It’s been 500 years or so since the impeachment, but remember Fiona Hill, formerly of the National Security Council? There’s a fascinating piece by Adam Entous in The New Yorker: “What Fiona Hill Learned in the White House.” If you were intrigued by Hill’s testimony, wondered about her background or are curious about how a no-nonsense public servant like Hill ended up working for Trump and Bolton, it’s worth a read.
Hill doesn’t seem to buy into the theory that Trump does Putin’s bidding because he (Trump) is compromised in any direct sense. She appears to believe Trump is a credulous ignoramus who is impressed by autocratic power and unaware of how the presidency functions. He follows his instincts — unleavened by knowledge of history or geopolitical considerations — and thus treats U.S. foreign policy decisions as personal transactions for his own gain. None of that surprised me.
Neither did my biggest takeaway from the article: that Trump is every bit as egregious a sexist pig as I imagined. But I’m seething over that aspect of his misrule anew after reading the article. Hill tells a story about her first day on the job, when she accompanied then-Secretary of State Tillerson and National Security Advisor McMaster to the Oval Office to debrief Trump after a call with Putin.
As the Russia expert, Hill thought she would be contributing to a “substantive discussion about the call.” But Trump was preoccupied with editing a press release someone had written about the call, and he evidently mistook Hill for an administrative assistant. He momentarily confused her by waving the annotated press release at her (I’m imagining “YOUR EXLENCY” and “VERY” and “VERY STRONGLY” inserted via gold Sharpie). When Hill looked baffled, Trump said, “Hey darling, are you listening?”
Her male colleagues left her hanging, perhaps afraid that it would anger Trump if they told him Hill’s actual White House function. Ivanka got huffy about it for some reason and thought Hill was being rude to Trump, maybe because Hill didn’t immediately leap up to do the press release edits? Who knows. But Hill found herself in Stepford right from the start and tried to fit in, sort of:
Until that point, Hill said, she had always let her work speak for itself. But she had noticed that women in the West Wing wore designer dresses and more makeup. After the meeting, she went out and bought a few new outfits, “just so I wouldn’t be conspicuous in my dowdiness.” It was well known that Trump put inordinate stock in appearances, particularly when it came to women. “Central casting is a real thing for him,” a longtime Trump adviser told me. Trump addressed his female aides as “honey,” “sweetie,” and “darling.” If he didn’t like how an adviser looked, he would say, “Honey, you look so tired.” Trump would sometimes say of his female advisers, “They look O.K. in person, but on TV they look really bad. Why do they look so bad?”
After Betsy DeVos, the Education Secretary, was interviewed on “60 Minutes,” Trump complained that she wasn’t attractive enough. When officials were discussing the possibility of a new position for Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Trump said he didn’t like how her cheeks looked. He complained to officials that Kirstjen Nielsen, the Secretary of Homeland Security, wasn’t sufficiently aggressive toward migrants—and she was too short. When Trump insulted a female adviser, the men in the room would look away. “It throws you off your game,” a former female adviser told me. “It deflates you.” Another former White House official, a man, told me that Trump was “rougher with women. He has a problem with women.” It was soon evident that Trump had a problem with Hill. “Forgive me, Fiona’s attractive, but he doesn’t trust women that are kind of non-players in his world,” the former official said. He added, “Anyone who takes notes is suspect.” A former national-security official told me that, after the incident in the Oval Office, some of Trump’s top advisers, including Reince Priebus, his chief of staff, began referring to Hill as “the Russia bitch.”
I think we can all guess what the unnamed former male official meant when he said Trump “doesn’t trust women that are kind of non-players in his world.” Among the women who are “players” in that world are the empty-headed pouty wife and vacuous grifty daughter and vacant lying press secretary. I don’t believe for a minute he trusts any of them either but likely considers them interchangeably fuckable (except the wife, who is probably considered too old now).
It’s so hard to focus on any single aspect of Trump’s personal awfulness. He’s such an irredeemable asshole in every respect. His behavior is so consistently inappropriate and outrageous that it’s impossible to catalog it all, let along pause to acknowledge each horrendous and destructive aspect of it, at least in real time. It’s more difficult still to comprehend all the ways Trump’s elevation to the presidency cheapens and shames this country and demeans and alienates tens of millions its citizens.
But some day, damn it, we need to have a reckoning about Trump creating a low-rent escort service environment in the White House and the gross toadies like Reince Preibus who eagerly joined in. We should know the names of the cowardly shits — men and women — who not only did not oppose this outrageous behavior but didn’t even think it was worth mentioning. Hill didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know about Trump and the organization he runs, not during the impeachment hearings, and not in this article. But if we’re making a list of the things Trump wrecked that need to be fixed, I hope the vile misogyny he exuded and enabled at least makes the top fucking 5.