Trump’s War on Chivalry
Chivalry is on the verge of death, but Mr. Trump may very well give it the final push over the cliff's edge.
I’ll start with a disclaimer: I’m not a big believer in the “War on Women.” In a world wildly overrun with various strains of social justice warrior nonsense, paired with various absurd claims of “oppression” lurking in nearly every upper-middle-class corner, I find most attempts to balkanize offenses by gender not only tiresome, and not only likely to backfire, but a boring waste of time.
Also, when it comes to chivalry — let’s define it as Webster’s dictionary does, which is “behaving in an honorable or polite way, especially toward women” — I’ll be the first to admit that it’s on the verge of death. The feminist sisterhood, bless their hearts, struck the initial blows; today, institutions ranging from grammar schools to the U.S. military seem hell-bent on telling the world, and themselves, that men and women are exactly the same, with the latter being just a bit more oppressed.
But while feminists took the first stab of the knife, and while many others helpfully twisted it along the way, it may be Donald J. Trump who finally knocks down proverbial old Mr. Chivalry, stomps on him a few times, and then finishes him off with a blowtorch. (I like to picture Mr. Chivalry as Fred Astaire, maybe, or “The Most Interesting Man in the World” from those beer commercials, but with a tuxedo on, which makes this visual even more tragic and sad.)
On Tuesday, Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was charged with simple battery against a reporter, 28-year-old Michelle Fields. Fields, as you may surmise, is a woman. She is not a bodybuilder; she does not have a history in extreme fighting or professional wrestling, at least not to my knowledge. (Perhaps Mr. Trump would know, given his spectacular and glorious historical record of occasionally playing the role of himself at various televised wrestling events.)
On March 8, Fields, attempting to question Trump on his way out of a press conference at the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida, encountered Mr. Lewandowski, who grabbed her arm and pulled her backwards. What happened next was fascinating and — as is the case with almost all things Trump — baffling and absurd.
Fields, who says she was bruised from Lewandowski’s grip, posted photos on social media and asked for an apology. Lewandowski responded as any sane person would, and apologized, and then we all went back to talking about quantitative easing and how to tackle the burgeoning ISIS network wreaking havoc in Europe and beyond.
I’m sorry, America: Of course that didn’t happen. On Team Trump, you have to lie even when it makes absolutely no sense to lie. This is exactly what Lewandowski did, on Twitter, for the entire world to see: “You are totally delusional,” he told Fields. “I never touched you. As a matter of fact, I have never even met you.”
Trump, for his part, took a reasoned, statesmanlike stance on the issue — ugh, fine, you know that’s not true. Instead, he went on national television and suggested that Fields was a crazed attention-and-pity grabber who was making the whole thing up.
Fields pressed charges; on Tuesday, the Jupiter police department charged Lewandowski. At the same time, crystal-clear video footage of the infamous arm yank, from Trump’s own golf club, no less, was released for the world to see. Here, again, a normal campaign might apologize and move on, but why do that when you can continue to prove to the nation that no one cares when you lie?
Trump — who is, I remind you, the GOP presidential front-runner — first insisted that there was “nothing there” on the tape. Then he told a gaggle of reporters that if Fields had really been hurt, she should have screamed — which is kind of weird to say if there was nothing on the tape, is it not? — and that Fields’ line of finger-shaped bruises were probably there beforehand.
Next, Trump’s new best friend Sean Hannity got in on the act: “I looked at this tape at least 100 times today. … I don’t see any jerking, I don’t see any pulling.” Oh, and here’s GOP Rep. Peter King: “You know, before I saw the video yesterday, I thought he had hit her with a baseball bat or something.” Nope, just your standard old-fashioned ill-mannered woman-pull! Make America Great Again!
Then Trump, who has marketed himself as America’s Next Strongman — get ready, for I am not making this up — implied that he was actually quite threatened by Michelle Fields. “Why is this reporter touching me?” he asked ominously on Twitter, paired with a photo of him next to Fields. “What is in her hand?” It was, if you’re worried, not a miniature dirty bomb, but a pen. “It shows she’s a very aggressive person,” Trump told Fox News, mulling publicly about pressing charges, mere days after telling the world that the entire Fields incident was a figment of everyone’s imagination.
It’s all so tiresome, isn’t it? In the end, we can bicker and argue about whether the manhandling of a young woman is worthy of a battery charge, and that’s exactly what the Trump campaign wants us to do. The fact that we’re debating it at all, in fact — and that the GOP front-runner is blatantly championing it — shows, among many other things, how far we’ve gone. Sad!
This article originally appeared at RealClearPolitics on March 31, 2016, and is reprinted with permission.