So. I got hit on today by Donald Trump.No context. No detail. It wasn't until 7:02 PM that she put up a column: "I asked Trump a policy question. Then he called me 'beautiful.'" Trump had been talking with a group of WaPo editors for over an hour and:
As the meeting ended and we were walking out of the room, I thanked Trump for taking my question. He turned to me and said, “I really hope I answered your question,” and added casually with a smile, “Beautiful.” I was stunned. I didn’t say thank you, and I don’t think I smiled. He then walked out to meet with my Post colleagues briefly before heading to the elevator. I stayed in the conference room for a few minutes as it sunk in that the potential GOP nominee for president thought it was okay to comment on my appearance. Did he just say that?The first thing I need to know is, what was Attiah's response to his "I really hope I answered your question"? If she said "yes, thanks" or nodded or gave any kind of positive response, then "beautiful" would tend to mean "Great" as in I'm glad you're satisfied with my answer.
It's at least ambiguous. I can understand the psychology of a woman wondering if she was just called beautiful, but this was a very particular woman, a reporter who seems eager to hurt Donald Trump. She stayed in the conference room thinking... exactly what? That she could immediately tweet out "I got hit on today by Donald Trump."
You know, "hit on" goes way beyond getting called "beautiful." Even if we were to assume she's correct and Donald Trump was pushing the social norms and giving a woman a personal compliment in the workplace, it's a big step from there to "hit on." Speaking of social norms... when is it okay to say that another woman's husband is "hitting on" you? Whenever he tells you you're really pretty? If a woman told people my husband "hit on" her and it turned out he'd just said, commenting on her appearance, "beautiful," I'd regard her as delusional or dangerous or both.
Here's the next paragraph in Attiah's column:
Planning out how to question Trump in a way that was illuminating was like planning for asymmetrical warfare against an opponent who doesn’t follow the same rules as you do. Who doesn’t believe in rules. Who thinks that rules won’t help make America great again....But what rules are you following?!
I'm looking at the transcript of the whole discussion with WaPo's editorial board, and it's interesting that Trump does make a comment — an unambiguous comment — about personal appearance. It's directed at the whole group:
TRUMP: I’ll tell you one thing, this is a very good looking group of people here. Could I just go around so I know who the hell I’m talking to?So, yeah, maybe he does have a way of disarming people — or trying to — by suddenly making a surprising and positive remark about physical appearance. He also threw in "the hell." It's an exuberant, casual style of speech.*
Should he not be talking like that? Well, he would not be the front-runner if he hadn't plunged ahead, talking in his unique, entertaining way. Reporters are only jumping on what they can call mistakes because he's been doing so well.
And each little dust-up like this "beautiful" gets conversation going on all sides, and it's hard to predict or watch what's going on in other people's minds. Who knows how many women smile on the man who is generous with the compliments and how many men rankle at what might seem like oversensitive "feminist" sulking over a simple, perfectly nice compliment?
It was not long after the "very good looking" comment, that Attiah was invited (by the editorial page editor) to ask her question. It went like this:
ATTIAH: Uh, yeah, I mean speaking again of the system of what a lot of people would say are some of the uglier components of your campaign; a lot of people have said you’ve been running a very divisive campaign as far as racial divides, you’ve noted you know your comments about Muslims, about Mexicans, immigrants and such. You have information that the country is becoming browner, is becoming younger, is becoming blacker. What in your vision of president, in your presidency, how would you bridge these divides and how will you address a– how are you going to run on a message of inclusion of all Americans?Trump begins by attacking the premise of a question a question she didn't ask:
TRUMP: Well, first of all, if you look at some polls that have come out, I’m doing very well with African Americans. I’m doing, actually if you look at the polls, a lot of the polls that came out, in the, um, what do they call it? Exit polls, like from Nevada and other places, I’m doing very well with Hispanics.She asked how he could get out a "message of inclusion," not whether some people in these groups were voting for him. But she accepts the slight shift in focus and interrupts to say that "some of the polls are saying you’re doing [in the] negatives." He asserts that those polls include "illegals." Among Hispanic "people that are legally living here," and "people leaving voting booths and all, I’m doing very well with them."
He seems about to get on to the inclusiveness theme...
I want to be inclusive, but at the same time, people should come here legally. They should be here legally.... but he slipped right back into his standard immigration lines, and then he launched back into his favorite subject, how he's doing in the polls:
And I think the reason I’m doing, that I will do well, especially once I get started, don’t forget I haven’t even focused on Hillary yet. And, and as you know, you know I’ve had polls that are against me, but I’ve had many polls that say I’d beat Hillary, but they’re not that, that, they don’t mean anything now because it’s too early. Because I haven’t hit her. I’ve only hit her once, and that was eight weeks ago, but, I haven’t started on Hillary yet, and when I do I think I’ll be able to make my points.Then he remembered the question and offered his stock over-the-top boast:
I mean, you know, but, but I think that just to try and answer your question: Uh, I am the least racist person that you will ever meet. Okay. That I can tell you.Attiah retreated into a stock reporter-to-Trump message: "But do you feel that your messages, your rhetoric, are dangerous and divisive for this country?" He answered by only talking about Muslims and, essentially, arguing that it's important to say these things that people are trying to suppress as too dangerous and divisive:
I don’t think so. No, I don’t think so. With the Muslim thing I think it’s a serious problem. I’ve had Muslims call and tell me you’re right with the Muslim thing, I think it’s a serious problem. And it’s a problem that has to be addressed. I mean, there’s tremendous hatred. Even the, even the guy they caught in Paris. He was being hid out by other Muslims, and everybody is after him, and he’s living right next to where he grew up. There’s a serious, serious problem with the Muslims and it’s got to be addressed. It’s temporary, and it’s got to be addressed. And you know you may think of it as negative. Many people think it’s very positive.It's positive to be negative, he's saying. We need negativity. You've got to talk straight about those terrorists, right? Beautiful.
* You may not notice all the positivity in Trump's choice of words. Think about that "I’ll tell you one thing, this is a very good looking group of people here. Could I just go around so I know who the hell I’m talking to?" Let me paraphrase it with equal exuberance and casualness but less social lubrication: Hey, what's wrong with you people? You never introduced yourself! I'm seeing lots faces here, but I've got no names.