Donald and the Dish

It was a staple of humor when I was a small child. Black and white animation from Disney, Looney Tunes, and Merrie Melodies carried slap stick that went beyond the Three Stooges. You don’t really have to calculate stunt risks when animation takes over.

One occasional bit involved a flurry of falling dishes. As the plates descend, our hapless leading character rapidly darts about barely catching one after another, precariously balancing a growing tower of dishes. Things stabilize, the plates have been caught, the tower steadies. Then our hero sees the final falling piece. He drops the entire stack, dishes smashing to the floor, as he rescues that one final plate.

Okay, so even as a kid I didn’t laugh. But the attempt by some ancient cartoonist did turn out, decades later, to serve as a reference point as I watch the frenetic efforts of an enraged Donald Trump to lash out at every enemy.

Mr. Trump says he saw thousands of people in New Jersey celebrating the attack on 9/11/2001. He insists a reporter had written a story that backed him up. The reporter contradicts Mr. Trump’s account. He says that what he actually wrote was that he attempted to confirm rumors, but that he was unable to substantiate even one such instance.

The reporter is disabled. He has a painful chronic illness that severely inhibits movements of the joints.

Mr. Trump responds to a laughing audience in a twisting and jerking physical mocking of the reporter.

Now, the poor guy, you ought to see this guy, ‘Ah, I don’t know what I said, I don’t remember, I don’t remember, maybe that’s what I said.’

Donald Trump, November 24, 2015

The audience laughs at the crude caricature and joins in his jeers.

Senator John McCain is widely acclaimed as a hero for his courage during 5 years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. He criticizes Donald Trump for his anti-immigrant rhetoric. He is quoted describing a recent visit by Mr. Trump to Arizona as “very hurtful to me because what he did was he fired up the crazies.”

Donald Trump’s response:

He hit me, he’s not a war hero.


He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured, I hate to tell you.

July 18, 2015

A Fox News personality questions him about his treatment of women.

She gets out and she starts asking me all kinds of ridiculous questions. You know, you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.

August 7, 2015

A Muslim couple loses a son. The son has died in combat defending his fellow American troops. They criticize him and so he demands answers from the grieving mother.

His wife — if you look at his wife, she was standing there. She had nothing to say. She probably — maybe she wasn’t allowed to have anything to say. You tell me. But plenty of people have written that. She — she was extremely quiet. And it looked like she had nothing to say. A lot of people have said that.

July 31, 2016

And, of course, the beauty queen, Miss Universe.

I know that person, that person was a Miss Universe person, and she was the worst we ever had. The worst, the absolute worst. She was impossible, and she was a Miss Universe contestant and ultimately a winner who they had a tremendously difficult time with as Miss Universe.

But, of course, that was not all.

She was the winner, and, you know, she gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem. We had a real problem. Not only that, her attitude, and we had a real problem with her.

September 27, 2016

A disabled reporter, a prisoner-of-war hero, a conservative woman journalist, the mother of a combat hero killed in a war, and a former beauty contestant are all the same in the egalitarian vision of Mr. Trump. They are enemies, non-loyalists who have turned against him.

It seems to go beyond thin skin. Every criticism becomes an attack. Every attack is a threat. Every threat is deadly. No incoming missile can be allowed to go unanswered.

They deserve it.
He hit me, he’s not a war hero.

There is no proportionality. The atavistic instinct is always the same. When you get slapped, you hit back. When you get hit you punch. When you get punched, you roll out a cannon.

She hit me first.
She gets out and she starts asking me all kinds of ridiculous questions.

Even the smallest slight must result in a massive retaliatory nuclear response. Others may bring a knife to a gun fight. Mr. Trump will bring an atomic dirty bomb to a thumb wrestling contest.

They’ve got it coming.

The lack of balance permeates his business life. He has a strange history of bringing defamation suits into court against small business owners and lone workers who complain about not being paid what they are owed.

On a national stage, the habit of a lifetime has become a continuing self-inflicted wound. The only surprise is the ease with which he can destroy his own national image in order to hurt the feelings of a former Miss Universe, for accusing him of being mean.

After all, the public will understand. She hurt his feelings first. That same public must know what Donald has always known: What doesn’t kill you can only make you want to get even.

The lessons of infancy return. I watch an old cartoon revived by a new character.

He rapidly darts about barely catching one falling plate after another. Then, hearing that a one time beauty queen accuses him of unattractive snideness (…Not only that, her attitude…), he will drop the entire stack in one stunning smash.

He can’t resist. He has to go after that last dish.

Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes or RSS
to get episodes automatically downloaded.