Donald Trump has a face like a rusted manhole cover, hair that legally qualifies as a fire hazard, and the diet of Templeton the rat from Charlotte’s Web, marauding his way through the garbage of a fair ground. And that’s why it’s so inspiring that he feels comfortable continuing to criticize the physical appearance of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado. So does Newt Gingrich, a man-penguin hybrid who’s also decided to weigh in here. I’m so glad!
Trump is facing renewed criticism for his treatment of Machado, whom he publicly shamed and mocked relentlessly for gaining some weight after she was crowned Miss Universe in 1996. Hillary Clinton brought up Trump’s treatment of Machado during their first debate, and since then, as the New York Times notes, the story is absolutely everywhere, much to the Clinton campaign’s delight:
In 48 hours, Ms. Machado has been written about in more than 150 print news articles, referred to on TV more than 6,023 times and mentioned on Twitter nearly 200,000 times. She appeared on NBC’s “Today” show, ABC’s “Good Morning America,” CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Univision and Telemundo.
“It was a golden opportunity for the Clinton campaign,” said Katie Packer, a Republican strategist who does not support Mr. Trump. “It’s every woman’s worst nightmare, but it also speaks beyond just women, to Latinos.
Let’s stipulate, first of all, that there are so many other terrible things about Donald Trump besides the way he treated a beauty queen 20 years ago: his racism, his Islamophobia, his cozy relationship with a Russian strongman, his refusal to disavow the actual Nazis and white supremacists who support him, his treatment of journalists—particularly female ones—the way he seems willing to casually jeopardize national security. Take your pick: there’s a flower in this shit-bouquet for everybody.
And yet the Machado story, more than many of those things, is really taking hold in the press. In part, that’s because the U.S. media and media-reading public loves finding the most trivial part of any story and fixating on it with laser intensity. But in part it’s because, well, have you fucking seen Donald Trump?
Trump, as his physical revealed, is medically overweight, which is fine, and eats nothing but fast food garbage, because he has odd phobias, ideas about cleanliness, and an apparent fear that someone will poison his food. That’s also fine. Being fat doesn’t make you bad or ugly or morally unfit to be president. (Being Donald Trump obviously makes you morally unfit to be president, but we’ve specified that already.)
And yet: it’s stunning to watch a man of Trump’s physique criticize a woman’s appearance, claiming that Machado gained “60 pounds.” (Machado says it was closer to 15). It plays into his other thoughts about women’s looks, like the time he gallantly told Howard Stern he wouldn’t leave Melania if she were disfigured in a car accident, so long as her tits looked alright. Of all Donald Trump’s strangely antiquated, very ‘80s-inflected mannerisms, the weirdest and most cognitively-dissonant is his confidence that physical beauty is the realm of women, something that men need not trouble themselves about. More than that: that beauty and health of a particular kind are a woman’s responsibility, and that slipping from those Trump-selected standards makes her subhuman.
That same attitude also seems to inform the opinions of serial leaver of sick wives Newt Gingrich, who jumped in to defend Trump. In an address at a dinner in D.C., as Politico reports, Gingrich eagerly mocked Machado for her supposed weight gain:
Speaking to the Log Cabin Republicans at a dinner in Washington, Gingrich echoed Trump’s attacks, eliciting laughter from the room.
“You’re not supposed to gain 60 pounds during the year that you’re Miss Universe,” he said. “Not fair. Even my act of saying that is sexist and proves I’m not being sensitive.”
Again, Newt Gingrich’s ability to ignore his own face and body is... almost impressive? Most women of his size and physique who have public roles wouldn’t pose next to a rhino and post that photo on the internet, for example:
Because if a woman did that, the comments next to the post would be so hideous you’d want to put on fire-resistant gloves and safety goggles to handle your computer.
Trump and Gingrich are both able to live with a comfortable lack of self-awareness, in the most literal sense: they view their physical bodies as irrelevant, merely the dignified, creased, straining trash-receptacles they use to move through the world.
The Machado story is getting more traction than it should. But it’s also a fascinating reminder of how lots of men think about women’s bodies. And it’s turned into a fun opportunity for people like Senator Claire McCaskill to publicly, lovingly, tell Donald how worried they are about his own weight:
Trump is now claiming that he “saved” Machado’s job as Miss Universe. That’s nice. So naturally he should be grateful that McCaskill, too, is so concerned about his own professional advancement. We expect him to respond with his characteristic grace and good humor to every single thing anybody has to say about his body this campaign season. Can’t wait, in fact.