"Leave the kid alone."
This is a great old movie line from the 1979 film "The Wanderers," which came out when I was interning that summer at The Washington Post.
It applies well today as advice to former President Trump after his regrettable attack last week on Kayleigh McEnany, one of the most effective presidential press secretaries in decades.
President Trump launched a tweet attack on McEnany for an imagined slight that was minuscule and unworthy of his vitriol.
What bugs me about this is: when will Trump learn to pipe down and respond coolly and calmly to some perceived offense, instead of lashing out like a spurned lover?
McEnany, now age 35, was a passionate protector and defender of Donald Trump, one of the most controversial, combative, and ornery presidents in U.S. history.
She was whip-smart, quick-witted and exhaustively well prepared, running circles around reporters in the hellfire and turmoil of his final year in office, amid the COVID-19 pandemic and his re-election campaign.
Kayleigh even stood up for President Trump on April 4, when he was indicted in New York on 34 bogus felony counts by the biased New York district attorney, Alvin Bragg. But what has she done for him lately?
Last Tuesday night, (May 30, 2023) Kayleigh was on Fox News and speaking to host Jesse Watters when she referred to poll numbers in Iowa and said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., was "closing the gap" with President Trump.
Trump took offense to this, tweeting out a snippy retort on his social media platform, Truth Social, after which it showed up on Twitter and sparked media coverage.
It begins: "Kayleigh 'Milktoast' McEnany just gave out the wrong poll numbers on Fox News. I am 34 points up on Desanctimonious, not 25 up." By the way, it’s "Milquetoast," named after a cartoon character from 100 years ago.
Trump tweeting further, "While 25 is great, it’s not 34. She knew the number was corrected upwards by the group that did the poll. The RINOs & globalists can have her. Fox News should only use real stars!!!"
This is a rather bitter comment for a minor infraction, especially given that Kayleigh McEnany has been such a loyal and capable defender of Donald Trump.
I talk about this more on the new episode of my podcast "What's Bugging Me" on Ricochet.
After Trump tweeted, other pixel pundits jumped to Kayleigh’s defense. Brit Hume of Fox News called it "immature." "Completely unhinged," declared Marc Thissen, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).
And Brian Kilmeade on Fox News, one of the nicest guys in television, called Trump’s comments "insane," as you can see here.
Kayleigh McEnany was guilty only of exaggeration —Trump leads DeSantis among Republicans in Iowa by 62% to 20%.
But she isn’t a candidate for office, she is a pixel pundit on cable news, and it’s not as if she endorsed Ron DeSantis or criticized Trump directly.
Yet our former president retaliates like a high school boy who breaks up with the homecoming queen because he’s so afraid she’s going to break up with him.
Because he is unworthy, so you pre-empt your fear of rejection by rejecting her and getting it over with.
So, how to process this — or spin it? Trump’s proclivity for responding from the gut, and wearing his passion and his hurt on his sleeve for all to see, was startling and invigorating to many of his supporters in the 2016 campaign.
We never had heard a public figure speak so bluntly, so inappropriately, and often it was fun and funny.
And in the 2020 campaign, Trump’s combativeness and his sometimes brutal commentary might have been necessary — it felt like everyone was against him.
The FBI, Obama holdovers, the Deep State, the Democrats and the media.
But in the campaign for 2024, this Trump-schtick already is wearing thin.
We want to see a president grow — and Trump continues to fall short, given his tendency to be fiendishly defensive, easily hurt, somewhat paranoid, and at times a little too vicious.
And I voted for this man. Twice.
Dennis Kneale is a writer and media strategist in New York and host of the podcast, "What's Bugging Me." Previously, he was an anchor at CNBC and at Fox Business Network, after serving as a senior editor at The Wall Street Journal and managing editor of Forbes. Read Dennis Kneale's reports — More Here.
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