With a major health-care bill lingering in legislative coma, with volatile military situations on the Korean Peninsula, in the Middle East and elsewhere, with preparations underway for a conflict-ridden, high-stakes G-20 summit next week, the president of the United States has chosen to embroil himself in a bitter and highly personal Twitter feud with two cable-TV news personalities.
I'm not going to get into the smutty specifics of the case, because you already know what they are. Suffice it to say that once again, the president of the United States has shown all the self-control and discipline of a spoiled four-year-old throwing a temper tantrum at the grocery store, with all the world looking on in embarrassment.
However, I do want to focus on a new allegation, laid out by MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski Friday morning in the segment posted above. They claim that earlier this year, reporters from the National Enquirer began contacting their friends, neighbors and relatives, including Brzezinski's teenage daughters, trying to dig up dirt on the couple. According to Scarborough, he simultaneously received repeated, almost desperate phone calls from top officials at the Trump White House, warning him that the president was angry at him and that a negative hit piece about the couple was about to be published by the Enquirer.
However, Scarborough was given an option. He was told that if he agreed to call Trump, if he personally apologized to the president of the United States for saying critical things about him and promised not to do so in the future, if he kissed the ring and bent the knee, then the reporters from the National Enquirer would be called off the scent. The president would make a phone call to his good friend David Pecker, the publisher of the National Enquirer, and the negative story would be spiked.
In short, blackmail. In short, personal threats to American citizens issued directly from the White House, demanding that they cease their criticism or pay a heavy price.
Is the story true?
Not according to The Donald:
That version of events makes no logical sense. Scarborough's version, on the other hand, is consistent with Trump's behavior and character, and with the behavior of the National Enquirer as well. During the GOP primary season, for example, it ran repeated hit pieces on Trump's rivals.
In March of 2016, Slate published a collection of Enquirer headlines:
(UPDATE: As someone on Twitter pointed out, last year the Enquirer paid a former Playmate of the Year $150,000 for exclusive rights to the story of her affair with Trump, which occurred while he was married to Melania. The Enquirer then refused to publish the story.)
Not so long ago, conservatives were complaining that Barack Obama was disrespecting the presidency and undercutting its dignity. How? By not always wearing a suit and tie in the Oval Office. (Here and here and here, for example.) Even now, white evangelicals and culture warriors have warmly embraced Trump as their Joan of Arc, leading them into battle against the forces of immorality that would degrade our nation's standards and principles. And White House officials are defending Trump's Twitter outbursts as another expression of the strength of character that got him elected president.
The Fourth of July, our nation's birthday, is right around the corner. My fellow Americans, aren't you proud that what began with George Washington has now culminated with Donald J. Trump?
Aren't you proud, America? Aren't you just brimming with pride?