On November 24, 2015, candidate Donald Trump raised his limp palms at a South Carolina rally and proceeded to mock a respected reporter who has physical disabilities, yelling, “Now, the poor guy, you ought to see this guy! ‘Ah, I don’t know what I said, ah, I don’t remember!’ He’s going like, ‘I don’t remember! Oh, maybe that’s what I said.’” Back then, decent people across the political spectrum were disgusted and shocked at such a display coming from a candidate for the highest office in the land. But the years have shown us just how much Trump relishes using his bully pulpit to humiliate people he does not like by pointing out how they look different from what he considers to be attractive or acceptable.
Yesterday, we happened to learn about two new examples of Trump’s callous body-shaming through reporting on larger stories. In covering the White House’s announced departure of Secret Service Director Randolph “Tex” Alles, The New York Times revealed that Trump has enjoyed calling him “Dumbo” because of his large ears. Another report from The Washington Post detailed Trump’s age-old feud with Congressman Jerrold Nadler. Trump has every reason to dislike Nadler now, especially as he presses forward with investigations into him as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. But at a trade policy meeting with House Republicans last month, Trump delighted in referring to Nadler as “Fat Jerry,” teasing the New York Democrat for not being slim despite weight-loss surgery years ago.
It is easy to brush off Donald Trump’s childish and offensive behavior as the new normal, given how much we have been exposed to it over the last few years. But the day we begin to feel unfazed by Trump’s constant bullying is the day we have lost touch with how we must aspire to be a better society. Journalists must continue portraying gratuitous insults as unacceptable and abnormal for a president, no matter how routine such behavior may be for this particular president.
It may seem hard to imagine, but the Oval Office will have a different occupant one day, perhaps sooner than many people think. With any luck, the 46th President of the United States will be a unifier who inspires us with empathy, promotes love over hate, and truly makes America great again.