As the most bigoted campaign in modern memory stumbles toward a close, it’s perfectly fitting that two immigrants ― a woman from Venezuela and a man from Pakistan ― may have delivered the fatal blows to Donald Trump.
First it was the GOP nominee’s self-defeating, relentless bullying of the Muslim American parents of Capt. Humayun Khan after the slain soldier’s father, Khizr Khan, denounced Trump at the Democratic National Convention. Trump’s unhinged and hostile remarks, which continued against the counsel of all his advisers and any sense of decency, were directed at deeply sympathetic figures and drove a mass defection from his campaign by fellow Republicans.
Now, the former reality TV star has set his sights on another sympathetic target, former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, whom he had previously called “Miss Piggy” and referred to as “Miss Housekeeping,” as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton noted in Monday night’s debate.
If there are any women still on the fence about Trump, these latest comments should send them screaming into Clinton’s arms.
But Trump wasn’t finished. He is preternaturally incapable of not responding to an attack ― a frightening trait in a man who wants to be president. Calling in to “Fox & Friends” on Tuesday morning, he unleashed on Machado again ― as the Clinton campaign surely suspected he would.
Not only do Trump's attacks display an outlandish degree of misogyny and Islamophobia, but perhaps more crucially, his outsized bullying of regular people exposes the phoniness of his so-called populism.
Trump wasn’t even asked on-air about Machado, who has indicated she will vote for Clinton in November. He was responding to a question about whether Clinton had gotten under his skin, but his self-destructive answer quickly veered into an attack on the beauty queen.
“She was the worst we ever had, the worst, the absolute worst. She was impossible,” he said. “She was a Miss Universe contestant and ultimately a winner who they had a tremendously difficult time with.”
“Did not know that story,” Fox host Steve Doocy offered before attempting to move on. Trump interrupted him, fixated on demolishing the woman he insisted on referring to as “this girl.”
“She was the winner, and she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem ... Not only that, her attitude, and we had a real problem with her,” Trump continued. “So Hillary went back into the years and found this girl ... and talked about her like she was Mother Teresa, and it wasn’t quite that way, but that’s okay.”
Trump had previously called Machado an “eating machine” and admitted he’d told her to lose weight. The attacks, Machado says now, pushed her toward an eating disorder and left her psychologically scarred.
“I was sick — anorexia and bulimia for five years,” she told The New York Times in May. “I was 18. My personality wasn’t created yet. I was just a girl.”
The Machado and Khan incidents may seem like random bouts of good luck for Clinton, but they are, in fact, an indication that it’s useful to run a functional campaign. In both cases, the Clinton camp elevated Machado and the Khans, and did so strategically, with an understanding that Trump would likely overreact. He didn’t disappoint.
As president, Trump would face adversaries who also think strategically ― and his inability to keep his cool could have untold geopolitical consequences.
Not only do Trump’s attacks display an outlandish degree of misogyny and Islamophobia, but perhaps more crucially, his outsized bullying of regular people exposes the phoniness of his so-called populism.