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Bullying is bullying — even from the president

October 6, 2018

If you’ve ever been publicly zinged by a bully with a one-liner, you are also familiar with a drive home rife with coulda, woulda, shouldas.

Had I been a bit more quick-witted or less polite, I could have loudly pointed out the crossing of a line.

Had I been a bit less shocked, I would have let ’em know that a casual kick in the pants made in jest is still a kick in the pants and is as humiliating as one would expect.

Come to think of it, I should have left in a huff.

We’ve all been there.

I always have a clever comeback by the time I pull into the driveway, one that would have surprised the verbal sucker puncher had it come to mind seconds after the blow hit home.

It’s OK. I wasn’t thinking. I never do.

That’s not entirely true. Sometimes, it’s not the time or the place to point fingers. Sometimes a kick in the pants is the result of an awkward stumble or miscommunication. And, sometimes, leaving in a huff burns a bridge one has worked too long to build.

Yet oftentimes the zinger is so out of place that the recipient asks for an instant replay, and whether it be, “I’m sorry?” or “Huh?” or “Pardon?” it all means the same thing — you can’t have just said what I think you just said.

And the bully rarely repeats the joke, because if you have to stop and explain the punchline, your comedic timing stumbles. Besides, it doesn’t matter if the butt of the joke gets it, as long as the audience snickers.

All of this played out on the national stage Monday as President Donald Trump unofficially kicked off National Bullying Prevention Month by getting a few giggles at the expense of ABC News’ Cecilia Vega during what should have been just another news conference on his continuing effort to Make America Great Again.

He picked her to ask the first question and, in the few moments it took for the microphone to be passed to her, he cracked a joke about the delay being her fault due to shock at being called on to ask a question.

She said, “No, I”m not. Thank you, Mr. President.” But he heard, “No, I’m not thinking, Mr. President.” At which point he joked that, heh-heh-heh, it was OK, he knows she’s not thinking. She never does.

Vega is ABC News’ senior White House correspondent, so hers is a familiar face to the president. Considering the relationship the president has with the media, a zinger like this is not really unexpected. To characterize the relationship as contentious co-workers wouldn’t be off the mark.

But professional sparring changes when the balance of power is off. Check out the image taken from behind Vega: The journalist asking the question is standing alone while a few feet away the president stands at the podium, cracking a joke at her expense with a dozen smiling staffers behind him.

There was more, of course — there always is. That’s not surprising.

But if there’s something Americans should have learned from the past week, it’s that approval or disapproval of crossed lines makes a big difference.

“When adults respond quickly and consistently to bullying behavior they send the message that it is not acceptable. Research shows this can stop bullying behavior over time.”

That’s taken straight from stopbullying.gov, an official website of the United States government.

mariaanglinwrites@gmail.com

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