Trump yells from the stage at a rally.

Once Again, Donald Trump Finds a New Low

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Just after the House voted to impeach him Wednesday evening, Donald Trump headed to a rally in Battle Creek, Michigan where things got pretty weird. In addition to rambling about showers with no water and dishwashers that go “boom,” he also continued his attacks on the state’s own Rep. Debbie Dingell.

Dingell is the widow of John Dingell, who was the longest-serving U.S. Congressman at the time of his retirement in 2015. He died in February of this year and at the time, Trump tweeted out some nice if perfunctory and kind of weird (also definitely written by someone else) condolences.

This week, though, Trump has been lashing out at Debbie Dingell for supporting impeachment, and he’s been doing so in the grossest, most callous (aka the most predictably Trumpian) way–by centering those attacks on her late husband.

Here’s what he tweeted last weekend:

Basically, Trump is saying that because he allowed the country’s longest-serving congressman to have what he later described as an “A+” funeral, and because they once spoke on the phone about it, she’s not supposed to support his impeachment. That’s … a really weird way to frame it.

At his Michigan rally, Trump went even further with his attacks on both Dingells.

Speaking again of the funeral, and Debbie Dingell’s reaction, Trump said, “She calls me up: ‘It’s the nicest thing that’s ever happened. Thank you so much. John would be so thrilled. He’s looking down. He’d be so thrilled. Thank you so much, sir.’ I said, ‘That’s OK, don’t worry about it.'”

He then proceeded to imply that John Dingell might be in Hell: “Maybe he’s looking up, I don’t know. I don’t know. Maybe,” Trump said. “But let’s assume he’s looking down.”

The joke was reportedly met with a mixed reaction–some laughs, some boos and groans because Trump really does not know how to read a room. The Battle Creek crowd booed when Trump first mentioned the current Congresswoman’s name but the Dingell family, and John especially, is a Michigan legend. The late Congressman served for 60 years in the seat previously occupied by his father, who served for 22 years before him. With Debbie taking that seat (which, again, she did after his retirement and before his death, making her the first non-widowed woman in Congress to ever succeed her husband), the Dingell family has represented their district for 86 consecutive years. Trump shouldn’t be attacking anyone like this, but this man and this family are especially unwise choices of targets in this setting.

Nancy Pelosi put it well when she said at her press conference Thursday, “What the president misunderstands is that cruelty is not wit. Just because he gets a laugh for saying the cruel things that he says doesn’t mean he’s funny. It’s not funny at all. It’s very sad.”

A number of Republican lawmakers from Michigan have called on Trump to apologize.

Debbie Dingell also responded to Trump’s hurtful words.

By the way, before his death, John Dingell was no fan of Trump’s–a fact he did not try to hide in the slightest.

As for Trump, an apology isn’t likely to come. His press secretary Stephanie Grisham has defended his behavior, calling Trump a “counter-puncher.”

So a sitting Congressional lawmaker chooses to support the Democratic and constitutional process of impeachment and Trump tells a few thousand people that her recently-deceased, much-beloved husband is in Hell. If we’re talking “punches,” it doesn’t seem like these two are in the same sort of fight. This isn’t bringing a gun to a knife fight, it’s like bringing a pee-filled water balloon to a debate tournament. It’s cruel and childish and just doesn’t make any sense.

(image: Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.