Corey Lewandowski, Michelle Fields, and the escalation of a trivial incident

The Republican Party is circling the drain, as an absolutely trivial incident is being blown up to crisis proportions, and the existing party fracture into pro- and anti-Trump factions delivers an image of hapless and out-of-control viciousness to to the swing voters that determine the outcome of presidential elections.

The nation’s political media are giving obsessive coverage of the charging and brief arrest of Donald Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski for simple battery, a misdemeanor.  Surveillance video of the March 8 incident that is the basis for the charge has been screened on the nation’s televisions many times since its release yesterday, but is embedded below for the few readers who may not have seen it over and over again.


In classic he said/she said fashion, the evidence is being formed into competing and incompatible narratives, despite the fact that a consensus view could have been achieved quickly and almost painlessly. Now that battle lines have been drawn, a new and ridiculous “trial of the century” is slated to unfold, quite possibly dominating the nation’s attention during a momentous presidential campaign on which hinges the fate of the nation, should Donald Trump gain the GOP nomination.

Donald Trump and his supporters make the perfectly valid point that Ms. Fields was apparently touching his arm in attempt to ask him a question as a crowd followed Trump out of a just-concluded news conference. He joked last night in Milwaukee that it "has never been the same," making the point that he might be able to file similar charges against Ms. Fields.  Lewandowski then grabbed Ms. Fields and pulled her away from Trump. If we credit the evidence of the finger-shaped bruises on her arms she later photographed and the audio recording made at the time in which she exclaimed to a Washington Post reporter about the incident, then it appears Lewandowski used excessive force in grabbing her and protecting his boss.

As many people have noted, a simple apology from Lewandowski would have sufficed, and that appears to be exactly what Fields wanted. Had both sides chosen the path of graciousness, Ms. Fields could have apologized for laying a hand on Trump as she attempted to do her job.

Instead of choosing to de-escalate, Lewandowski and Trump went on the attack, accusing Fields of being “delusional” and outright denying that Lewandowski ever touched her, a position refuted by the video embedded above (that, incidentally, Trump’s cameras recorded, and which his organization, to its credit, turned over to police, as it was obligated to do).

The escalation that since taken place has seen both sides digging in, and each preaching to the choir of its supporters. Trump’s camp takes pride in the fact that the candidate is not throwing Lewandowski under the bus. His loyalty to his people is a value that resonates strongly with many people, sick of the way that the mere accusation of wrongdoing, justified or not, often leveled on grounds of political correctness has destroyed many careers.

But the anti-Trump faction – which includes his GOP rivals, nearly all of the media, the Hillary campaign, the Sanders campaign, and feminists -- depicts Trump as a misogynist, Lewandowski as a brute, and both men as hotheads. Having attacked Fields in very personal terms (last night in the Milwaukee candidate forum, Trump suggested she might have gotten the bruises elsewhere – suggesting she could have fabricated evidence in what is now a criminal case), they are now pictured as harrassers of a damsel in distress. This is a prefect set up for victimology, a default setting for the media and the left.

There is one serious question that a quite logical extension of the pattern of escalation here, and it relates to an existing doubt about Trump that is quite widespread. If a trivial incident like this can be blown up into a crisis, how would a President Trump handle the myriad potential crises that face the nation as tyrants, thug regimes, and even putative allies play brinksmansho games with the United States?

Probably the most interesting question posed to Trump last night from the audience in Milwaukee was from a female, who asked when ws the last time he had apologized. After being caught off guard and thinking a moment, the most recent example he could some up with was apologizing to his  mother over using “foul language.” It was a telling answer, revealing that the adult Donald Trump never apologizes, even in private.   That he is willing to escalate such a trivial incident raises questions about statecraft when the fate of nations is at stake. Mr. Trump likes to evade answering questions about how we would act as president by averring that he doesn’t want to let potential enemies know win advance what he would do. Unpredictability is a virtue, he avers.

However, in some ways, Donald Trump is utterly predictable.

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