The White House defended Donald Trump's sexist smear of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand by asserting that she was somehow asking for it and deserved to be attacked with bile.
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders asserted a schoolyard defense to justify Donald Trump's latest degradation the office of the presidency by sending out demeaning and sexist tweets.
In the daily White House press briefing, Sanders was asked by Fox's Jon Decker why Trump could not restrain himself when responding to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Trump attacked the senator after she called for him to resign in light of the many credible allegations of sexual harassment and assault against him.
He called her a "total flunky" who "would do anything" for campaign contributions when she "would come to my office 'begging'."
The interpretation of Trump's attack as disgusting sexual innuendo has been universal.
But Sanders, as always, defended Trump and lashed out at reporters asking about it, accusing them of having their minds "in the gutter."
She insisted Trump's deeply personal attack was not "all that personal," and added, "If you want to talk about personal, look at the comments that she's made about this president."
DECKER: Sarah, you're familiar with the president's tweets, he tweets pretty often, in this particular —
SANDERS: I've noticed.
DECKER: — yeah a little bit. In this particular case, of Sen. Gillibrand was very personal. Why must he criticize in such personal terms? He called a sitting, elected U.S. senator a lightweight, why go after her in such personal — in such a personal manner?
SANDERS: I don't think that's all that personal. I mean, if you want to talk about personal, look at the comments that she's made about this president over the last several months. Look, the president is always going to be somebody who responds, we've said that many times before. And he's simply talking about a system that doesn't work for the citizens of this country, and he wants to fix it.
"She started it" is the kind of defense children who are caught misbehaving often invoke.
But Trump, despite his behavior, is not actually a child in a schoolyard.
The White House appears to believe that Trump's tweets and the inevitable justification for them from the press operation excuses the virulent content. It doesn't. When Trump endorses hatred from his bully pulpit, it has reverberations all across the country and the world.
When he uses vile guttural epithets against a U.S. senator, he encourages more debased attacks and rhetoric. To disagree with or slight Trump is, apparently in his mind, not allowed.
His instinct is always to attack, and while it is a politician's prerogative to defend his or her position, it is Trump's active choice every time to drag his words through the gutter.
Sanders is part of this process of tearing down respectability, through her justification that Gillibrand's appropriate condemnation of sexual assault warranted yet another sexist, childish barrage from her boss.