The Clinton campaign has spent a lot of time and ad dollars trying to convince voters that Donald Trump is a misogynist who sees women as mere sex objects. At Monday night’s debate, the Democratic nominee sought to bolster this narrative, by telling the story of Alicia Machado.
When Machado won Trump’s Miss Universe pageant in 1996, she was promptly rewarded with a lifetime supply of verbal abuse and humiliation. The mogul derided her as “Miss Housekeeping,” because she was Venezuelan, and then as “Miss Piggy,” because she gained too much weight to fit into Trump’s beauty ideal of emaciation.
To punish her for the latter offense, Trump forced Machado to exercise in front of a bevy of cameras, while he chatted with reporters about her pathological appetite. The 20-year-old would suffer from eating disorders for years to come.
The best way for a politician to deal with a story this ugly is to simply ignore it. There’s nothing the Republican nominee can say to convince the average voter that his behavior toward Machado wasn’t gross. He has a much better chance of convincing that voter that the Iraq War was a disaster, our stupid leaders sign bad trade deals, we don’t win anymore — and Crooked Hillary is complicit in all of it.
Any competent political operative would tell Trump: Forget Machado. Return to your message.
But okay. If Donald truly feels a need to respond — and again, he shouldn’t — there is some stuff in Machado’s backstory that could be weaponized: Shortly after her time as Miss Universe, Machado was accused of being an accomplice in an attempted homicide and then threatening to kill a Venezuelan judge.
Now, this doesn’t make the mogul’s behavior look any better. Trump didn’t fat-shame Machado because he knew that she would one day, allegedly, drive a getaway car for her homicidal boyfriend.
Still, this sort of thing could help the GOP nominee make Machado toxic for the Clinton campaign. Maybe he could get in touch with that judge, one Maximiliano Fuenmayor, and shoot a video in which the justice condemns Hillary Clinton for giving a platform to the woman who tormented him and his family. (Assuming Fuenmayor is still alive and one of the few residents of South America who does not despise the GOP standard-bearer.)
But when Trump reached for his Android at 5:14 Friday morning, he decided against options one and two. Instead, the mogul concluded that the best way to refute allegations of misogyny is to suggest that the woman making them is, in fact, a total slut.