no matter the outcome. When they see President Trump mock her words and story, it brings major doubt in their minds that they should reward the GOP with confirming the nominee. How could it not?
The president should keep his mouth shut.
I understand that many are drawn to Donald J. Trump’s abrasive manner. Many in the audience applaud his taunting demeanor. But what is so often described as him being a “fighter” is really a man stepping well over the line of decency. In the end, it may hurt him politically, too.
It is in these moments that I believe the president should be rightly criticized, no matter what the MAGA fans who approve of every word think. If there has ever been a time to refrain from speaking so mockingly about sensitive matters, this is it.
That behavior doesn’t do himself, his party, or his nominee any good.