Chelsea Clinton tweeted about the woman holding aloft the bloody severed mock head of the President. “This is vile and wrong. It is never funny to joke about killing a President,” she said. Her star rose several notches in my eyes. After all, if anyone should be excused for wanting Trump’s head on a platter, it is she, daughter of the woman who went down in a contest deemed crooked.
Instantly, there were other tweets. One woman said: “I can’t stand you, Chelsea, but thank you for this tweet.” This is another reason her star rose in my eyes. She knew before she said it that her words would be used to her disadvantage by political enemies, yet she said it anyway. You can’t say anything these days without some yoyo cherry-picking your words to find what fits an opposing agenda.
But sometimes visceral moral reactions trump everything else. Perhaps that was true of Trump himself, who positively lost it upon seeing gassed children in Syria, and lobbed missiles galore - in the process, overturning the meme that he was Putin’s lapdog (unbelievably, cynics charged that he did it for that sole reason).
Some feminists charged that the severed head was payback for Trump’s own words of a certain reporter, saying that blood flowed from her - whatever. Sure enough, remarks don’t get much cruder than that (well – one of his did), but it still falls short of appearing to endorse assassination. Besides, he tried to backtrack from that remark; it was just meant to convey that she was acting as a madwoman. He meant any orifice – maybe ears, maybe nose. Did anyone believe him? Who can say what his meaning was? I often employ the power of words to suggest an image I do not state. However, I also (who hasn’t?) said something blunderingly inappropriate without having had that intent at all.
A day after the comedienne’s stunt, it turned out that the 10-year-old had seen it and was traumatized, his mother responding as a lioness will when her cub is traumatized. Is child abuse yet ‘just one of those things’ that authorities will shrug off? Not to mention the Secret Service. Faced with a barrage of condemnation, some sincere, some self-serving, Ms. Griffin did the only thing she could do. She collapsed. In a way, it is not her fault. She is an illustration of why your mother told you to not hang out with those nasty kids down the street – they’re going to get you into trouble. They will pull nasty pranks, egging each other on, until one of them goes too far and is busted.
This should have been called out long ago, even before Cobert offered his lovable jibe on the President doing oral sex on Putin. Ms. Griffin one-upped her nasty friends, but not by much. The tone was set for her long ago. Stephen Cobert, far from being called to account, saw his ratings spike upwards. Why should not Ms. Griffin have thought the same would happen for her? This is not to say that Griffin should be cut slack on this account. Rather, the net of accountability should be broadened.
Look for Trump to get a boost out of this in the court of public opinion. When he carries on about being the most beset upon President in history, it will be a little hard to tell him he doesn’t know what he is talking about.