What Trump Should Have Said to Megyn Kelly
In baseball, a hard-throwing pitcher can freeze a hitter by throwing him an unexpected curveball. Erroneously detecting the pitch as a fastball coming right at him, the hitter’s knees buckle involuntarily. A split second later, the ball crosses the plate for a strike.
Twenty-three million people watched as Megyn Kelly threw Donald Trump a knee-buckler in the first Republican debate in Cleveland. That happens, in life, as in baseball. What the hitter should do is gather himself, step back into the box and try and make contact on the next pitch.
What Donald Trump did was to strike out, kick dirt on the umpire’s shoes, and give booing fans the finger on his way back to the dugout while hollering about how much money he makes. After the game, he whined to sportswriters about the pitcher. He hasn’t yet been suspended, but that will happen eventually. Cleveland will be remembered as the place where Trump showed he simply isn’t a big leaguer.
This wasn’t preordained, however. It could have turned out differently. Let’s go to the time machine to see how.
Megyn Kelly is smart enough to have gone to law school and had success as an attorney, tough enough to become a star in the unforgiving world of network news, and physically attractive enough to merit an alluring GQ spread. In the accompanying GQ article she was asked why someone so glamorous decided to go into journalism. Her answer, which Donald Trump apparently never saw, was this: “I thought the profession had some nobility in it, but it’s also one in which you have to get your hands dirty.”
Trump seemed to be expecting a blond cutie to lob him pitches underhand, as in an after-church coed softball game, but he was actually facing Nolan Ryan in a black cocktail dress. Nolan Ryan won. Here is the exchange between Kelly and Trump in Cleveland:
KELLY: Mr. Trump, one of the things people love about you is you speak your mind and you don’t use a politician’s filter. However, that is not without its downsides, in particular, when it comes to women. You’ve called women you don’t like “fat pigs, dogs, slobs, and disgusting animals.”
TRUMP: Only Rosie O’Donnell.
KELLY: No, it wasn’t. … For the record, it was well beyond Rosie O’Donnell.
TRUMP: Yes, I’m sure it was.
KELLY: Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women’s looks. You once told a contestant on “Celebrity Apprentice” it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who is likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the “war on women”?
TRUMP: I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I’ve been challenged by so many people, and I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either. This country is in big trouble. We don’t win anymore. We lose to China. We lose to Mexico both in trade and at the border. We lose to everybody.
And frankly, what I say, and oftentimes it’s fun, it’s kidding. We have a good time. What I say is what I say. And honestly Megyn, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry. I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be, based on the way you have treated me. But I wouldn’t do that. But you know—we need strength, we need energy, we need quickness and we need brain in this country to turn it around. That I can tell you right now.
“If you’re covering your ass,” Lyndon Johnson often said, “you’re losing your ass.” What he meant was that it didn’t behoove a politician to sound overly defensive. Donald Trump is proving LBJ’s point, but he took it to such an absurd length in Cleveland that he brought to mind another presidential candidate, thrice-unsuccessful William Jennings Bryan, the man for whom the so-called “law of holes” was coined. (If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.)
Trump kept digging. Basically, he confirmed the implication of Megyn Kelly’s question, and then he threatened her. And in case anyone missed it, when later whining about her questions Trump snidely suggested that Kelly’s tough questioning was attributable to menstruation. When called on this appalling remark, he dissembled about it and went on the attack. Anyone who thought he meant what he obviously meant, he claimed, was “a deviant.” Strike three, Mr. Trump, take a seat.
If any other candidate in the 2016 race had behaved this way, Trump would have called them “stupid” or “losers” or “total losers” or “morons” or “idiots” or some variation of his favorite words. It’s easy to criticize The Donald—irresistible, really—but that is not necessarily constructive. The man says he is running for president. For now, he’s doing so as a Republican, the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, and Reagan. So out of regard for their memory, perhaps it would be helpful to tell Trump what he should have said:
“Megyn, without recalling the context of all those quotes, I will promise that you won’t hear me disparaging women in this campaign. I love women and respect them—I think we should’ve had Carly Fiorina on this stage. But I’ve operated in a different arena. Commercial real estate is a rough world, and sexist—and I’ve brought women into that business. ‘The Apprentice’ is entertainment, and a bit of outlandishness helps ratings—as everyone at Fox News knows.
“But ‘war on women’? I’m surprised you’d invoke the Democrats’ talking point. They apply that description to anyone who questions their extreme views on the life issues. If you don’t blindly follow their absolutist view that any abortion, for any reason, in any trimester is perfectly fine, you are somehow anti-woman. Hillary Clinton seems satisfied that the number of abortions in this country has decreased slightly. It’s still 1 million a year. Planned Parenthood is trafficking in the body parts of those babies. More than half of the unborn children aborted in this country are girls. If allowed to live, they’d grow up to be women. That’s the real ‘war on women,’ and Democrats are leading it, Megyn.”