Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Object Lessons in Bullying

I found the public spectacle that was Trump's courtship of Mitt Romney for Secretary of State fascinating for one simple reason: it gives us a helpful and illuminating object lesson. 

Specifically, it shows the world that our President-Elect is a master of basic, old school, brick-and-mortar playground bullying. Which, of course, is consistent with Donald Trump's willingness--or, more likely, compulsion--to cyberbully even a teenage girl who dared to criticize him, prompting death and rape threats against her.

The Mitt Romney thing is a perfect case study in this. By no means is the "Trump was just toying with Romney" theory an original one, but it's worth exploring in some depth because it reflects a temperament problem with global implications.

Romney was a vocal critic of Trump during the campaign, calling him a "phony and a fraud." He said of Trump that "dishonesty is [his] hallmark," specifically and ironically impugning "his bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics." 

Trump retorted at the time by saying of Romney's 2012 run for President, "[h]e was begging for my endorsement. I could have said 'Mitt, drop to your knees'--he would have dropped to his knees."

Would he ever.

Viewed through the lens of 20/20 hindsight, the prescient irony of Romney's insults to Trump and Trump's response to them is thicker than the awkward vibe of this photo-op of the two dining together at an upscale restaurant. You can argue that Romney is an unprincipled, craven sycophant groveling for a high-profile job, or you can take the more charitable view that he's a patriot willing to cast aside his own ego to serve God and Country. 

It doesn't make a difference for purposes of this analysis. Trump, not Romney, is the star of this scene.

The dynamic between Trump and Romney is a key plot-point of nearly every 80's teen rom-com (the decade and age demographic with which Trump most readily identifies). Romney's public humiliation was a foregone conclusion the minute he dared to insult Donald Trump. 

From the moment they first crossed swords to the moment the stars aligned for Romney's public humiliation, Trump had always planned to eviscerate Romney's ego before a captivated audience. That moment came, and like all bullies, Trump pounced. 

A bully is nothing if not an opportunist.

Look, for example, at the mall scene in Weird Science when Robert Downey, Jr. and his clique of popular buddies encounter the two geeky protagonists at the mall, and then dump frozen cherry Icees on their heads from a balcony before a crowd of cackling mean girls who laugh uproariously at the boys' humiliation. 

For the accomplished bully, simple rejection isn't enough. It has to be theatrical. It has to be humiliating. It has to have an audience. The victim must be desperate for the bully's attention and approval. He must be lulled into believing he's within grasp of both, only to have the rug pulled out from under him in an epic, cringe-inducing, and fully calculated way that leaves the bully with the upper hand and dining out, so to speak, on revenge.

We've all seen it, in the movies and on the playground, but never in the White House. That particular bully happens to be an incompetent, sociopathic kleptocrat who is five weeks away from having nuclear warfare at his fingertips, and the result could be much worse than being dunked in a cherry-flavored Icee drink.

Let that sink in.

President-elect Donald Trump and Mitt Romney dine at Jean Georges restaurant.

Image result for weird science mall scene

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