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It’s OK, Amy Klobuchar. Churchill Was a Jackass, Too.

February 28, 2019
It’s OK, Amy Klobuchar. Churchill Was a Jackass, Too.
(Alex Wong/Getty Images for Meet the Press)

In America, there are a handful of professions in which we encourage people to be jackasses: Lawyer, celebrity chef, fashion critic, opera singer, real housewife of a given geographic region, etc. For society’s benefit, all are encouraged to fully embrace their role as an insufferable horse’s anus.

Throughout history, politicians have avoided this this characterization, at least publicly. Out on the trail, they  kiss babies and tell crowds, in the words of P.J. O’Rourke, “Vote for me, folks, and you’ll be farting through silk.”

The perception was that Americans wanted relatable leaders with whom they would share their Netflix passwords. But this theory was blown in 2016, when the American people elected a proud, unapologetic asshole to the presidency.

Only one man in the race was wretched enough to mock one female journalist’s menstrual cycle, deride American prisoners of war, call a female candidate ugly, and wave his limp arms to imitate a disabled reporter. Naturally, this was all nothing new; the Access Hollywood video that would have derailed a less vigorous reprobate’s campaign dated back to 2005.

Donald Trump’s appeal to his voters was that he’s a tough guy who fights. His fetish for cruelty (making vanquished foe Chris Christie walk in the rain while Trump held an umbrella, murdering Mitt Romney’s soul at a dinner where Trump dangled the secretary of state slot before him, only to give it to Rex Tillerson) showed Trump’s unwillingness to be cowed by propriety. His actual positions were irrelevant; his supporters simply wanted payback against a society that they recognized less every day.

In trying to counter Trump, Democrats have lurched leftward, embracing preposterous new plans to seize control of every human action conceivable. (Ironically, Democrats will argue this is necessary because Trump has seized too much power.)

The Democrats, of course have it all wrong; Trump’s appeal has nothing to do with issues. As they continue to argue who is the most genuine socialist, the president will dominate headlines by reveling in his role as a fact-averse loudmouth. After all, what is Medicare for All if not border-wall-style pipe dream on the left? Kamala Harris should promise Mexico’s going to pay for the Green New Deal, just to make the circle complete.

Yet just when it seemed the Democrats were going to be Ocasio-Cortezed into irrelevance, the skies parted and handed them a gift: culinary MacGyver and senator, Amy Klobuchar.

To label Klobuchar a jackass is to diminish her truly singular awfulness. Reports in the New York Times, HuffPo, BuzzFeed News and elsewhere have documented the cruelty with which she has handled her staff. If the stories told by her employees are true – and there are a lot of them – Klobuchar would be a gold medal contender in the Olympic cell phone toss. Mitt Romney was ridiculed for saying he had “binders full of women;” Klobuchar allegedly has developed a habit of hurling binders at women.

Clearly, these leaks about Klobuchar were meant to damage her campaign. But they might have done the exact opposite.

While the story about the senator eating a salad with a comb after berating a staffer raises eyebrows, Klobuchar has conceded she has often pushed her employees too far. Older voters might even see her demanding style as a way to whip her millennial staffers into focus. Just last week, Senator Dianne Feinstein was seen tersely lecturing some impressionable children who tried to kidsplain climate change to her, and came out with high marks in some circles.

In their own minds, politicians always envision themselves as John F. Kennedy, while voters typically believe they’re more like Mayor McCheese. Yet with Trump’s election, the stage curtains have parted and we can see the politicians’ backstage machinations. It is clear now that voters are willing to elect an asshole, as long as they’re the right asshole.

For all that politicians try to present themselves as laid-back good guys, America has elected its share of quick-tempered malcontents.  Even the presidents we traditionally think of as nice guys often just have really good public relations teams. Bill Clinton’s staff deemed his harangues “purple fits.” Andrew Jackson, whose life of violence leading up to the presidency included partaking in duels, once shot a guy for cheating on a horse race bet. Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Richard Nixon were all notorious dyspeptics. Warren G. Harding once choked his Veterans Bureau director in the president’s office.

Winston Churchill, perhaps the most beloved politician of the 20th century, was often bitter and cruel to his staff and colleagues. His wife Clementine once wrote to him warning him about his “rough, sarcastic and overbearing manner.”

“You won’t get the best results by irascibility and rudeness,” she wrote.

In 2015 and 2016, Trump set himself apart from the crowded GOP presidential field by declining to pretend he was anything he wasn’t. In 2019, Klobuchar could take out her multi-functional comb and carve herself a path in the Democratic primary as the WWE Wrestling-style “heel” of the group. Ironically, taking a lesson from wrestling would show America she’s not a phony.

Christian Schneider

Christian Schneider is a member of the USA Today board of contributors and author of 1916: The Blog. Twitter: @Schneider_CM.