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The truth about cats and Trump’s dogs: civil discourse needed

Digested week: When Trump called Omarosa Manigault Newman a dog on Twitter, some still managed to be shocked

Monday

The question of how to cover the revelations of Omarosa Manigault Newman, a woman who sorely tests the principle of my enemys enemy is my friend, twisted US journalists into caveat-issuing pretzels this week. She is an unreliable witness with a huge axe to grind; she is, as those who watched her on The Apprentice may recall, highly vindictive. She was also prepared to tolerate Donald Trumps sexism and racism as long as he was paying her salary.

And yet. Watching her this week, it has been hard not to be impressed at some level. Those Trump has savaged have spoken of the sheer terror of being attacked from the worlds most powerful office. The vast majority of them Megyn Kelly, Mika Brzezinski, Khizr Khan didnt go looking for a fight, at least not one that went beyond the boundaries of ordinary political discourse.

Thus, there is something breathtaking about her sheer cheek, not only for bringing the fight but pursuing it to a second and third round. Her actions may be rooted in psychopathic self-interest, but still, you have to hand it to the woman secretly recording John Kelly (and, as it turned out later, Lara Trump), then throwing the recordings in the presidents face, takes much greater nerve than, say, Michael Wolffs humid lurking. It also demonstrates precisely why Manigault Newman should never have been in the Situation Room. The line she pushed in her book, Trumps use of the n-word which if true comes as no surprise; the man could goose-step down Pennsylvania Avenue at this stage and it wouldnt unnerve his base was in some ways the weakest. The real story is the sheer lunacy of a president who would hire someone like her.

Tuesday

Still, when Trump fought back, calling Manigault Newman a dog on Twitter, some still managed to be shocked, possibly because unlike other women he has called dogs, he once professed to be fond of her, and because it reads as a racial slur.

In one of those out-of-body experiences that suggest this administration hasnt been entirely normalised, Sarah Sanders clarified from the briefing room that when the president used dog to describe his ex-staffer, this has absolutely nothing to do with race and everything to do with the president calling out someones lack of integrity the fact is the presidents an equal opportunity person that calls things like he sees it.

In this, at least, Sanders may for once have been speaking the truth. When Gail Collins, the New York Times columnist, poked fun at Trumps wealth (she called him a thousandaire) he sent her a note observing she was a dog and a liar with a face like a pig. He called Kristen Stewart a dog when offering commentary on her relationship with Robert Pattinson (she cheated on him like a dog), and of Arianna Huffington he once said: She is a dog who wrongfully comments on me. He has also called men dogs, among them Mitt Romney (choked like a dog) and NBCs Chuck Todd (fired like a dog). That insults can mean different things depending on to whom they are said bitch falls differently when it is directed at a gay man than at a woman is one of the few subtleties one imagines Trump understands well.

Wednesday

A new subcategory of degree course has sprung up across US universities, in what the Wall Street Journal summarised mid-week as civil discourse the art of talking to people with different political opinions, without either demonising them or taking mortal offence. Courses named argument and inquiry and studies into polarisation are proliferating, not just as an effort to address Trump, but also to heal divisions and bridge ideological divides. The paper quoted a 2017 Knight Foundation survey, which found 61% of students said their place of learning clamped down on what might be regarded as offensive speech, up from 54% the previous year. The new courses also seek to coach students in when to engage and when to walk away from opinions they find offensive. Theres no course in existence that gives counsel on what to do when theres a buffoon at the top.

Thursday

Celebrations of Madonnas 60th were a shaft of joy in the weeks news. Madge has more than a whiff of Vivienne Westwood about her these days, and her raging against ageism is a reminder of why we loved her in the first place. It was also a reminder of what we talk about when we talk about Madonna. Like most people who have been famous for so long, Madonna is, I often find myself saying, more than likely completely insane. This might very well be true but thats not the point. The point is its an assessment one never makes about Mick Jagger or Rod Stewart.

Friday

You can call a woman a dog from the White House, but in the world of childrens publishing, the words one uses to describe women are subject to severe review. I sat down with my daughters to read a new edition of Cinderella this week to find that the ugly sisters have become the bossy sisters because, of course, it is wrong to equate beauty with moral virtue. Sadly, the production team hadnt received the memo that Sheryl Sandberg (among others) has launched a war against the word bossy for discouraging female leadership. Im not sure where that leaves us. I suppose Horrible Sisters might work, but then again, given the entire point of Cinderella is to get married to a prince and settle down for a life of indolent castle-dwelling, the whole female respect thing is a bit like deckchairs on the Titanic.

Digested week, digested

The enemy of my enemy is still probably a weasel

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

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