Dana Milbank: How beastly is Trump? The Washington Post Gut Checker investigates
It was an exemplary week for presidential misbehavior.
President Trump had an international tantrum over Denmark’s refusal to sell him Greenland.
He invoked the anti-Semitic trope that American Jews have a dual loyalty to Israel.
He proclaimed himself the Messiah.
Along the way, he used shooting victims for self-promotion, said he wanted a medal for military valor, and more.
In this divided land, there is broad agreement on one thing: Our president is unpresidential.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll released last month found that two-thirds of Americans find Trump “unpresidential,” and only 28% say his actions are “fitting and proper.” Trump himself has acknowledged that some of his behavior is “not at all ‘Presidential’.”
It’s hard to say for sure whether Trump was more undignified this week compared with most others. This is, after all, a man who boasted publicly about his genitals, uses words such as “bull----,” “p---y,” “goddamn” and “little Schitt” in public, misspells tweets, talks of women bleeding, proclaims himself a “stable genius” with a “very large brain,” “fell in love” with North Korea’s dictator, paid hush money to a porn actress, shoved a prime minister, wore an ill-fitting vest to visit Queen Elizabeth and praised the “shape” of France’s first lady.
He also let Kanye West loose in the Oval Office, prayed for higher ratings for “The Apprentice” at a prayer breakfast, spoke of “raking” forests, hugged an American flag, dragged toilet paper from his shoe, suggested the Clintons murdered Jeffrey Epstein, described neo-Nazis as “very fine people,” and, when told by a rape victim that the Islamic State killed her family, replied: “Where are they now?”
But maybe there is a way to calibrate vulgarity. Washington Post Fact Checker Glenn Kessler and his team have documented more than 12,000 false or misleading statements by Trump using the Pinocchio system: from one Pinocchio for “shading” facts to four for “whoppers.” Rare, unexpectedly true statements earn a Geppetto.
Instead of a fact check, I propose a “gut check” of how unpresidential Trump is. Instead of Geppetto and Pinocchio, this uses Beauty and the Beast. Where Kessler’s work is objective and researched, this will be arbitrary and slapdash — like Trump’s policies.
One Beast: Routinely unpresidential.
Two Beasts: Extra gross, vulgar, narcissistic.
Three Beasts: Downright beastly, uncouth, uncivilized.
Four Beasts: A wild rumpus. We weep for our country.
On the rare instances when he behaves in a “presidential” manner (usually a teleprompter is involved), he will be assigned a “Beauty.”
This week, the Gut Checker awards Trump one Beast each for:
- Again describing the “evil” free press with the Stalinist phrase “Enemy of the People.”
- Promoting Sean Spicer on “Dancing with the Stars.”
- Boasting about breaking Elton John’s crowd-size record.
- Badgering the Federal Reserve chairman he appointed as the “enemy” and “a golfer who can’t putt.”
- Threatening to release Islamic State fighters into Germany and France.
- Claiming Google “manipulated” some 16 million votes in 2016.
All routine breaches of decorum for Trump. All unpresidential.
The Gut Checker awards two Beasts each for:
- Telling reporters he may not vacate the White House for “maybe 10 or maybe 14” years — regardless of what the Constitution says; and using imaginary powers to say U.S. companies are “hereby ordered” to find alternatives to Chinese markets.
- Resuming his attacks on four nonwhite women in Congress, mocking one’s “tears” and accusing her of being “violent.”
- Calling former aide Anthony Scaramucci a “highly unstable ‘nut job’ ” and a “mental wreck” guilty of “gross incompetence.”
- Saying hospitalized victims of mass shootings paid tribute to him. “They love their president,” he said, in an “unparalleled” way. “They were pouring out of the rooms. The doctors were coming out of the operating rooms.”
- Tweeting the words of a racist conspiracy theorist who said Israelis view Trump like “the King of Israel” and “the second coming of God.” He later claimed he’s “the chosen one.”
- Canceling his trip to Denmark and twice calling its prime minister “nasty” because she labeled as “absurd” Trump’s absurd plan to buy Greenland.
- Accusing nearly 80% of American Jews of ignorance or “great disloyalty,” and after an outcry by Jewish leaders, repeating the slander.
One week, zero beauties and 31 beasts — a full herd and, by any measure, an impressive stable of rude, crude and undignified behavior. But if we as a nation can agree that our president is unpresidential, experience should also allow us to agree on this: Next week may well be worse.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.