If you were a presidential candidate who polled low among women, who was on your third wife, who had a reputation for womanizing and a professional relationship with a man who’d recently been axed from his job for sexual harassment, would you respond to the latest Anthony Weiner scandal by A. Staying out of it; B. Changing the subject; or C. Attacking your opponent by making a dubious connection between Weiner’s behavior and her own?
If you chose C, congratulations: This election has officially warped your sense of good judgment.
Donald Trump is blaming Hillary Clinton for the actions of her aide’s husband, bringing into focus his fraught relationship with the female sex and his history of marital infidelity—not to mention his own adviser with a “perv” problem, to adopt the language of the New York tabloids.
Trump’s argument is a good peek into his psyche, where a man can be absolved of wrongdoing so long as there’s a woman around to carry the blame. It’s also an example of why, thus far, his campaign against Clinton has been unsuccessful: First, because he’s accused her of anything and everything, regardless of its basis in reality (he claimed she founded ISIS before asserting it about President Obama), and rather than turn people against her, it’s had the effect of watering down her actual flaws. Second, because he lacks the self-awareness and political know-how to understand when he might be pushing away the voters he needs the most.
Right as Trump should to be making his case to women, a constituency among whom he suffers, in other words, he’s instead morphing fully into a caricature of a hard-headed cad.
On Monday, for old time’s sake, Weiner (for whom I memorably interned in 2013), graced the cover of the New York Post, God bless it. The tabloid broke the news that the former congressman, onetime mayoral candidate and husband to senior Clinton adviser Huma Abedin, had again been sexting outside of his marriage, this time with a sexual photo of himself with his son in the backdrop.
By early Monday afternoon, Abedin—who stood by Weiner throughout two previous such sexting scandals—had announced their separation.
The Republican nominee, of course, responded in the least politically advantageous way possible.
At 12:36 p.m., Trump’s campaign sent a press release to reporters titled, “Donald J. Trump Statement on Hillary Clinton’s Bad Judgment.” Abedin, Trump said, “is making a very wise decision. I know Anthony Weiner well, and she will be far better off without him.”
He added, “I only worry for the country in that Hillary Clinton was careless and negligent in allowing Weiner to have such close proximity to highly classified information. Who knows what he learned and who he told? It’s just another example of Hillary Clinton’s bad judgment. It is possible that our country and its security have been greatly compromised by this.”
Polling suggests that the women of this country do not particularly like Trump for some reason.
Nationally, Clinton leads among women with 51 percent to Trump’s 36.
And his support has been collapsing among Republican women, too—according to The New York Times, since the Republican and Democratic conventions in July, Trump’s support among that demographic has declined by 13 percent. For context, Mitt Romney, John McCain, and George W. Bush all won the women of their party with between 89 and 93 percent of the vote.
It was unclear on Wednesday how the campaign thought assigning a man’s sins to his wife and his wife’s female employer would help those numbers.
Remember, Trump recently promoted as his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, a well-respected Republican pollster who was supposed to help Trump stop hitting himself. Just four days ago, FiveThirtyEight asked, “Can Kellyanne Conway Get Donald Trump To Stop Alienating Women?”
And murky, also, was the wisdom of a man who left his first wife for his second wife and then left his second wife and then married a Central European model drawing any attention at all to anyone else’s marriage.
His own mother, according to Vanity Fair’s Marie Brenner, wondered, “What kind of son have I created?” when he left Ivana Trump, an alleged professional skier and model, for Marla Maples, an alleged model and eventual aerobic video star. (Ivana, by the way, accused Trump of “violating” her during sex in their divorce proceedings before eventually recanting.)
And if Trump has such an aversion to men who can’t keep it in their pants, it’s curious that he keeps in contact with Roger Ailes, the former chairman and CEO of Fox News who was ousted in July after being accused of sexual harassment by enough women to form a baseball team. Ailes is reportedly consulting for Trump’s presidential campaign.
And by Trump’s logic, he should have no association with Steve Bannon, his campaign CEO who was accused of assault by his ex-wife, or Roger Stone, his longtime adviser who’s an admitted swinger.
Still, Trump is not one to pass up insulting someone he hates, and he has long loathed Weiner.
On Twitter, he’s frequently called him a series of colorful names like “degenerate,” “sick,” “perverted,” “deviant,” and “delusional,” beginning with his first sexting scandal in 2011. In 2013, Trump even called for him to be categorized as a sex offender in the state of New York’s registry, despite having never been formally accused or convicted any crime of a sexual nature.
But much like every other aspect of Trump’s personality, what works in entertainment doesn’t necessarily work in a general election. With so many legitimate cases to mount against Clinton, he instead chose to start this week off reminding everyone of his history of misogyny, infidelity, and associating with “pervs.”