President Donald Trump's latest vicious personal attacks on Twitter are abusive, demeaning and shameful. Yet the president and many of his supporters approve of his tactics, saying that he is just fighting back against the daily barrage of "fake media" attacks. The president hopes to discredit his media critics with schoolyard taunts and mudslinging because he believes it will appeal to his most ardent supporters.
The president has focused his latest assault of insults on MSNBC anchors Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, the hosts of the weekday program "Morning Joe." Saturday he tweeted, "Crazy Joe Scarborough and dumb as a rock Mika are not bad people, but their low rated show is dominated by their bosses. Too bad!" Scarborough is a former Republican Congressman and Brzezinski is an experienced news anchor who is the daughter of the late Zbigniew Brzezinski, a highly respected foreign policy expert and American diplomat. "Morning Joe" is the second highest rated cable news program in the morning, drawing nearly one million daily viewers.
The conflict with Scarborough and Brzezinski has been intensifying since Trump took office. The anchors have been increasingly vocal about Trump's lies and many of his actions as president. Last week The Washington Post revealed that a fake Time Magazine cover showing Trump was hanging in the bar of his Doral Golf Resort in Florida. The cover displayed a large headline: "Donald Trump: The 'Apprentice" is a television smash." That cover has since been removed.
Brzezinski and Scarborough talked about the phony cover last week on their program. Trump pounced with a series of morning tweets Thursday. "I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore). The how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came," he began with his first tweet. He continued with a second tweet, "...to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!"
These tweets shook Washington as even many frustrated Republicans described them as inappropriate. Scarborough and Brzezinski, who recently got engaged, delayed their scheduled vacation to respond to Trump Friday morning. Both anchors denied Trump's account of what happened New Year's Eve, saying it was Trump who asked them to come by. Then Scarborough revealed that the White House had asked him to seek forgiveness of the president for his critical coverage or The National Enquirer would publish an article revealing his then secret relationship with Brzezinski. The publisher of The National Enquirer is David Pecker, a close friend of the president. Trump soon responded on Twitter to their appearance. "Watched low rated @Morning_Joe for the first time in a long time. FAKE NEWS. He called me to stop a National Enquirer article. I said no! Bad show," Trump wrote.
Sadly Trump's outrageous behavior is sexist and it is just the latest in a series of misogynistic attacks he has leveled against women over the years. Last August in a debate Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly confronted Trump. "You've called women you don't like 'fat pigs,' 'dogs,' 'slobs' and disgusting animals," she noted. Trump interrupted, "Only Rosie O'Donnell." "Look at that face," he said last year of his then opponent Carly Fiorina. "Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?" Early last year his tweeted an unflattering picture of Senator Ted Cruz's wife next to one of Melania Trump, adding "a picture s worth a thousand words."
When he feels cornered or he is getting criticized, Trump's default position is to get mean. There are no limits to his impulsive strikes. This is the way he has operated throughout his life. Businessmen who have dealt with him describe what they call Trump's "punch-hug." In intense negotiations he has yelled, used personal insults and foul language, only to later come back with a hug, as if to say "Come on, don't you see it my way?" White House press spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Thursday, "I don't think you can expect someone to be personally attacked day after day, minute by minute and sit back," she said. "The American people elected a fighter, they didn't elect somebody to sit back and do nothing."
But Americans don't want Trump to tweet. Before his most recent spat with Brzezinski, Fox News released a poll showing just 13 percent of Americans approve of Trump's tweeting, while 46 percent disapproved. A slim majority of those polled said they consider the president's online posts as official statements.
The Trump White House has struggled to accomplish its agenda. Its efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare have failed. Its efforts for tax reform have been stalled, and its controversial immigration ban has struggled in the courts. Meanwhile, the president has insulted allies, demeaned NATO, and he has failed to stop North Korea's nuclear program. He is described as furious about the ongoing investigations into the role Russia played in the American elections, and whether members of the Trump campaign colluded in that effort. He has frequently used Twitter to attack the investigations and those conducting them.
It will be interesting to see how Trump handles Russian President Vladimir Putin when they meet next week for the first time since he took office. Will he even bring up the Russian interference? Will he use his punch-hug technique on Putin to insist he end Russian meddling in America's elections, to withdraw from Crimea and Ukraine, and that he end his support for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad?
It is probably more likely he will ask Putin what steps he would suggest to control the American press. Then after the meeting he will tweet, "Vlad and I had a GREAT meeting! We are going to work together to make America GREAT again!"