Opinion: For Valentine’s Day, Trump’s relationship advice

Back in the early ‘90s, a magazine profile of Donald Trump quoted his advice on handling troublesome women.

“You have to treat ‘em like (human excrement),” Trump had allegedly said.

In 1994, when asked about the quote by ABC News, Trump vehemently denied it and attacked the person who reported it. “The woman’s a liar, extremely unattractive, lots of problems because of her looks,” Trump said.

This is what Trump says next, according to the ABC transcript:

“People say, ‘How can you say such a thing?’ but there’s a truth in it, in a modified form. Psychologists will tell you that some women want to be treated with respect; others differently. I tell friends who treat their wives magnificently, get treated like crap in return: ‘Be rougher and you’ll see a different relationship.’”

Be rougher and you’ll see a different relationship. And Happy Valentine’s Day to you too.

It wasn’t mere talk. One night, Trump spotted a reporter by the name of Marie Brenner, eating at a famous New York restaurant. Brenner had written unfavorably about Trump, so as Trump later bragged to reporters, he walked up behind Brenner and poured a bottle of red wine down her back, right in the middle of the restaurant. (By Brenner’s account, Trump exaggerated — it had been a glass of red wine, not a bottle.)

In fact, assault by red wine turns out to be a Trump specialty. In other interviews, he bragged about doing something similar to the late Leona Helmsley at a New York dinner party. “I don’t take it back and I hope Leona didn’t get overly wet,” he told The New York Times. “I hope the dress she was wearing wasn’t an expensive one, though that’s not likely.”

Trump, a non-drinker, was then asked whether his choice of red wine over white wine had been deliberate. “Yes,” he said. “White’s not nearly as effective.”

There is no recorded instance of Trump dumping drinks on men.

We have now learned that under President Trump, his administration knowingly employed an accused serial wife-beater in one of the most sensitive jobs in government. Two ex-wives of former White House secretary Rob Porter told the FBI more than a year ago about the abuse that they endured; nothing was done. A third woman, a former girlfriend, apparently called the White House itself to warn of Porter’s behavior.

One of the ex-wives has produced a photograph of her battered face, which she gave the FBI. The second told the FBI of a protective court order granted against Porter. Both cite witnesses who were told of the abuse in the time frame it was occurring.

The response from the White House has been one of regret.

Not regret that these women suffered such abuse. Not regret that it had kept Porter on despite knowledge of the claims against him. Just regret that Porter was forced to leave. In fact, the only public response from Trump was a tweet in which he bewailed the fact that “Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation,” as if calling into question the accusations against Porter.

With anyone else, the standard move in such a scandal would be to put Trump in front of a camera, where he would reverse course by expressing deep sympathy for victims of abuse as well as regret for not handling the Porter case well. That’s not an option for this White House, because whenever Trump is forced to express regret that he does not feel, he doesn’t perform well.

In such cases, supposed regret comes off as resentment, and insincerity pours from him. You might say it pours from him like red wine from a bottle, staining all it touches.