This may be both the most frequently posed question on earth and the one least likely ever to be properly answered. But after Angela Merkel’s jaunt to Washington DC, a mystified planet once again asks itself this: What the hell is Donald Trump’s problem with mature women?
If this presidential reality were more like televisual art, and less like deleted scenes from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, at least one person might get the chance to find out.
Lately, I’ve been rewatching The West Wing in the quest for escapism. It doesn’t work. Rather than finding comfort in Aaron Sorkin’s utopian White House, the contrast heightens the horror.
But nothing can tarnish its brilliance, and I beg anyone who hasn’t seen it to correct that. If so, you’ll eventually come upon a story line in which, after five nights without a wink, an insomniac President Jed Barlet has a psychiatrist smuggled in. Once the shrink rules out caffeine, nicotine, spicy food etc, he chisels a weary grin from Bartlet by asking if his job involves much stress.
No meganarcissist would ask for professional help, since that would be a show of weakness. But were Trump forced into an evaluation – preferably lasting almost four years, and conducted by the planet’s 300 finest psychiatrists working four hour shifts around the clock in six teams of 50 working four hours – what would they make of Friday’s gallantry? How would they explain why, when invited to shake her hand by journalists and Chancellor Merkel herself, Trump sat rigidly still and played deaf?
Since the Goldwater Rule – the ban on US psychiatrists speculating about non-patients – does not apply here, let’s take a punt on a deep rooted phobia of mature women.
With younger females, as we know, he is fearless. So fearless that he confided his admiration for a pre-teen Paris Hilton to Howard Stern on live radio (though denying sexual intent; “Well, at 12, I wasn’t interested. I’ve never been into that ... but she was beautiful.”)
Grabbing young women by their hands, and elsewhere, is no insurmountable hurdle. The visceral distaste seems to kick in when a woman hits middle age. Megyn Kelly was in her mid-40s when he not so obliquely cited menstruation as the reason for her robust questioning at a debate. Rosie O’Donnell had just turned 50 when he gallantly described her as “disgusting inside and out”.
As for Hillary Clinton, she was pushing 70 when Trump asked a rally crowd if anyone knew why she had briefly left a Democratic debate. “I know where she went, it’s disgusting,” he answered himself, screwing up his face like the kid who wanted to do a poo at Paul’s, to a chorus of cheering and laughter. “I don't want to talk about it,” he went on, milking the hilarity. “No, it's too disgusting. Don't say it, it's disgusting.”
There is no official word that the 62-year-old Merkel availed herself of the Oval Office facility shortly before Friday’s surreal rudeness, but in the absence of another explanation it is natural to wonder.
It is also natural for females of all ages (and possibly males as well) to excrete, and wholly unnatural for anyone older than three to find it disgusting. In a more crowded field than the Grand National, nothing underscores the Trump the Giant Toddler meme more effectively.
While the pathology is a mystery (too little is known about his early relationship with his Scottish-born mother), the repulsion with mature women is clear from word and deed. Without the alleged video footage from Russia, we can’t know if younger ones (assuming a top ranked Muscovite prostitute’s career is short) are excused their bodily functions.
Trump dismissed the pee-pee tapes rumour by claiming to be too germophobic to cope with such indelicacy. But would a true germophobe have maniacally clung to the hand of Japanese premier Shinzo Abe for a pulverising 17 seconds without having snapped on the protective latex glove first?
It is true that Trump gauchely held the hand of a bemused Theresa May, 60, during January’s visit to Washington. But US government sources later ascribed that to a more esoteric fear called bathmophobia – the morbid terror of slopes! – as they were on a gentle incline at the time.
He also shook Hillary’s hand at their first debate (though he cunningly sidestepped the ordeal in the next by planting some of Bill’s alleged lovers in the audience).
With a heroic effort of will, it seems that Trump can master his repugnance. In fact, he did shake Merkel’s hand in a private moment away from the TV cameras. So the earlier refusal to show minimal respect to the western world’s most distinguished national leader was a matter of choice rather than compulsion which makes it a million times worse.
In another context and with someone else (almost anyone else in human history), you could almost have felt a twinge of sympathy. If the hands he kept to himself are less tiny than the talk show hosts make out, their owner looked tinier than ever besides the colossus from Berlin. His extreme discomfort ( he seemed to be blushing, which is quite a feat with his complexion) suggested that, on a level not so far beneath the conscious, he appreciates how desperately out of his depth in such company he is.
Harold Wilson said of Tony Benn that he immatured with age. If that goes for Trump, who started his political career as a toilet-fixated three year old, the Benjamin Button of the Oval Office will be a foetus by Thanksgiving.