Sen. Blumenthal v. Pres. Trump: Is Trump a Bully?

A sad series of tweets and counter-tweets this week have led to cries of bullying in our nation’s capitol.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT, was quoted on television as calling for a law to prevent President Donald Trump from firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who has impaneled a grand jury and may be expanding his initial investigation into Russian interference in the election.  This prompted Trump to accuse Blumenthal of being “a phony Vietnam con artist.”

Blumenthal is a man of integrity with a record of distinguished public service… but he isn’t perfect. Some years ago, in the heat of politics, Blumenthal exaggerated his military experience. Blumenthal let voters in Connecticut believe that he had served in Vietnam. He was forced to call a press conference in 2010 and admit that while he served as a member of the Marines Corps Reserves from 1970-1976 he had never served overseas.  Blumenthal was emotional at the press conference and reportedly cried.

Trump, who got five draft deferments and never served in the military, has astutely observed that the Vietnam War flap is an acute embarrassment to Blumenthal. So Trump brings it up every time Blumenthal has the temerity to criticize Trump’s administration.  On Monday, he tweeted: “I think Senator Blumenthal should take a nice long vacation in Vietnam, where he lied about his service, so he can at least say he was there.”

A few months ago,  Blumenthal objected to Trump’s dismissal of FBI Director James Comey and Trump tweeted that Blumenthal had “cried like a baby and begged for forgiveness” at the 2010 press conference. The reference to “baby” appeared to be an attempt to demean Blumenthal’s manhood. In a gross overstatement, Trump also accused “‘Richie” of devising “one of the greatest military frauds in U.S. history.”

Blumenthal has vowed that Trump’s bullying won’t intimidate him ( though one worries it may deter some of Blumenthal’s less courageous and equally imperfect colleagues). And if anyone can stand up to Trump’s tweets, Blumenthal is up for the task.   “It’s not about me… Our national security and rule of law is at risk. And that’s where our focus should be. It is not about me,” he told The Hill.

Is Trump bullying Blumenthal? Not in the traditional sense of the word. Bullying is associated with a power differential. A bully has more power than his or her victim and uses that power to repeatedly harm the victim.  Blumenthal is not a 99-pound weakling.  Blumenthal is a powerful Democrat whose intent is clear – he knows the Special Prosecutor could severely damage Trump’s presidency. And Trump poses no threat to Blumenthal, who was elected to a second term in the Senate by Connecticut voters last year with the largest vote margin in the history of statewide elections in the state.

It is not like Trump was humiliating the doorman at Trump tower.

It also is  fair to consider the context of Trump’s alleged bullying. Trump’ is using a mode of self-defense intended to foil an actual threat. His presidency could be derailed by the Democratic opposition. Instead of using argument, reason and logic- – which we are accustomed to – Trump is responding to the threat by packing 140 characters of ridicule and taunts into a tweet.

Lastly, Trump’s behavior should not be viewed in isolation. In other words, he is on the receiving end of bullying behavior by others.

 

It is not a false equivalence to observe that pseudo-bullying is rife on both sides of the political aisle.

 

Democratic leaders and elites in the media focus relentlessly on Trump’s hair and personal demeanor and the oddballs and political outsiders who now populate the White House. They question Trump’s psychological fitness for office and consistently view his achievements  through a dark lens.  At times, the attacks on Trump are intermingled with thinly-veiled elitism and contempt for the overlooked Americans who elected Trump;  people who don’t buy The New York Review of Books, possess Ivy League diplomas or vacation in Martha’s Vineyard.  These are the people who were called the “mob” by The New York Times, a “basket of deplorables” by Trump’s Democratic rival, Hilary Clinton and whom former Democratic President Barack Obama dismissed as clinging to guns and religion.

Meanwhile, television comedians have discovered that making fun of Trump leads to ratings success.  The characterization of Presidential Chief Adviser Stephen Banning on Saturday Night Life as Darth Vader was funny. So were the spoofs of Sean Spicer (which he called “hurtful” at times and may have propelled him into unemployment). However,  SNL’s treatment of Obama was strikingly different. Obama was portrayed as a good-natured, smart guy surrounded by people trying not to appear racist.  Even SNL’s treatment of former GOP President George W. Bush pales when compared to the virulent strain of “satire” accorded Trump and his family. An SNL staffer was placed on leave for mocking Trump’s 10-year-old young son.

