I know this story is all the rage again -- due to escalations on both sides, and the media's voracious appetite for covering the soap opera-esque drama -- but I must admit I feel almost totally ambivalent about it. We all know that Kellyanne Conway is a fiercely loyal (publicly, at least) Trump adviser and spokesperson, having become the first female campaign manager to win a presidential election in US history. We also know that her husband, a conservative lawyer, is not a fan of his wife's boss, which he's made clearer than ever in recent days. Indeed, George Conway has been publicly suggesting, unambiguously, that the president is mentally unstable and unfit for office. Again, this is the spouse of one of the top officials in the White House:
This was the article that first got me to really understand you, @realDonaldTrump. Once someone understands narcissistic personality disorder, they understand you—and why you’re unfit and incompetent for the esteemed office you temporarily hold.https://t.co/5RPQL9xntA— George Conway (@gtconway3d) March 19, 2019
Trump, who truly cannot resist responding to insults, even if it means "punching down" (virtually all attacks technically fit this bill when you're the President of the United States, I suppose), blasted back:
George Conway, often referred to as Mr. Kellyanne Conway by those who know him, is VERY jealous of his wife’s success & angry that I, with her help, didn’t give him the job he so desperately wanted. I barely know him but just take a look, a stone cold LOSER & husband from hell!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 20, 2019
As others have pointed out, going after someone else's comportment as a husband may not be the most effective line of criticism for Trump to pursue -- but whatever, he's rolling. The president also went in front of TV cameras and referred to Mr. Conway as a "whackjob," similar to the epithet he hurled at the author of In Trump We Trust a few weeks ago:
And how does Mrs. Conway feel about all of this? She's siding with POTUS:
“He left it alone for months out of respect for me,” Conway, a senior Trump aide, told POLITICO in a brief telephone interview. “But you think he shouldn’t respond when somebody, a non-medical professional accuses him of having a mental disorder? You think he should just take that sitting down?” “Don’t play psychiatrist any more than George should be,” she added. “You’re not a psychiatrist and he’s not, respectfully.”… “The president is obviously defending me,” she said. “He could privately say to me, ‘Honey you’re a distraction. We love you. You’ll always be a part of the family but go be with your kids. They need you. Go make a million dollars an hour. Go do that honey.’ It’s the opposite.”
This is all so exquisitely awkward and uncomfortable. Trump would do himself a lot of good by leaning into the very strong economy -- on which he's performing well -- and imposing the discipline not to take this sort of distractionary bait. That applies doubly to not gratuitously attacking deceased Senators. But that ship has sailed. It's who he is as a person, and that was abundantly clear to voters prior to his election. It could harm his chances at re-election, but he's unlikely to change his stripes. Meanwhile, what on earth is going on at the Conway household? Allahpundit snarks, "are the Conways going to live-tweet their divorce?" I think that's a joke. It's entirely possible that things are fine at home, and this is the weird, public way that the couple is blowing off steam over obvious political differences. There are also theories that Kellyanne is strategically encouraging it for any number of possible reasons.
But the vitriol that's flying, coupled with Kellyanne's quotes above, suggest some real dysfunction. It's hard to watch, actually. What's going on inside their marriage is their business, but I know that I would be hurt and bothered by a significant other undermining my work, very openly, on a regular basis. And every time George tweets provocations (some of his insights and criticisms are fair, of course), he knows the media will be highly interested in picking it up and running with it, which will only stir Trump's anger even further. It's a nasty little cycle in which nobody looks terribly good, though Kellyanne seems to be handling it as graciously as could be expected. And she has a point about armchair diagnoses. A mutual ceasefire seems like the best course of action for all involved, but that seems unlikely. What a shame. The country would be better off without being subjected to this spat.