I agree, and made the same point yesterday. Scarborough is guilty of the only sin that matters in Trump’s eyes: He’s against Trump. Whether he really did murder someone is of no consequence to the president except as fodder for an accusation he can use to wound a critic. If that’s unfair to Morning Joe, or painful to Lori Klausutis’s family, that’s also of no consequence. There’s only one person whose feelings matter.
Where Rush and I differ is that he thinks Trump’s disinterest in whether the smear is true diminishes the offense instead of making it worse. The fact that his viciousness is so casual and unconcerned with who might be hurt by it is somehow exculpatory.
In fact, Rush’s line about the president “having fun” watching the flames from the fire he’s fed makes Trump sound like the Joker, a psychopath who commits mayhem because he enjoys watching the world burn — or, in this case, because he enjoys watching the media libs cry about it. I don’t think that’s true; this is a berserk revenge play by Trump against a longtime critic, not some random act of brutality for sport. But it’s interesting that Rush’s compulsion to apologize for the president is so irresistible that it would lead him to argue that Trump’s behavior, which he perceives as sadistic, is fine and fun and “clever” so long as it annoys the right people. Which, admittedly, is a decent synthesis of what righty populism writ large has come to.
Rush Limbaugh on morality: Trump “doesn’t care” if Scarborough murdered a woman, doesn’t believe it, but is spreading the rumors that the woman’s family has said cause deep pain, just to drive moralizing people crazy. pic.twitter.com/KId6PoNzQe
— Edward-Isaac Dovere (@IsaacDovere) May 27, 2020
For what it’s worth, this is the only defense of Trump’s smear campaign against Scarborough I’ve seen from anyone prominent on the right. Liz Cheney politely reprimanded him today:
“I do think the president should stop tweeting about Joe Scarborough. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. He’s the commander in chief of this nation. And it’s causing great pain to the family of the young woman who died,” Cheney told reporters after a press briefing outside the Capitol…
“The president should stop tweeting about it,” the Wyoming Republican responded.
Kevin McCarthy, a more reliable crony, was asked about it too and offered merely that he didn’t serve with Scarborough and knows nothing about the Klausutis case — a damning no-comment considering that McCarthy will normally back Trump up on anything. Meanwhile, National Review joined the chorus of right-wing publications criticizing the president in editorials today:
Whether social media have been good or bad for society is an open question. Whether social media have been good or bad for President Trump isn’t as difficult to discern. For even the most sober-minded and introspective figures, Twitter can serve as a dangerous temptation. For a man as capricious and mercurial as our 45th president, it is an irresistible invitation to say things unworthy of his office. It is said that President Lincoln would place letters written in anger into a locked drawer so that he could decide the next morning whether the opprobrium he had meted out was deserved. President Trump, by unhappy contrast, does not so much as wait to spell-check his missives…
Time was when the obvious response to reprehensible behavior was admonition. The root cause of the mess we are witnessing today is not Twitter’s bias or legislative favoritism, and it is most certainly not that the president lacks the power to suspend the First Amendment. Rather, it is that the president lacks the power to control his own urges. What needs changing is the behavior of the man who sits at the heart of all of our national conversations, both good and ill.
Yeah, it’s not going to change. Andy McCarthy, also of NRO, decided to tune out today rather than endure more of it:
Besides linking to columns, I’ve stayed of Twitter for a few days. @POTUS vile tweets and pain they must be causing Klausutis family – nothing new, but the cumulative, demoralizing, exhausting effect … and the awareness that it’s never changing. Bleak.
— Andy McCarthy (@AndrewCMcCarthy) May 27, 2020
None of this will matter in the fall — directly. No one’s going into the booth to vote against Trump because he was mean to some cable-news host. But the accumulated fatigue that McCarthy describes is inescapable and more burdensome every day. The fact that Trump is off on this lark in the middle of a pandemic, on the day that U.S. deaths from COVID-19 topped 100,000, makes the burden that much heavier. Biden released this video statement tonight to mark the milestone in coronavirus fatalities and the strategy behind it is as clear as glass. He knows Trump would never think to say something like this on his own; he knows the public knows it too. Even if his advisors convinced Trump to do it, it would be one of those scripted jobs where he doesn’t sound anything like his normal self and you can tell he only read the statement for the first time five minutes before he went on camera. Empathy is something Trump can’t even fake convincingly and it’s one of the few things Biden does well. This is essentially his rejoinder to the Scarborough tweets, just showing that he has priorities in order to heighten the contrast.
There are moments in our history so grim, so heart-rending, that they’re forever fixed in each of our hearts as shared grief. Today is one of those moments. 100,000 lives have now been lost to this virus.
To those hurting, I’m so sorry for your loss. The nation grieves with you. pic.twitter.com/SBBRKV4mPZ
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) May 27, 2020