That special place in hell everyone keeps talking about is getting mighty crowded.
The ball got rolling in 2016 when former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright quipped that there was a “special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” At the time, she was introducing Hillary Clinton at a New Hampshire campaign event.
More recently, Ivanka Trump said the special place was reserved for “people who prey on children.” She was referring to allegations against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore that he had pursued and/or made sexual advances toward teenage girls when he was in his early 30s.
Next came Steve Bannon, former Trump adviser-turned-freelance-provocateur who seemed to be mocking the first daughter when he said during a pro-Moore rally that hell’s special spot was reserved for Republicans “who should know better” but weren’t supporting the former judge in the special election.
Whew. Is it just me, or is it getting humid down here?
Bannon referred specifically to native Alabaman Condoleezza Rice, another former secretary of state, who had written of the election: “These critical times require us to come together to reject bigotry, sexism and intolerance.” Without naming anyone, she urged voters to seek leaders who “are dignified, decent and respectful of the values we hold dear.”
This would seem to have disqualified a raft of current and aspiring officeholders but was clearly aimed at Moore, who has said that the country was better off before the last 17 constitutional amendments, which, among other things, gave women and African-Americans the right to vote.
While Bannon railed, and Alabamans voted, the president tweeted. This time, Trump even outdid himself by insulting a female U.S. senator with sexual innuendo. Apparently miffed that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., had called for his resignation because of the multiple charges of sexual misconduct leveled against him, Trump tweeted that Gillibrand “would do anything” when she previously had come to him “begging” for campaign contributions.
One doesn’t need a translator or a dirty mind to understand that he was suggesting that Gillibrand would have exchanged sexual services for cash. It was, as we say, a cultural moment.
The tweet heard ‘round a world already agog about events in Alabama launched yet another cultural moment at least along the Washington-New York corridor. On MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” a female guest said the tweet made her “blood boil,” while co-anchor Mika Brzezinski wagged her finger at the screen and launched a soliloquy of scold at Ivanka Trump and other White House women.
It was her own version of a special place in hell for women, even a daughter, who persist in supporting Donald Trump.
It wasn’t always thus, Mr. Irony interrupts. For months during the campaign, Bzrezinski and her now-fiance, Joe Scarborough, gave Trump free rein on their show. “Morning Trump,” some dubbed it. In recent months, perhaps in penance for helping Trump get elected with free airtime, the couple has become his morning nightmare.
Perhaps, too, Trump’s personal insults of Brzezinski have turned her into a feminist avenger. On Tuesday, she peered piercingly into the camera, singeing the cameraman with her gaze, and schooled press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
“Today is your day” (to stop supporting the president), she told Sanders, who wasn’t present or anywhere listening, as far as anyone knew. “This has got to stop. Do the right thing.” Whereupon, Trump chortled with the glee of a schoolyard bully who delights in making the girls cry.
Brzezinski’s moment wasn’t quite Walter Cronkite’s “mired in stalemate” declaration of U.S. failure in Vietnam, but she clearly decided to part with journalistic tradition and make Trump’s takedown her personal mission. As her message intensified, her male guests remained stoic while Scarborough had the look of a boy trying not to do anything that would attract Momma’s attention.
If Trump in his strange way had hoped for such a reaction, Alabamans likely enjoyed the distraction after months under the microscope. Media attention has been so intense not only because of the tawdriness of the campaign but because the stakes were so high. Would Alabama go backward or forward?
This shouldn’t have been a tough choice, but Team Bannon, Trump and Moore have effectively convinced voters that what is true is false and what is false is true. There is surely a special place in hell for such as these.
Kathleen Parker’s email address is email@example.com.