In a year of floors falling away under one's feet (such as the assumption that nearly all Americans demand a minimal level of civility in public life), the Corey Lewandowski story represents one more gob smack. That Donald Trump stands by the belligerent Lewandowski tells us more of what we already knew about Trump, and also hints at the coward beneath the blowhard.
First, the battery. The campaign manager — not a volunteer, not even a hired security guard, but the honest-to-goodness campaign manager — nearly shoved reporter Michelle Fields to the ground and inflicted bruises on her arm. When she protested, there was no apology. Instead, the campaign at first suggested that there was a mistake: Lewandowski mistook Fields (who worked at the time for the pro-Trump Breitbart.com) for a member of the mainstream media. Oh, so that makes shoving OK? But the campaign quickly reverted to outright lies. Hope Hicks, a Trump campaign spokesman, said that Fields' account was "entirely false . ... I did not witness any encounter ... not a single camera or reporter of more than 100 in attendance captured the alleged incident." Trump himself offered that "maybe she made it up."
Except there was an eyewitness, Ben Terris, of The Washington Post, who confirmed Fields' account that very day. And the following day there was an audio recording of the Terris/Field conversation immediately after the incident, which further confirmed her account. And then there were videos, one of which was enough to convince the police to bring battery charges.
Never mind. In the morality-free Trump zone, facts are optional. "You are totally delusional," Lewandowski said of Fields. "I never touched you. As a matter of fact, I have never even met you." Trumpkins disdain eyewitnesses, audio recordings and videotape. You have your truth, as our friends on the left would say, and I have mine. Not even Bill Clinton was so brazen.
So the battery is an established fact shamelessly denied. And then there is the character assassination. Trump has suggested that Fields was an attention seeker, and sneered that she's "not a baby, OK?" This is classic Trump — attacking those he has already wronged. Asked in an early debate about the people left holding the bag after his four bankruptcies, he dismissed them, saying they were "big boys and girls." Actually, many were electricians, carpenters and other working people who couldn't afford his fancy lawyers.
Any number of Trump-enabling commentators have advised Michelle Fields to get over it, put on her "big-boy pants," and otherwise to suck it up.
Really? What about the big boy who's running for president? Why is he so scared? Perhaps Trump's fondness for Lewandowski is not in spite of his henchman's willingness to get physical but because of it.
Trump seems more than usually frightened of protesters. To be sure, every candidate gets serious threats, and doubtless Trump has received some. But his threshold for feeling vulnerable seems unusually low. Before a rally in Iowa, he was told that some protesters might throw tomatoes at him. He was sufficiently alarmed to tell the crowd: "If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them." For tomatoes. Nor has he been shy about calling down violence even on those who merely attempted to disrupt his speeches —which, I hasten to add, they have no right to do — which in no way justifies mob violence.
On another occasion, Lewandowski waded into the crowd and grabbed a protester by the collar. Trump approved of this maneuver, too, explaining (if that's the right word) to CNN's Anderson Cooper that the man's sign contained very bad words. Non sequitur.
The Trump campaign has changed its story several times about Michelle Fields. The latest, on CNN Tuesday night, featured Trump justifying Lewandowki's manhandling of Fields because she approached the TV star armed with a pen "which is very dangerous." Tomatoes, Bics, is there no end to the threats against Trump?
Donald Trump avoided the draft by claiming bone spurs in his heels — which somehow didn't keep him off the ski slopes. Yet he had the gall to disparage the heroism of John McCain. His only real exposure to danger, his "personal Vietnam" he says, was sleeping around and risking STDs in the 1970s.
Trump is a physically large man with the courage of a mouse. Like many cowards, he loves tough talk, but he prefers to issue threats from the comfort of his private jet and to let bullyboys like Lewandowski actually get their hands dirty. Purely as a matter of national hygiene, Lewandowski should be fired. But more importantly, so should his boss.