I avoid making fun of someone’s physical appearance. I really do. But I’m totally struggling here, folks. All I can say is that the White House image mavens who allowed Donald Trump to be seen with a 390-pound sumo wrestler in Tokyo really blew it. I can’t imagine how it was that Donald Trump, who is all about branding, would agree to such a setup.
Usually, it’s Trump who’s mud wrestling on Twitter, oozing out his insults and setting the tone for what passes as political debate in the not-really-United States. Among his latest targets is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has pressed his buttons with her understated insults. All he can do is have his putrid posse distort videos of her, and call her names like “Crazy Nancy.” By the way, which is it — “Crazy Nancy” or “Crazy Bernie”? His repetition shows how rattled he is; that or he’s lost his creative insult touch.
She has really gotten to him. He blusters, and she stays back and administers the “death of a thousand cuts.” In terms of style, he has met his match. Of course, style was never the Donald Trump strong suit.
Why are the two of them in such a dissing match? Well, the nation’s commander in chief has an explanation that has rattled around playgrounds for centuries: She started it.
“Did you hear what she said about me, long before I went after her? Did you hear? She made horrible statements,” he remarked on the South Lawn of the White House. “She knows they’re not true. She said terrible things. So I just responded in kind.”
Then the speaker of the House responded in kind, and then the president, and — well, you get the idea. It’s called maturity in government.
Most pathetic of all, Americans are not the best at high-level insults. The North Koreans have spent generations developing their taunting skills. Remember that before Kim Jong Un became one of President Trump’s dictator running buddies, his people referred to Trump as a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard.” We had to look up that one to find they were calling him senile.
To show they are bipartisan, they pounced all over Joe Biden when he called Kim a “tyrant.” The North Koreans let fly with “fool of low IQ.” They referred to Trump’s hard-line national security adviser John Bolton as a “defective human product.” They certainly have not lost their subtle touch.
The president made his trip to that part of the world over Memorial Day weekend for rounds of golf with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, his sumo encounter (the one we’d never joke about) and even a meeting with new Emperor Naruhito. To be totally fair and balanced, POTUS, at least in public, didn’t embarrass anyone, which could be described as progress.
President Trump will have just a few days here at home to wreak havoc before he gets his next chance at mortifying his country when he travels to snarly old England to see the queen.
Speaking of Japanese martial arts, rhetorically, Pelosi is skillful in the use of jiujitsu, with its emphasis on using the opponent’s own weight to defeat him. Unfortunately, it’s the nation’s imperative business that has been tripped up by all the nastiness.
(Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN.)
© 2019 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.