CHUCK TODD: Is your goal of this debate is to get under his skin? Is that why you gave Mark Cuban a ticket right in the front row?Trump's reaction, you remember, was "Perhaps I will put Gennifer Flowers right alongside of him!" Now, I have a feminist problem with Trump's remark, one that I haven't seen anyone else notice, and that is the idea that he can "put" the woman where he likes. Flowers is a person, not an object — like a vase of flowers — but Flowers has already responded positively to the notion of getting placed in front of Hillary.*
JOHN PODESTA: No, I think Mark Cuban is one of the business leaders who was never involved in partisan politics who's endorsed Hillary because he thinks she'll do better for the-- for the economy. I think that, you know, you saw his reaction, which is to do his favorite sport, which is to dive in the sewer and go for a swim.
So let me move on to the feminist problem I have with what Podesta said. He says the name, Mark Cuban, and vaunts him as a business leader who is above politics, but he won't say the name of the woman and he speaks of her as a creature of the sewer.
Todd pushes him: "You said-- you referred to diving into the sewer, so you believe that inviting Gennifer Flowers is diving into the sewer?" And Podesta has the smarts to resist further disrespecting the woman. But later, there's a panel, and one of the participants is Stephanie Cutter (who was Obama's deputy campaign manager in 2012 and who helped John Kerry prepare for debates in 2004). Todd asks her about "the idea of gamesmanship, which is the Clinton Campaign deciding to put Mark Cuban in the front row," and the response had me shouting at the TV:
STEPHANIE CUTTER: ... What Clinton and Trump are doing are trying to throw each other off their game. The difference is Hillary Clinton is doing it with a legitimate businessman, also, a celebrity. And as John Podesta put it earlier on your show, Trump is just jumping right down in the sewer and swimming in it by inviting Gennifer Flowers.The man is "legitimate," and the woman is a "sewer."
Chuck Todd turned to another panelist, Steve Schmidt (a senior adviser to John McCain in 2008).
STEVE SCHMIDT: [The tactic of inviting Cuban] was clearly designed to provoke Donald Trump and it provoked Donald Trump, it provoked Donald Trump into going down the Gennifer Flowers rabbit hole....The Gennifer Flowers rabbit hole?! Don't call a woman a "hole." Don't speak of a human being as a lower animal, a rodent. Whatever these people want to say about Trump, they should say it about Trump, but they instinctively jumped to express disgust toward the woman — who's really just a bystander to the pre-debate mind-games. Is this misogyny? The argument that it is not depends on the idea that the disgust is with sexuality — what happens when the man and the woman — Bill and Gennifer — get together and not with the woman herself. But the instinct — in both Podesta and Cutter — was to take the man out of the picture. Bill, like Mark Cuban, is legitimate. That horrible woman over there should be treated as a nonentity — down in a hole, there in the excrement, a rodent, a filthy pest. Anyone who would name her or treat her with equal dignity has himself fallen down into the sewer with her — "swimming in it," swimming in shit.
Being on the side of the female candidate does not absolve you of misogyny. It blinds you to it.
* The full tweet is: "If dopey Mark Cuban of failed Benefactor fame wants to sit in the front row, perhaps I will put Gennifer Flowers right alongside of him!" You can see that Cuban's autonomy is respected in the word "wants." What does Cuban want to do? By contrast, Flowers can be put where Trump wants.