President Donald Trump, at last report, still wasn’t sure whether he will bring up Russian election interference when he next chats with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
That’s a big decision.
Happily, Trump had at least one easier decision this week, blasting U.S. women’s soccer player Megan Rapinoe for saying she wouldn’t go to the White House if the women’s team wins the World Cup and gets invited.
To be accurate here, Rapinoe has already gone to the White House once with a women’s soccer team that won the World Cup.
That was in 2015, when the White House was occupied by Barack Obama, not Donald Trump. Rapinoe, a longtime social and economic justice activist on multiple fronts, will not be swapping jerseys with Trump any time soon.
We don’t know yet, of course, whether the U.S. team will even win the World Cup. They have to survive three tough matches, starting with home team France on Friday, and frankly, they did not look invincible beating Spain on Monday.
Rapinoe, in an interview some weeks ago, said she didn’t expect the U.S. women would be invited to the White House anyway, since Trump has a history of not inviting teams he thinks might stand him up.
By saying that, Rapinoe gave Trump a no-brainer opening to instantly tweet that yes, the team would be invited if it wins.
The way he sees it, no doubt, Rapinoe would now look small for not attending — and Trump would look like a no-hard-feelings grownup, which is amusing for someone whose public brand is built almost entirely on hard feelings.
White House visits, long considered a harmless feel-good perc of winning a major championship, have become less of a hot ticket under Trump. A number of teams, including the Philadelphia Eagles, Villanova Wildcats and Golden State Warriors, have not been invited at all. The North Carolina Tar Heels were invited, but said they couldn’t make it because of, uh, scheduling conflicts. The Boston Red Sox attended without their manager or MVP.
Posing for a picture with the president, it should be noted, does not mean endorsing all his remarks or policies. Traditionally, the president is more the face of a proud nation saying, “Good job!”
With Trump that changes because, for better or worse, everything is about Trump. That’s just the way he and his fans like it.
And that’s why the women’s soccer team — again, making the major assumption they win — would have a compelling reason not to accept President Trump’s congratulations.
Because of how Donald Trump — the man, not the president — has treated women.
You don’t have to believe everything that every sexual assault accuser has said. If you believe even some of it, then add the Access Hollywood tape, you know the attitude Donald Trump brings to gender relations.
Many of his supporters know that, by the way. If someone with Trump’s reputation wanted to date their daughter, they’d run him off their lawn with a shotgun. But they will support him to lead the country, because in that capacity he gives them what they want.
In contemporary jargon, it’s a transactional relationship — or, as Trump’s evangelical supporters explain it, he’s the imperfect messenger delivering the right message.
To be fair, Trump supporters didn’t invent this game of rationalization. Many folks who would argue fiercely against inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace found ways to live with President Bill Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky episode, because they liked his policies.
The imperfect messenger.
Back to the U.S. women’s soccer team, the truth is that photo-ops with the president rarely make more than a tiny ripple in the news pond.
Rapinoe, for one, would likely say that’s not the point. That smiling photo would whisper, however softly, that the way Donald Trump has treated women, among other things, doesn’t matter.
In the end, obviously, it’s a personal choice. The Baylor women’s basketball team accepted Trump’s invitation earlier this year. In 2017, the South Carolina women’s basketball team turned it down. In 2018, the Notre Dame women’s team wasn’t invited, which sparked some discussion about whether President Trump cares about women’s sports at all unless they involve a swimsuit competition.
In any case, should the U.S. women win the World Cup, there may be more eyes than usual on how many players make the trip to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Forward Megan Rapinoe, whose two penalty kicks won the match against Spain and who has already been part of American teams that won a World Cup and an Olympic gold medal, will assuredly be busy that day.