Donald Trump & Mika Brzezinski: How to Fight In An Age of Political Scandal

The Donald Trump presidency provides a daily scandal of tweets. The latest scandal that offends our moral compass has Trump in a Twitter war with Mika Brzezinski, the co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Once again, the scandal has to do with Trump, women, and blood.

It all started when Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough mocked the president during a segment about the GOP health care plan. They stated that the plan “takes money away from the poorest of the poor” and gives it to the GOP’s richest donors. They questioned Trump’s leadership. They pointed out that “the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer at a faster rate than ever before in our nation’s history.” They mocked Trump for being a “populist” who promised to help the poor by draining the swamp. Then Mika apparently dropped the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. Referring to Trump’s fake Time Magazine cover at his resorts, she said, “Hey, why don’t you get another Time Magazine cover?”

Trump went on an angry tweet storm, tweeting that “Crazy Mika” has a low IQ and that he once refused to let her into his Mara Lago resort because she was “bleeding badly from a face-lift.”

Brzezinski quickly responded to Trump by tweeting a photo of a box of Cheerios that has “Made For Little Hands” on the box. Because, if you remember, Trump has little hands…

Republican and Democratic politicians were scandalized by Trump’s tweet. For example, Nebraska Republican Senator, Ben Sass, tweeted directly to Trump that his comment “isn’t normal and it’s beneath the dignity of your office.” Susan Collins, a Republican senator from Maine, said Trump’s tweets were “embarrassing to our country.” And Lisa Murkoswski, Republican from Alaska, tweeted that the president needs to “Stop it!”

The White House defended Trump’s tweets. Sadly, Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump by stating that the American people knew who they were getting when they voted for Trump. She’s absolutely right. Candidate Trump is the same as President Trump. He consistently demeans women. He attacked Carley Fiorina’s face during the primaries. He attempted to humiliate Megyn Kelly, saying that blood was coming out of her “wherever” during a debate. He proudly admitted to grabbing women in their private parts. AND yet America still voted for him. Even Malania Trump warned us about her husband. She said, “I have two boys at home – I have my young son and I have my husband.”

So, we’re all scandalized by Trump’s offensive behavior. His behavior tells us a lot about our 45th president, but the constant scandal tells us a lot about ourselves, too.

René Girard claims that scandal isn’t just about being morally offended by an individual. The word “scandal” comes from the Greek word skandalon, which means “stumbling block.” I think Girard’s explanation of scandal is helpful, if a bit, ummm … scandalous, especially when we consider our moral outrage against Trump. Girard wrote in his book I See Satan Fall Like Lightning that scandal doesn’t mean

… one of those ordinary obstacles that we avoid easily after we run into it the first time, but a paradoxical obstacle that is almost impossible to avoid: the more this obstacle, or scandal, repels us, the more it attracts us … At the height of scandal each reprisal calls forth a new one more violent than its predecessor. (16)

How could we be completely repelled by Donald Trump, while at the same time be completely attracted to him? The question is almost too scandalous for me. I am in no way attracted to Donald Trump. Personally, I despise the man. I hate his policies against Muslims. I hate that white nationalists love the man because they believe he has given them a platform. I hate that he lies and bullies people on Twitter. All of these things I hate.

And I admit that I get a certain sense of glee from my hatred. Like a moth to a flame, I wake up over here on the west coast and turn on my phone to see what Trump has morally repugnant statement the Commander in Tweet has said this time. What can I be outraged about today?! Give me more COVFEFE!

It’s not a good way to start my day. The Donald Trump scandal has become an addiction for many of us, an addiction of false goodness. Whenever I turn on the news or check my Facebook feed, I become scandalized by the constant news about Trump. The more we unite against Trump, the more we gain a sense of goodness over and against the Big Orange Monster.

It’s a false sense of goodness because it’s connected intimately with hatred. In a sense, my hatred for Trump feeds my soul. And it feeds his soul, too. He’s addicted to scandal and we are addicted to scandal, too. Brzezinski and Trump are repelled by each other, and yet they can’t quit each other. They make the eternal return to the scandal, and the rest of us follow in their footsteps.

I don’t think we can avoid scandal; I think we have to go through scandals. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get stuck in scandal. Take the media, for another example. Trump and the media are more alike than he’d like to admit. He calls it “fake news,” but as much as he is repelled by the media, he is attracted to it. He takes every criticism so personally, and yet he always comes back for more. And I think that’s the answer to move beyond scandal. Don’t take Donald Trump personally. Yes, he’s no better than a schoolyard bully. But when we attack him, it feeds the beast. It gives him oxygen.

I think our best political strategy is not to fight against Donald Trump the man. Fighting against him personally just motivates him all the more. But we do need to fight against bad policies. Even more importantly, we need to fight for better policies. Separating the policies from the man will lead us through this presidency that feeds on scandal. And so, our best strategy is to starve the scandal. To refuse to play the game. And instead, play a different game that emphasizes better policies, not attacking people.


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