First McCain, now Dingell. One thing about the president, he really does enjoy a good “my dead political enemies, and/or their dead loved ones, are in hell” joke.
It’s ironic that he made this crack right around the time the House was voting to impeach him.
Here is Trump last night at his rally after he was impeached by the House, complaining about Debbie Dingell after all he did for her late husband John Dingell and then she voted to impeach him. He even suggests that the late Congressman is in hell-even his supporters groan. pic.twitter.com/F5xkalVZ1M
— Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) December 19, 2019
My theory after the vote was that Democrats hung the I-word on him as a type of lifetime achievement award for all of his seedy behavior, private and public. Fine, the Ukraine business is bad, but ask any Trump critic what their least favorite thing about him is, the core reason he’s unfit for office, and no one would answer, “He abused his power to shake down Ukraine for Biden dirt.” It’s a million petty cruelties and corruptions (and a few bigger ones) that add up over time, this being a perfect example. Conor Friedersdorf made a similar point in a piece explaining why Democrats have been itching to impeach Trump since day one:
Of course, his supporters earnestly like many of his policies, his judicial appointments, the performance of the economy during his tenure, his critique of Washington-establishment failings, and their feeling that he is on their side in a culture war against the left.
But they’d quickly suspect biting satire if a poker-faced stranger told them this: Trump is a truthful man and a principled leader––the selfless sort of president who puts his country before himself and his family. He is sooner reflexively kind than needlessly cruel. Children ought to emulate his behavior and are fortunate to have him as a role model. In a different era, if an enemy were approaching the city gates, he’d be first among the volunteers to charge them, risking life and limb to protect the safety of innocents. He always pays back his debts and can be trusted with another man’s wife or daughter.
Most typical Trump supporters would sooner laugh at that paragraph than defend its veracity. And in an indirect way, that is one of the reasons Trump was impeached yesterday. The perceived unfitness of his character and the risks it carries incline many to action.
Democrats really disliked George W. Bush while he was president and there’s no policy mistake in the Trump record that remotely compares to Dubya’s Iraq fiasco. But Trump has been impeached whereas Bush wasn’t. Why? We can debate it — Trumpers would say “because Trump fights!”, I’d say it’s mostly because neither party wants to turn even momentous policy mistakes into impeachable offenses. (Particularly after many Democrats in Congress cast votes to authorize the Iraq war.) But perceptions of their character also mattered. A guy who’d do something like dunk on Debbie Dingell over her dead husband is easier to stigmatize by stamping “IMPEACHED” on his forehead than someone who wouldn’t. Impeachment isn’t personal — mostly. But all politics is a little personal.
And often in Trump’s case it’s a lot personal, as the clip demonstrated.
Dingell treated it as personal in responding to the “joke”:
Mr. President, let’s set politics aside. My husband earned all his accolades after a lifetime of service. I’m preparing for the first holiday season without the man I love. You brought me down in a way you can never imagine and your hurtful words just made my healing much harder.
— Rep. Debbie **Wear A Mask** Dingell (@RepDebDingell) December 19, 2019
He’s taking heat today from politicians, especially ones from Michigan where John Dingell is a household name. Not just Republicans either:
John Dingell was a well-respected man & I consider Debbie a close colleague and friend. To use his name in such a dishonorable manner at last night’s rally is unacceptable from anyone, let alone the President of the United States. An apology is due, Mr. President @realDonaldTrump
— Paul Mitchell (@RepPaulMitchell) December 19, 2019
I’ve always looked up to John Dingell – my good friend and a great Michigan legend. There was no need to 'dis' him in a crass political way. Most unfortunate and an apology is due.
— Fred Upton #WearYourMask (@RepFredUpton) December 19, 2019
Multiple sources tell Fox Trump is playing w/fire by taking on the Dingells in the swing state of Michigan and suggesting that longest serving Congressman in history, late Dem MI Rep John Dingell is in hell. “He could lose Michigan alone on this one” said senior GOP Congressman
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) December 19, 2019
Even Lindsey Graham said he should apologize, although of course no apology will be forthcoming. The best Stephanie Grisham could do to spin what Trump said was to note that he’s a “counterpuncher.” Counterpunching … a dead man?
What she means is that he’s counterpunching Debbie Dingell for her impeachment vote by rhetorically kicking her husband’s coffin. White House spokesman Hogan Gidley also did his best to defend Trump but was stuck arguing that people are always nitpicking everything the president says. Can’t a man jest about a grieving widow’s spouse being damned eternally without the g-ddamned libs sweating over it?
Maybe everyone’s missing the point in his Dingell comments, though. The interesting bit isn’t the joke about John Dingell “looking up,” it’s Trump straining to make clear that he did Debbie Dingell a favor by granting full memorial honors to John after he died and received no favor in return in yesterday’s vote:
Trump’s attack on Dingell only underscores the impeachment case against him. For Trump, *everything* is transactional, even a kindness paid to a widow. He grants no favors without expectation of a personal benefit. Which of course exactly what he was doing with Zelensky.
— Radley Balko (@radleybalko) December 19, 2019
Last night I remembered something I read awhile back about Paul Ryan gradually coming to the realization that when Trump called him a “boy scout” it wasn’t meant as a compliment. To the president, “boy scout” is code for “sucker,” the sort of person who refuses to exploit certain opportunities available to him because to do so would offend his personal moral code. There’s a bit of that in Balko’s point: Only a chump like Paul Ryan would do something nice for the Dingells after John died out of pure kindness, with no expectation of how it might affect Debbie’s voting habits. And in that light, it really is hard to imagine Trump not using whatever leverage was available to squeeze Zelensky for help defeating Joe Biden. What kind of chump would just hand over something as valuable as Ukraine’s military aid without at least trying to get something in return, knowing that the Ukrainians might be able to meaningfully damage a potential Democratic opponent? Boy scouts don’t know how to win. Losers like Paul Ryan are called “losers” for a reason.
Here’s Meghan McCain, who knows firsthand what it’s like to have the president joke about your loved one being in hell, reacting to the Dingell matter this morning on “The View.”
.@MeghanMcCain reacts to Pres. Trump’s comments about the late long-serving Rep. John Dingell at a campaign rally in Michigan last night, saying “There is a special kind of horrific monstrosity in [Trump] that does this type of thing to widows.” https://t.co/wcQLY48C1o pic.twitter.com/p0uCiXnCJf
— The View (@TheView) December 19, 2019