Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
(CNN)This is a tale of two presidential reactions.
The first is how President Donald Trump reacted to comedian Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet directed at former Obama White House adviser Valerie Jarrett.
Or, didn’t react. At least not initially. Barr’s tweets came in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Trump said nothing — even as ABC announced that her eponymous show was being canceled over her tweet. Even at a rally in Nashville on Tuesday night, Trump — amazingly — said nothing about Roseanne.
It wasn’t until Wednesday around noon when Trump finally did address the Roseanne situation. He tweeted this:
“Bob Iger of ABC called Valerie Jarrett to let her know that “ABC does not tolerate comments like those” made by Roseanne Barr. Gee, he never called President Donald J. Trump to apologize for the HORRIBLE statements made and said about me on ABC. Maybe I just didn’t get the call?”
The second is how Trump reacted to comedian Samantha Bee calling his daughter a “feckless” c-word on her show Wednesday night. Bee apologized shortly after noon on Thursday and TBS — which is owned by the same parent company as CNN — put out a statement condemning her word choice.
“Why aren’t they firing no talent Samantha Bee for the horrible language used on her low ratings show? A total double standard but that’s O.K., we are Winning, and will be doing so for a long time to come!”
There’s a double standard at work here, but it’s not the one Trump identifies. With Barr, Trump waited more than 24 hours to say anything — and when he did say something, it wasn’t really about Barr, it was about Trump and the persecution of him by the elites. With Bee, Trump was calling for her to be fired before 24 hours had even passed.
Why the different reactions? Simple. Barr is an avowed Trump supporter attacking an Obama administration official. Bee is a high-profile Trump critic attacking Trump’s eldest daughter.
Trump has always employed situation ethics but his willingness to pardon — ahem — friends and punish enemies is on stark display here.
Barr expressed a clearly racist view — and it’s not the first time she has done so. Bee called a member of the Trump administration a crass name. Both are wrong, though they aren’t the same. Barr’s racism is worse than Bee’s crudeness. (Nota bene: This is not to excuse Bee. Leaning on crassness to make an argument not only sickens civil discourse but also weakens any point she was trying to make.)
And yet, Trump seems entirely willing to ignore Barr’s racism while condemning Bee’s crudeness, because Barr has been nice to him and Bee hasn’t.
It’s not more complicated than that. Don’t overthink it. Trump views all interactions with other people through one lens: Friend or foe? Those are the only two options. You either love him and are to be looked after and defended for that position or you hate him and are to be pilloried and castigated at every turn.
It’s a decidedly Manichean world view. It allows for no gray area or nuance. You are with Trump or you are against him. And which side of that line you fall on will determine how he reacts to you. Roy Moore, a Trump supporter, gets the benefit of the doubt in the face of a serious of allegations by women against him. Al Franken, a Trump opponent, gets called out for allegations by women against him. Trump demands apologies anytime he is impugned but shows no compunction or remorse when he does the same to others. And so on and so forth.
This is a feature of Trump (and Trumpism), not a glitch. There is one standard for friends and family, and a very different one for opponents, losers and haters. And never the twain shall meet.
Expatriate American Writer Dr. Sabri g. Bebawi