The Jan. 6 commission officially subpoenaed Donald Trump last week, though its members would likely agree that the former president’s testimony is a long way off.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, however, is trying an unorthodox strategy designed to get Trump to appear before the committee: questioning his manhood.
“I don’t think he’s man enough to show up,” Pelosi said in a recent interview with MSNBC. “I don’t think his lawyers will want him to appear because he has to testify under oath.”
And, just in case, Pelosi repeated: “We’ll see if he’s man enough to show up.”
Which, if you know Trump, is a pretty interesting ploy to a) get his attention and b) get him to testify.
Trump is a bold male. He spent the 2016 campaign and his four years in the White House portraying himself as a macho man, a tough guy who couldn’t stand what he saw as the softening of American men.
As I wrote about Trump’s obsession with masculinity in 2020:
“The idea of strength and toughness is deeply distorted, twisted and knotted by decades of grievance and bravado. See, for Trump, being strong and tough means winning directly, dominating, using overwhelming force to achieve a desired outcome.
“In his mind, maybe he’s doing the right thing. And the world is divided between people who are willing to exercise power over others and those who are too afraid to do so.”
His recent past is littered with obsessions with masculinity.
During an appearance on Mehmet Oz’s TV show when he released his partial medical records, Oz singled out Trump’s testosterone count for special praise. “Your testosterone is 441, which is really -” Oz said, before adding, “It’s good.” (Oz is now a Republican candidate for the US Senate from Pennsylvania.)
In the first debate of 2016, Trump felt the need to defend the size of his hand from attacks by Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. “I’ve got to say this, I’ve got my hands full,” Trump said. “No one has ever hit their hands. I’ve never heard of this before. Look at those hands. Are they small hands? And if my hands are the small ones he was referring to, it must be something else small. I assure you there is no problem. I guarantee you.”
As the nation grappled with the coronavirus pandemic, Trump repeatedly mocked Joe Biden for wearing a mask, suggesting it was unmanly. “I don’t wear a mask like him,” Trump said. “Every time you see him, he has a mask on. He could be talking 200 meters away and he shows up with the biggest mask I’ve ever seen.”
On January 6, 2021, shortly after the attack on the US Capitol, then-Trump spokesman Hogan Gidley was asked if Trump felt emasculated by being removed from Facebook and Twitter. “The most masculine person I think has ever held the White House is the president of the United States,” Gidley replied.
So in questioning Trump’s manhood, Pelosi goes to the heart of what the former president conveys. And, he hopes, he’ll get angry enough that he’s ignoring any advice he’s getting to stay as far away from the January 6 committee as possible.
Will it work? Probably not. But Pelosi’s bet is pretty fascinating.