It’s not clear that Trump is a bully but if he is it is clear that he’s not the only one in Washington today.

Comments

  1. Sam Katz says:

    I disagree. Trump is a billionaire who has made his career by bullying, cheating, lying and ridiculing people less fortunate than he and for his entire lifetime – even Miss Universe candidates who are clearly drop dead gorgeous, and game show contestants who have to hear, “You’re fired!” in front of a national audience. If Trump appeals to “people who don’t buy The New York Review of Books, possess Ivy League diplomas or vacation in Martha’s Vineyard,” then they’re delusional fools. Trump was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, he’s a very rich, very entitled man with a private jet, a yacht, the largest private estate in America, and a marble triplex on Fifth Avenue, among many, many other luxury properties. He has stiffed hundreds of hardworking men and women out of monies owed, gone in to bankruptcy multiple times to skirt his financial obligations; let his casinos go under for the same reason, he went to the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania, and is a tax evading, pussy grabbing, sociopathic, infantile, malignant narcissist. Just because people voted for the richest candidate who had the least in common with them, and principally because he lied his way into office, does not give Trump (or anyone) license to claim when he is ridiculed that it is “bullying.” Rather, it is just desserts: a chance to balance out his egomania. Comedians have a job to do: making light of the human condition. Trump is more folly and fodder than Obama, because he’s a rotten human being and Obama isn’t. It’s really that simple. Trump’s political policies are to attack the poor and buff up the rich, and institute repugnant racist and xenophobic nationalism. His spokesperson recently crapped on the Statue of Liberty. It doesn’t get much worse than mocking, “Give us your tired, your poor.” No one is bullying Trump, they are simply bouncing his own hideous personality back at him.

    • My intent was to analyze the issue with respect to Sen. Blumenthal only; I did not intend to give Pres. Trump a clean slate for everything he’s done in his lifetime. In fact, this blog accused Trump of bullying a few years ago with respect to his show, The Apprentice. However, I think a power differential is key with respect to bullying. Love your way with words!!!

  2. I don’t believe that someone that posts an on going paperwork titled ABUSER GOES TO WORK, can in any way say that Trump is anything but an abuser. This is a bad example to use – especially when there are so many glaring examples that he IS a bully, not only in the workplace, but in every other area of his life.

    As far as SNL – that is the actors job, they are comedians, that’s what they do. Especially that show – it is 90% political satire.

    Get real !

    One ONE!!! time the situation is reversed and he cries victim! He can dish it out but he can’t take it…

  3. Sky Sinclair says:

    No Prez Trump IS NOT A BULLY! When the game of “Poke the Bear” is being played out every hour and day by the sore loser Dems, Trump is going to defend himself and push back! You would too! No, don’t say you wouldn’t! You would…any one would!! The Dems have “Poked the bear” since inauguration day which was their plan from the gate! Did you hear one Dem talk about all of the crimes Hillary committed the last 35 years from murder to espionage? And WHY, WHY, WHY was she even allowed to run for the president of the US when she is as crooked as a dogs hind leg and has committed nothing but mayhem in WA?? That lying bitch should be wearing orange in solitary confinement! Further more, Prez Trump has done more in the 7 mos he’s been in office than Osama Obama did in 8 years. Osama put the US further in debt to the tune of trillions! He gave trillions of US citizens money to our enemies! They will all burn in hell for the crimes they’ve committed. If you think for one second they will get by with their crimes you are as low and horrible as they are! Stay tuned!! A day of reckoning is coming and it won’t be pretty! My message to all of the libs and Dems… Leave President Trump alone and let him do his job as we elected him to do! He doesn’t need your crap! Spend your energies focusing on your darling Hill and Bill if you need something to do…DO THAT! You sure were silent when she was caught with her pants down over the 33,000 plus emails that were as illegal as murder, she did that too! Think of how you would feel if you were the parents of the four men murdered at Benghazi! Hillary could have prevented those murders but it was 3:00 in the morning and she needed her beauty rest! She just couldn’t be bothered!! Now you liberals shut your stupid mouths and try and behave your lousy selves!
    One of the Deplorables…….

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