WASHINGTON — In January 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump bragged that his supporters were so loyal that he “could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” To Trump, that was a good thing.
Which must be why, as president, he continually stands in the middle of Twitter and assaults not only his critics but also people who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Lori Klausutis died in 2001 — but that hasn’t spared her memory from Trump’s wrath.
Because Klausutis was 28, female and worked as a constituent services aide for then-Rep. Joe Scarborough, R-Fla., now an MSNBC host, Scarborough’s critics on the left and then the right have smeared her mercilessly by putting her in the mold of a Mary Jo Kopechne-type figure.
Nursing an ugly case of Scarborough derangement syndrome, Trump tweeted recently, “An affair?” In another post, Trump asked of Scarborough: “Did he get away with murder? Some people think so.”
One person who doesn’t think so is Lori’s husband, Timothy, who sent a letter asking Twitter chief Jack Dorsey to take down Trump’s slurs about his late wife.
In a letter posted by The New York Times, the widower wrote, “I’m asking you to intervene in this instance because the president of the United States has taken something that does not belong to him — the memory of my dead wife — and perverted it for perceived political gain.”
With any other president, there would have been an uproar that ended with a chastened chief executive admitting that he had erred and was sorry.
But there was no uproar against Trump’s hit job on a dead woman’s reputation.
On Twitter, the very platform Trump chose to punish for being too tough on him when it fact-checked two of his erroneous tweets on California’s vote-by-mail election, the grievance-rich Trump base defended his slander on a corpse as a justifiable rejoinder to Scarborough’s scathing criticism of his one-time pal, Trump.
The 2020 election is some five months away. I have no idea how voters will feel about the election after the coronavirus has killed more than 100,000 Americans and put more than 40 million out of work.
Some no doubt will look at Trump’s coronavirus task force and see an amazing mobilization that spared many lives and focused on getting the economy back on track. They’ll be glad Trump is a fighter.
Others will blame Trump, unfairly I think, for not doing enough to slow the spread early on, when he, like most Americans, resisted shuttering businesses because he understood the harm the economic chaos could do to Americans’ very souls.
If they’re on the fence, they might remember how Trump clung to his anger, tweeting about his enemies and perceived slights while Americans were dying, being hooked up to ventilators or standing for the first time in line at food banks.
If it weren’t for Twitter, the social media giant he wants to bring to heel with a new executive order he signed Thursday, the president wouldn’t be hearing those voices egging him on because it makes them feel good. He’d have to listen to old hands who know better.