On Franken, Trump shouldn't have gone there

Story highlights

  • Michael D'Antonio: Trump tweeted a slam of Franken's behavior but has stayed largely mum on allegations against Roy Moore
  • D'Antonio says Trump has history of abusive treatment of women
  • Franken, in his eyes, is a weakling for being brought to account, unlike Trump who got elected President

Michael D'Antonio is the author of the book "Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success" (St. Martin's Press). The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)This commentary contains graphic language.

When Donald Trump finally tweeted, after days of silence, about a case of sexual harassment, it wasn't about the shocking stories of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore and teenage women, but about Minnesota's Sen. Al Franken.
And while Franken's conduct is appalling (it came with photographic evidence showing Franken appearing to grope the breasts of a sleeping Leeann Tweeden), the presidential tweet offered a revealing insight into Donald Trump's own thoughts about women.
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    "The Al Frankenstien picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps?" wrote Trump, who in an audio recording released during the 2016 campaign bragged to Access Hollywood host Billy Bush that when "you're a star," women will let you "grab them by the pussy ... you can do anything."
    Moore and Franken are just two of many men in politics and entertainment whose reputations and power have been damaged by sexual misconduct allegations. Franken, a former comedian, is the first in this current wave to have worked in both realms. This is something he has in common with President Trump.
    More than a dozen other women have alleged sexual misconduct against Trump. Among them are pageant contestants, an "Apprentice" hopeful, and several whom he encountered at random. During the election Trump threatened to sue every one of the women who made public claims. However no suits were ever filed. (Similarly Roy Moore has threatened a lawsuit against the Washington Post, which first reported claims against him, but hasn't followed through.)
    One factor that may be inhibiting the President and his lawyers is the massive record of his own statements, which paint a picture of a man that is every bit as disgusting as the Franken-Tweeden photo. It is comprised of the kind of vulgarities people generally avoid and the press, including CNN, would prefer not to publish. But Trump is an insistently vulgar man, and he is now President. These factors make a descent into his gutter unavoidable.
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    In 1991, Trump said, "You know, it doesn't really matter what [they] write as long as you've got a young and beautiful piece of ass."
    In 1992, according to a New York magazine article, he said of women, "'You have to treat 'em like s---."
    In 1993 he acknowledged his womanizer image and said, "It's fortunate I don't have to run for political office."
    It is too extensive to recapitulate here, but Trump has a long record of calling women gold diggers and rating their appearance, claiming that he is sexually magnetic, and even joking about the attractiveness of his daughter ("If Ivanka weren't my daughter, perhaps I'd be dating her.")
    The culmination of all of this was the "Access Hollywood" audio recording, in which he also described to Billy Bush pursuing a married woman ("I moved on her like a bitch."), and critiqued her "phony tits."
    Trump's sordid past is, without doubt, one factor that has kept him quiet during the Moore scandal. But when the latest disturbing story of sexual harassment veered toward a Democrat and a fellow entertainer, he couldn't resist commenting. Here, we get a peek into his mindset and a character flaw that is every bit as disturbing as his views on women.
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    As he signaled when he said during last year's campaign that he could "shoot somebody" and not lose any support, Trump revels in getting away with his ghastly behavior.
    This impunity -- see how I can misbehave and avoid being accountable! -- is an expression of power.
    Trump respects it in other men, like Vladimir Putin -- and perhaps Roy Moore. Until Thursday, Franken enjoyed the same power but then lost it. In the process, he lost Trump's respect and became a weakling. This made him an irresistible target for Trump's twitter attack.
    He acted because he is certain he won't be held accountable and his life experience, which led to the presidency, confirms it.