WASHINGTON – Wednesday was Women’s Equality Day, the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave American women the right to vote 95 years ago.
And how have Republicans marked this egalitarian milestone? Why, with another bimbo eruption, of course.
The perpetrator, as usual, was Donald Trump, the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, who, in his three-week-old feud with debate moderator Megyn Kelly, circulated a tweet late Monday once again referring to the Fox News star as a “bimbo.”
Fox News boss Roger Ailes, who had already had words with Trump over his sexist attacks on the anchor, fired back Tuesday with a statement saying Trump’s “surprise and unprovoked attack on Megyn Kelly during her show last night is as unacceptable as it is disturbing.” He went on to call Trump’s Twitter attack “crude and irresponsible.”
“Donald Trump rarely apologizes, although in this case, he should,” Ailes said.
Trump’s response, at a news conference in Iowa: “It is a very small element in my life, Megyn Kelly. I don’t care about Megyn Kelly. But no, I would not apologize. She should probably apologize to me, but I just don’t care.”
Right. The victim of Trump’s misogyny should apologize to him.
More telling than Trump’s latest disparagement of women, or his flip rejection of Ailes’ demand for an apology, is the reaction from the rest of the Republican presidential field: virtual silence.
Even businesswoman Carly Fiorina, one of the few candidates who has called out Trump in the past, stepped carefully when asked about Trump on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Wednesday. She said Trump represents “a wake-up call to a lot of folks,” and the closest she got to criticizing him was to say that “character will be revealed of all the candidates over time and under pressure.”
But the character of the candidates already has been revealed. Trump is acting like a sexist and a bigot – and the rest of the candidates are, with occasional exceptions, too timid to call him what he is.
Over the weekend, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus even praised the contribution made by Trump’s candidacy. “I think it’s a net positive for everybody,” he said in a radio interview.
A net positive? That’s an intriguing calculation, considering all the gross negatives:
Describing Mexican immigrants as rapists and thugs.
Kicking one of the nation’s leading Latino journalists, Jorge Ramos, out of a news conference, telling him, “Go back to Univision.”
Reacting to Kelly’s tough debate questioning – about his tendency to refer to women as “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals” – with derision and then by employing the “bimbo” slur and saying, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
I’m no fan of Ailes, and I’ve taken issue with Kelly’s journalism before, but I’m squarely with them on this one. Kelly is no bimbo, and, more to the point, it’s just not acceptable for an aspirant to the nation’s highest office to talk this way. It has nothing to do with party or ideology – it’s about decency.
To their credit, some of Trump’s opponents have stood up to him after previous bouts of sexism. Fiorina, the only woman in the Republican race, said that “women of all kinds are really sort of horrified by this” and that “there are certain things that cut across political boundaries.” (Trump, true to form, responded by saying that listening to Fiorina gives you “a massive headache.”) Sen. Lindsey Graham called Trump a “jackass,” but others have tended to be gentler. Jeb Bush, referring to women, asked, “Do we want to insult 53 percent of all voters?” Scott Walker said he would “never use the kind of language that you’ve heard out of him,” while Rick Santorum urged an end to “crass personal attacks.”
But as the Trump outrages continue, they tend to be met more by eye-rolls and a Trump-will-be-Trump acceptance – and less by condemnation. After this week’s bimbo episode, a Washington Post search for responses by the candidates as of late Wednesday found only George Pataki (yes, he’s still in the race) weighing in, saying Trump was “over the line” and displaying a “demeaning attitude towards women.”
That’s good, but insufficient. The way to combat Trump’s bigotry and misogyny is to denounce it as loudly as he spews it.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter @Milbank.