In a Daily Intelligencer chat yesterday about the Roseanne Barr saga, Jonathan Chait and I, along with moderator Ezekiel Kweku, eventually got around to the inevitable question of whether and how the president of the United States might make his pithy views known. It was taken for granted that the nation’s most avid TV watcher would be all over it, and that Twitter would likely be the medium chosen to communicate on this, as on most other vital subjects of the day.
Ezekiel: Trump tweeted about her ratings and praised her. I’m curious what he’ll have to say about this.
Ed: Probably nothing, but then again, he didn’t have to say nice things about the Charlottesville rioters, but he did anyway.
Ezekiel: I can actually imagine him condemning her racism and then saying “What about XYZ.”
Ezekiel: Weirdly, yeah. Wouldn’t bet on it, but …
Ed: Yeah, Trump purporting to “rise above” a racial dispute is both hilarious and quite possible. But there’s zero chance he’s not riveted by this saga, right? I mean, I know he’s got a lot on his mind what with trade negotiations, but still …
Ezekiel: Oh, he’s definitely thinking about it … All right, let’s do some prognosticating. What are the odds on when Trump tweets about this?
Ed: 3-1 tomorrow morning. After that, the odds get pretty long, unless Trump is cooped up at Mar-a-Lago soon without access to golf.
Jon: Does he still do late-night tweets?
Ezekiel: Would be a good target for a late-night tweet. And what are the odds it’s something negative about Roseanne?
Ed: Pretty good if combined, as you suggested, with whataboutism. You know — “Roseanne insulted black people, Crooked Hillary insulted white people … and did you know that a very high percentage of Mueller’s targets have been white?”
Jon: I would be very surprised if he went neg on Roseanne. She has not insulted him, has she? Not recently, anyway. I think the play for Trump is to emphasize victimization, or at least hypocrisy, at the hands of liberal Hollywood.
Ed: Yeah, “hypocrisy” is usually at the heart of whataboutism.
Looks like we nailed both the timing and the content of Trump’s reaction:
It was, in retrospect, a pretty easy call, since “whataboutism” is the standard conservative reaction to any Trump or Trumpite misdeed these days, and a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without the president considering its relationship to himself. It is interesting that in trying to shift attention from ABC’s action toward Barr to its alleged victimization of “President Donald J. Trump,” he did not even pause to condemn Roseanne’s racist behavior. For a politician who is so obsessed with looking powerful and always “winning,” Trump’s readiness to whine continues to provide a glimpse into the insecurities and inability to admit errors that so characterize the 45th president. And the incident also displays his reluctance to reproach his fans, however nasty their behavior. I guess that would be too “politically correct.”