“I think women all over this country heard very clearly what Mr. Trump said,” Carly Fiorina said back in September after Donald Trump made derogatory comments about her face.
It turns out to be a useful observation about Trump. When he said this week that Hillary Clinton got “schlonged” by Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential campaign, women all over this country heard very clearly what he said.
Trump, who rarely seems to take a defensive posture, is scurrying on Twitter trying to explain that “schlonged” is “not vulgar.” As he has pointed out, the word has indeed been used before — albeit rarely –to connote a bruising political defeat.
But context matters. The remark comes on the heel of a long line of flagrantly sexist comments made by Trump. In the past, he has used words such as “fat pigs,” “dogs” and “disgusting animals” to describe women. After Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly pressed him about these comments at the first Republican debate, Trump later told CNN that Kelly behaved inappropriately and must have had “blood coming out of her wherever.”
Again, Trump denied he was making a derogatory comment about Kelly and menstruation. But women heard clearly what he said. And Trump has used the phrase in a political context once before — to talk about other women running for office.
Trump’s latest comments may have reached the limit of offensiveness. He used the word “disgusting” in discussing Clinton’s walk to the bathroom during Saturday night’s Democratic debate. In his remark about Clinton and the 2008 election, Trump said: “But she was going to beat — she was favored to win — and she got schlonged, she lost, I mean she lost.” It’s almost as if he realized he had just misspoken.
It’s noteworthy that in the hours before Trump’s remark, Clinton was under fire for something she said. During Saturday’s debate, she asserted that ISIS would use videos of Trump’s hateful anti-Muslim rhetoric to aid its agenda and recruit new terrorists. And Trump, who I’m not sure has the capacity for regret, let alone contrition, demanded that Clinton apologize.
Clinton may have exaggerated, but foreign policy experts agree that Trump’s rhetoric plays into the goals and strategy of ISIS. But now we’re all parsing Trump’s use of the word “schlonged,” and it doesn’t seem he can find a single expert to agree with him that it’s not dirty and offensive. Clinton, who actually deserves an apology, is staying above the fray.
The contrast makes Trump look like the schoolyard bully who comes crying when he gets a skinned knee.
To be clear, while the Republican Party understandably despises Trump and the threat he poses to its electoral chances, the GOP establishment is aiding and abetting his behavior.
After criticizing Trump, Jeb Bush alleged that Clinton will use the incident to play the victim. “She’s great at being the victim,” Bush told reporters. “You know this will enhance her ‘victimology’ status. This is what she loves doing.”
Can you simultaneously chastise Trump for saying something offensive while suggesting that Clinton shouldn’t actually be offended but relishes being the victim? Here too, women all over the country very clearly heard what Bush said.
This rhetoric comes from a party that tried to block reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, threatened to shut down the government over funding for Planned Parenthood health clinics and refuses to acknowledge the existence of a gender wage gap, let alone support pay equity legislation.
Republicans perpetually attack women’s rights, and then when women say Republicans are fueling a war on women, conservatives suggest women are just crying wolf and playing the victim.
The party that hopes to be elected by a majority of the American people can’t even fully acknowledge how its policies and rhetoric negatively affect all the women in our country. Meanwhile, Republicans very much seem to believe the war on Christmas is real and no one accuses Santa Claus of playing the victim.
Trump said something offensive. Republican policies toward women and women’s health are offensive. Accusing women who point this out of playing the victim? That’s also offensive. Women all over this country hear very clearly what Republicans are saying and don’t like it.