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Illustration by Alex Eben Meyer for TIME

Mr. President, I Demand You Do Your Duty and Insult Me. Please?

Jul 20, 2017
Ideas
Joel Stein writes a weekly column for TIME magazine. His book, Man Made: A Stupid Quest For Masculinity, changes people’s lives.

A year ago mainstream journalists were insignificant — usurped by bloggers, tweeters, podcasters and selfies of women doing yoga. But now we're getting into personal feuds with the President, a distinction once reserved for dictators, political rivals, union leaders and Donald Trump.

President Trump spends more time on journalism criticism than Columbia's graduate school. He's insulted journalists I haven't even heard of, and I'm a journalist. He has viciously taunted Glenn Beck, MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski, The View's Joy Behar, Yahoo News' Matt Bai and Lisa Belkin, and New York Times writers Charles Blow, Frank Bruni, David Brooks and Michael Barbaro. These are just the B's.

So I feel deeply insignificant, because Trump has not once threatened, mocked, discredited or belittled me, leaving me feeling like a washed-up celebrity in the front row of a Don Rickles show. It's not like I haven't tried to bait him. I've insulted him on Twitter, in my column, on radio shows and on cable-news programs. I've even tried on the phone and in person. The closest I came was when I told him I was surprised that he was offering to shake my hand despite his being a germophobe. "What am I going to catch from you?" he asked in a way that seemed like an insult at the time, but now that I've become more familiar with his history, I realize this was just his way of acknowledging that I'm white.

And Trump must be familiar with my writing. He likes TIME so much that someone in his orbit created a fake TIME cover of him to put on the walls of his golf club. I don't know exactly what articles run inside his fake version of TIME, but I'm guessing that if anything from real TIME runs in fake TIME, it's got to be my column.

A few months ago I asked Hope Hicks, the White House director of strategic communications, how I could provoke the President into retaliating, and she told me to just keep doing what I do. It has not worked. Fake news!

In desperation, I prostrated myself before successful Trump aggravators, begging for tips on how to be Trumpsulted™. I asked Kurt Andersen, who as co-founder and co-editor of Spy published the 'short-fingered vulgarian' insult and is co-writing a book with Alec Baldwin called You Can't Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year as President Donald J. Trump. He's been Trumpsulted™ as a "third-rate writer and an unsuccessful one at that." To get that kind of presidential attention, Andersen suggested that I chronicle a fake affair with Melania Trump, naming dates when she was apart from her husband. I was going to try this on Twitter when I realized that my lovely wife, Cassandra, would see it and then make fun of me for insinuating that Melania would ever have any interest in me.

S.E. Cupp, a conservative host on HLN who has been Trumpsulted™ as a "totally biased loser who doesn't have a clue" and "one of the least talented people on television," said I was going to have a tough time. "It seems to help if you have a uterus," she explained. Also, I needed a more prominent weakness. "Can you become a celebrated POW? A disabled journalist? An overweight woman? Or a man of below-average height?" she asked. Cupp has the advantage of being considered a traitor, since she's a conservative. Trump sent her a housewarming gift when she moved into one of his buildings and asked her to introduce him at an event before she turned on him. All I had was our one possibly racist handshake.

But I will not give up. I will point out that his tiny hands apparently cannot pull his necktie above his knees. I will remind everyone that golfers — especially ones who don't drink — never drive carts on the green. I will bring up the fact that people with great stamina don't fall asleep in the middle of a rage tweet and type "covfefe." I will accuse him of mistaking Theodore Roosevelt's advice as "tweet loudly and carry a tiny glove." And I will most certainly remind the man who spends so much time selling heterosexual machismo that no straight man I've ever met cares about beauty pageants. The best guess I have for the winner of the last Miss USA pageant is "Miss USA."

Because when you have a President so threatened by facts and opinions that oppose his views that he tweets about the media more than his policies, it makes being a journalist more important than it's ever been in my career. It also makes it way more fun.


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