Porter: The Trump White House’s women problem
“It’s no secret that President Trump respects men who keep women in their place,” said Jessica Valenti in TheGuardian.com. In 1992, he told a magazine interviewer, “‘You have to treat ’em like s---.’” So it should come as no surprise that the president gave White House staff secretary Rob Porter a “hero’s goodbye” last week, “even as a picture of his ex-wife’s battered face was splashed across the news.” Porter, 40, a former Mormon missionary and Harvard graduate, resigned after his two former wives accused him of persistent verbal and physical abuse. His first wife, Colbie Holderness, said Porter choked, kicked, and punched her, and shared a photograph with The Daily Mail of the black eye he allegedly gave her during an Italian vacation. Porter’s second wife, Jennifer Willoughby, said that his abuse started on their honeymoon, that he constantly berated, cursed, and manhandled her, and that in 2010, after she left him, she had to obtain an emergency protective order against him after he punched in her glass door. In any “normal White House,” said Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post, the reaction to such revelations would be “horror and revulsion.” Instead, Chief of Staff John Kelly initially defended Porter as “a man of true integrity and honor,” while Trump sent the departing alleged wife beater his best wishes. “It’s a tough time for him,” said Trump, never once mentioning Porter’s ex-wives.
“Porter’s history of domestic abuse wasn’t a secret,” said Dahlia Lithwick in Slate.com. The FBI briefed the White House on its investigation into the aide last March, and Kelly knew by September that Porter’s security clearance had been halted by the allegations. But because Porter was the “Rhodes scholar golden boy” who became Kelly’s most trusted aide and dated communications director Hope Hicks, nobody did a thing. Porter was given an interim security clearance that allowed him to travel on Air Force One and present Trump with classified documents. Trump, who was not told about the Porter allegations until last week, is reportedly furious at Kelly, said Erick Erickson in TheResurgent.com. He should be. The man charged with bringing “stability to the White House” let “an unstable spousal abuser roam the halls.”
Once again, Kelly has shown his “true character,” said Michael Cohen in The Boston Globe. The former four-star Marine general was brought in last summer to be “the adult in the room.” Instead, Kelly has repeatedly “fanned the flames” of controversy, praising Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee as “an honorable man,” blaming the Civil War on “a failure to compromise,” and dismissing some Dreamers as “too lazy to get off their asses” and register with the government. Last year, he mocked and slandered a black congresswoman during a fight over a military widow. It’s now clear that Trump’s chief of staff “shares the president’s worst instincts,” said Jamelle Bouie in Slate.com, including his nativism, his 1950s view of women, and his cultural and racial resentments.
Let’s face it: This White House does not see “domestic violence as disqualifying,” said David Frum in TheAtlantic.com. Countless members of the president’s team “have faced similar claims—including Trump himself.” Campaign chair Steve Bannon was once charged with three misdemeanor counts of domestic violence. White House speechwriter David Sorensen followed Porter out the door last week after his ex-wife accused him of abuse. In a 1990 divorce deposition, Trump’s first wife, Ivana, said he yanked out fistfuls of her hair and raped her. During the 2016 presidential campaign, more than 15 women accused Trump—the self-professed pussy grabber—of harassment and sexual assault. Throughout Trump’s public career, said Will Bunch in Philly.com, he has repeatedly defended powerful males accused of rape and abuse, including Mike Tyson, Roger Ailes, and Bill O’Reilly; in Trumpworld, women “exist as one-dimensional role players” rather than human beings—as “pawns in a giant chess game where they can glorify or impede the grand movements of the male knights and the king.”
Inevitably, “a reckoning with women awaits Trump,” said David Remnick in The New Yorker. No issue is more likely to come back and bite Republicans in the November midterm elections than “Trump’s misogyny.” Even Bannon, who helped shape Trump’s message, sees how dangerous the #MeToo movement and its highly motivated female army is for this presidency. “You watch, the time has come,” Bannon recently told a reporter. “Women are gonna take charge of society. And they couldn’t juxtapose a better villain than Trump. He is the patriarch.” ■