I was taking a break to fix breakfast this morning with the television turned on in the background, tuned in to Morning Joe (as it often is). The MoJo crew was broadcasting live from a bar somewhere in Alabam to cover today’s special election and most of the early coverage had been focused on that. But as I scrambled a couple of eggs I suddenly heard the voice of Mika Brzezinski scale up several orders of magnitude, calling for everyone who works for the President to quit their jobs or something.
“Hoo boy,” I thought. “What now?”
Hearing Mika railing against Trump and calling for him to be removed from office is nothing new, but this sounded… different. Sure enough, it turned out to be yet another early morning tweet from the President, this time aimed directly at New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Take it away, POTUS…
“Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office “begging” for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!”
So that was pretty harsh, though perhaps not particularly off the scale for the President’s other attacks. And it didn’t take long for the Senator to jump on her own Twitter account and fire back.
You cannot silence me or the millions of women who have gotten off the sidelines to speak out about the unfitness and shame you have brought to the Oval Office. https://t.co/UbQZqubXZv
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) December 12, 2017
The part of the tweet which got under the skin of the Morning Joe co-host was obviously the parenthetical comment about how she would “do anything” for a campaign contribution. Given the current conversation over #MeToo it was a fairly easy leap for Mika to make, suggesting (well… actually coming out and saying) that Trump was implying something about, shall we say… trading favors in exchange for some campaign cash. But let’s be honest here and admit that it’s still a serious leap. If this were any other time period, saying that politicians are willing to “do anything” for donations would most likely be taken to mean that they might vote in some particular way even if it wasn’t in their constituents’ best interests or take a position they didn’t really believe in. President Trump obviously turns the confrontation knob up to eleven on his Twitter account, but to suggest he was saying what Brzezinski was clearly implying is a bit much. Here’s the video of Mika reading the tweet and reacting.
Of course, now we have a live trolling war going on between the President and a sitting senator. Welcome to 2017. (And probably the next three or seven years, really.) The origin of this one is no mystery. Gillibrand came out yesterday and demanded that the President step down from office because of his alleged sexual misdeeds in the past. Do you honestly think she’s surprised that he reacted this way? In fact, it’s no stretch of the imagination to suppose that Gillibrand knew this was precisely how Trump would respond. He always takes the bait and loves a fight that gets the media buzzing.
And why did she call for his resignation to begin with? She obviously knew there wasn’t a chance in a million that Trump was suddenly going to say, “Oh… I see what you mean. Fair enough. I’ll just resign now.”
I’m not going to naysay Gillibrand’s seriousness in wanting to root out sexual assault and hold perpetrator’s accountable, even if she was a bit late to the game when it came to Bill Clinton. If that’s her position then she should roll with it. But let’s not be so willfully blind to the reality of American politics today that we ignore the fact that a bruising battle with the President is an immediate ticket to further raising her national profile on a red-hot issue on the path to 2020. Do you believe she’s upset about Trump tweeting what he did? Frankly, I’m guessing her staff was popping some early morning champagne corks as soon as Trump’s tweet hit the internet.
Gone are the days when politicians would issue glancing blows to members of the other party via press release, leaving the media to run off and get some sort of measured response from the press secretary of the aggrieved party. Today we have full-scale troll wars playing out in real time on social media between the officials themselves. Is this better or worse? Hey… you all wanted the internet and instant access to everything imaginable at a moment’s notice. ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?