The current occupants of the White House are behaving like a bunch of middle schoolers. It’s weird, because middle school years are widely considered to be among the worst years of any school-going experience. Many people look back fondly on college and high school or even elementary school, but I’ve never heard anyone pine for the warm embrace of eighth grade. If you’re female, this was the year you got your period right in the middle of gym class. If you’re male, you probably spent some time trying to hide your unfortunate erections. Really, there is not much to recommend it. Most of us leave it behind as quickly as possible. Yet, the current administration seems to love behaving like a bunch of adolescent junior high school students.
On Sunday morning the president tweeted a string of juvenile memes including one showing him swinging a golf ball and hitting Hillary Clinton in the head. Why? What possible purpose could that serve for him or anyone else? It’s ridiculous and, frankly, unfathomable from any person over the age of 13. It’s beneath the dignity of the office of the president. It’s beneath the dignity of any adult. And the kids of America seem to recognize this. Teachers have reported an uptick in bullying behavior since Trump entered the political arena. Kids call their classmates ugly names, including racial slurs. They push, they insult, they demean. None of this is new, of course. Nor can it be pinned solely or definitively to The Trump Effect, but many analysts do see a clear connection. When the most powerful man in the country acts like a bad child, children will follow suit.
In truly childlike fashion, Trump seems unable to stop giving people insulting nicknames. This weekend he dubbed Kim Jong-un, a man threatening to start a nuclear war with us, “Rocket Man.” People who give other people unwelcome nicknames are despicable. There was a recurring Saturday Night Live skit about it in the 1990s. No one likes the nickname guy. How does Trump not know this? And what’s next? Wedgies for Gen. McMaster? A swirly for Mitch McConnell? Maybe some bra-popping for Sarah Huckabee Sanders? None of this would surprise me.
One of Trump’s biographers, Michael D’Antonio, said of Trump in an interview with Politico: “I think that he’s sort of playing to the kids in the classroom who hate the teacher too and really love it when someone disrupts things.”
Trump is 71 years old and he still aspires to be the class clown. Ugh.
And immature boys love company. Recently two of Trump’s lawyers were overheard gossiping about the Russia investigation at a popular D.C. lunch spot that just happens to be located right next door to the Washington Bureau of the New York Times. Could anything be more eighth-grade-ridiculous than lunch room gossip? Hasn’t everyone over the age of 15 learned the perils of dishing dirt over tuna salad in public places? Apparently not.
The fact that these grown men continue to make pre-teen level decisions, jokes, and miscalculations is vexing. Either they really have forgotten every lesson they learned in junior high or they managed to never learn those lessons at all. The former means they are too old and out of touch to be doing the jobs they were hired to do. The latter means they aren’t very smart.
It’s too bad we don’t have detention at the White House.
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