Trump Time Capsule #102: ‘Nervous Mess’

Pastor Faith Green Timmons speaking with the candidate yesterday in Flint. When he was no longer in the pastor's presence, Trump said that at the moment depicted here she was a "nervous mess." (Evan Vucci / AP)
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

We could be entering the Era of Hourly Time Capsules, in part because I need to make up for the past few days away from The Internet.

To note this for-the-moment highly publicized episode before it gets sandblasted from public memory by whatever is about to happen next: Yesterday, in Flint, Michigan, Donald Trump revealed a trait that is strikingly recurrent in his own behavior, and strikingly different from what I can recall from any other presidential nominee.

That trait is the combination of his bombast about women when they are not present, and his reluctance or inability to confront them face-to-face.

The man is a bully, and like most bullies he is a coward.

I don’t know of any other nominee in modern times of whom that was so clearly true. (Richard Nixon gave all the signs of not being physically courageous, but he rhetorically he did not show the stark contrast between being nasty-behind-their-back / polite-to-their-face that Trump does with women who challenge him.)

This is something I discuss in my current cover story, involving the three distinct moments in the primary season when Trump looked worst in live exchanges:

Donald Trump was made to look bad by one interviewer with the time, preparation, and guts to pursue a line of questioning, and by two women who discussed right in front of him the ugly things he has said.

If he shows up for this fall’s debates, he’ll encounter moderators with a lot of time to explore issues, and a woman with decades of onstage toughness behind her.

And it’s what you saw in this now-famous showdown in Flint, in which Trump meekly accepted correction in person from Pastor Faith Green Timmons, when she told him he was not supposed to be making a political speech—and then, once safely out of her gaze, flat-out lied about what had happened and had been captured on tape.

Here is what Trump told the never-disappointing Fox and Friends this morning:

“Something was up,” Trump told Fox and Friends on Thursday morning, calling the Rev. Faith Green Timmons a “nervous mess.”

“I noticed she was so nervous when she introduced me,” he said. “When she got up to introduce me she was so nervous, she was shaking. I said, wow, this is kind of strange. Then she came up. So she had that in mind, there’s no question.”

And here is what actually occurred:

***

Bonus travails-of-the-press point: NPR’s Scott Detrow did a very strong and pointed post contrasting the way Trump described the Flint episode and what actually occurred there.

But here is the way NPR headlined his post:

“Misstates Key Facts”? What, exactly, would be wrong with the word “lies”?

More in the hopper.