Pointing out grammatical lapses to Donald Trump is as meaningless as pointing out poor table manners to a lemur.
Nevertheless, Trump’s continuing mantra: I feel badly for Judge Kavanaugh is grating on me for two reasons—one less serious than the other.
Less serious is his use of the word badly. It’s a good word, and badly needed at a time when so many people are behaving…well…badly. And actually, if someone has difficulty feeling things—like maybe discerning the difference between steel wool and cashmere—than that person would, in fact, feel very badly. (There’s a Trump joke in there somewhere: if you write it, I’m willing to take credit for it.)
But badly really has nothing to do with regret. If you’re sorry for some hardship a friend is experiencing, then you feel bad for that person, just as when you’re happy for someone, you feel good—which brings me back to Brett Kavanaugh. I believe Trump felt good last week when he saw the Grassley-fed Judiciary Committee eager to apply the rubber-stamp to Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Today the president feels not so good, or…bad.
In truth, badly in the informal context of everyday speech is not the worst mistake in the world—some would say it isn’t a mistake at all; but the real mistake is not letting this “badliness” that he feels extend to the victim. Kavanaugh may be absorbing some spots on his heretofore spotless reputation, but Christine Blasey Ford was the teenager who, thirty-six years ago, was pinned on the bed while Kavanaugh allegedly tried to separate her from her clothes. If Trump feels badly for anyone, it should be the victim, Professor Ford, not some beer-breathed high school kid who had somehow missed the definition of rape.
Of course that would imply that Trump also has regrets for the various women he has harassed, shamed, or assaulted in his life—all the way from the unknown “recipient” of his Access Hollywood boast, to Carmen Yulin Cruz, San Juan, Puerto Rico’s mayor, whom Trump excoriated again last week.
No one wants miracles—just an admission that the victim has been victimized. An attempt at empathy. Baby steps. There’s no indication of Trump’s willingness to stand on a scaffold in the middle of town and confess his own indiscretions anytime soon, no matter how badly we’d like him to. We should all feel bad about that.
(My apologies to Lemurs who are very nice, quite intelligent,
and capable of memorizing sequences and grasping basic math…and who deserve better than my snarky comparison.)