To Donald Trump supporters, I pose this question: When you think back on your high school, your platoon during basic training, your frat brothers, men you've dated, or the regulars at your local bar, did the loud guy who boasted about his anatomical endowments strike you as a confident winner, or deeply insecure?
Was he comfortable in his skin and ready to lead others, guided by the needs of the task at hand, or was he desperate to fill a void in his psyche with attention-seeking?
These are not idle questions.
Once again, the Republican frontrunner for the presidential nomination is talking at length about his penis to the national press. His comments came in an interview with the Washington Post’s editorial board. Its editor, Fred Hiatt, harkened back to a GOP debate where Trump went out of his way to assure Americans that “there's no problem” when it comes to his genitals. “You are smart and you went to a good school. Yet you are up there talking about your hands and the size of your private parts,” Hiatt said. “Do you regret having engaged in that?”
He could’ve quickly dispatched the question.
This is a trivial matter. We have more important things to talk about than a lighthearted moment during a debate. As far as I’m concerned the subject should never come up again.
Or he could have doubled down in a lighthearted way.
It’s simply too yuge to ignore, Fred—but seriously, let’s not waste our time with this nonsense, okay?
Instead, he spoke about the matter at great length, starting with the most unnerving defense of his behavior that he could’ve offered. “No, I had to do it,” he said. “Look, this guy. Here’s my hands. Now I have my hands, I hear, on the New Yorker, a picture of my hands. A hand with little fingers coming out of a stem. Like, little.”
He wants to lead the U.S. military. Yet he tells us that he had to act as he did partly because of a cartoon on the cover of a magazine. What could Vladimir Putin bait Donald Trump into doing with a strategic joke about his executive branch?
Trump’s apparent insecurity only grew more conspicuous as the interview wore on.“Look at my hands,” he said. “They’re fine. Nobody other than Graydon Carter years ago used to use that,” he continued, name-checking another Manhattan media figure whose opinion he evidently cares about. “My hands are normal hands.”
Next he invoked Marco Rubio in the fashion of a child getting scolded by his mother:
During a debate, he was losing, and he said, “Oh, he has small hands and therefore, you know what that means.” This was not me. This was Rubio that said, “He has small hands and you know what that means.” Okay?
So, he started it.
As his lengthy monologue continued, one began to sense that he didn’t mind the subject:
So, what I said a couple of days later… and what happened is I was on line shaking hands with supporters, and one of supporters got up and he said, “Mr. Trump, you have strong hands. You have good-sized hands.”
And then another one would say, “You have great hands, Mr. Trump, I had no idea.”
I said, “What do you mean?”
He said, “I thought you were like deformed, and I thought you had small hands.”
I had 50 people… Is that a correct statement? I mean people were writing, “How are Mr. Trump’s hands?” My hands are fine. You know, my hands are normal. Slightly large, actually. In fact, I buy a slightly smaller than large glove, okay? No, but I did this because everybody was saying to me, “Oh, your hands are very nice. They are normal.” So Rubio, in a debate, said, because he had nothing else to say… now I was hitting him pretty hard. He wanted to do his Don Rickles stuff and it didn’t work out. Obviously, it didn’t work too well. But one of the things he said was “He has small hands and therefore, you know what that means, he has small something else.” You can look it up. I didn’t say it.
I’ll be the first to stipulate that Donald Trump’s hands are likable enough. But I have a hard time believing that folks on the campaign trail were spontaneously marveling at their splendor. Regardless, a man who talks like this––never mind what a campaign rival said about him––is betraying an alarming relationship with trivial slights. His hands are normal, just like he says, and I presume that his most loyal apprentice is proportionate to them. It is Trump’s dogged determination to ensure that no one thinks otherwise that suggests a dearth of self-assurance at his core.
Were there no other evidence for that character trait I might dismiss the matter. There are worse things than being concerned with what others think of you. (Hell, I was sympathetic to Anthony Weiner.) But Trump has been a media hound from the start, brags about what he calls his good looks, puts his name in gold letters atop of skyscrapers, contrived to judge a beauty pageant, took a reality TV gig, and dissolved two marriages in favor of younger and younger women on his arm.
The man doesn’t exactly scream inner-confidence.
And if you can believe it, the exchange with the Washington Post was still longer:
MARCUS: You chose to raise it …
TRUMP: No, I chose to respond.
MARUS: You chose to respond.
TRUMP: I had no choice.
MARCUS: You chose to raise it during a debate. Can you explain why you had no choice?
That’s what really gets me: He seems to believe that he truly had “no choice” but to go on national television and tell millions of people that he has “no problem” below his belt. I can’t help but imagine some future war that he had “no choice” but to launch. After all, what might people think of his manhood if he backed down from a taunt?
Here’s the end of the exchange:
TRUMP: I don’t want people to go around thinking that I have a problem. I’m telling you, Ruth, I had so many people. I would say 25, 30 people would tell me … every time I’d shake people’s hand, “Oh, you have nice hands.” Why shouldn’t I? And, by the way, by saying that I solved the problem. Nobody questions … I even held up my hands, and said, “Look, take a look at that hand.”
MARCUS: You told us in the debate ….
TRUMP: And by saying that, I solved the problem. Nobody questions. Everyone held my hand. I said look. Take a look at that hand.
MARCUS: You told us in the debate that you guaranteed there was not another problem. Was that presidential? And why did you decide to do that?
TRUMP: I don’t know if it was presidential, honestly, whether it is or not. He said, ‘Donald Trump has small hands and therefore he has small something else.’ I didn’t say that. And all I did is when he failed, when he was failing, when he was, when Christie made him look bad, I gave him the– a little recap and I said, and I said, and I had this big strong powerful hand ready to grab him, because I thought he was going to faint. And everybody took it fine. Whether it was presidential or not I can’t tell you. I can just say that what he said was a lie. And everybody, they wanted to do stories on my hands; after I said that, they never did. And then I held up the hand, I showed people the hand. You know, when I’ve got a big audience. So yeah, I think it’s not a question of presidential …
MARCUS: He said he regrets …
HIATT: Okay, let’s move on here. Let’s move on.
TRUMP: I did feel I should respond. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know. But I felt I should respond because everybody was talking about it.
I don’t care a whit about what’s considered “presidential” by the Washington Post editorial board. But I am averse to elevating a man who lacks the self-confidence to be a stable president and covers up that fact by engaging in endless, hyperbolic bluster. Trump supporters, can you name a great leader who brags like your champion?
There’s a reason for that.