Omarosa tweet raises the question: What is it about Trump and dogs?

President Donald Trump and Omarosa Manigault Newman (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Carolyn Kaster/AP, Getty Images (2), AP)
President Donald Trump and Omarosa Manigault Newman (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Carolyn Kaster/AP, Getty Images (2), AP)

In his sudden Twitter eruption against turncoat aide Omarosa Manigault Newman, in which Trump has already called her “wacky,” “vicious,” “deranged” and a “lowlife,” he added a new insult Tuesday, but one that is familiar to connoisseurs of his Twitter feed: “that dog.”

The indispensable Trump Twitter Archive, a searchable database of all 34,683 (as of 11:44 a.m. Tuesday) Trumpian tweets, cites 38 uses of “dog,” going back to 2010 when he was promoting an appearance by the Dog Whisperer on “The Apprentice,” and including a number that appear to refer to a project on “Celebrity Apprentice” that involved Gary Busey and something called a “mechanical dog.” (By contrast, he seems to have tweeted the word “cat” only three times, in contexts that are all now comparatively obscure, or incomprehensible.) Among the enemies, rivals and miscellaneous random targets he has compared to a dog are Mitt Romney (“he choked like a dog”) Ted Cruz (he “lies like a dog”) and conservative writer Brent Bozell (came “begging for money like a dog”). He also identified several prominent political figures — Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee and former Govs. George Pataki of New York and John Sununu of New Hampshire — who “couldn’t get elected dog catcher,” but that’s obviously different.

Calling a woman a “dog” is a slang way to insult her looks, of course, and Trump is well known for disparaging the appearance of people he dislikes (see under: “Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd”) but Trump uses “dog” as a gender-neutral insult. Gloating about perceived enemies being “fired like a dog” is one of his favorite Twitter tropes. Among those on the receiving end have been, besides Omarosa, newsman David Gregory, comedian Bill Maher, columnist George F. Will and conservative writer Erick Erickson. Barack Obama’s controversial minister Jeremiah Wright was “dumped like a dog” when he became a liability. In 2012, the United States “should have backed [Egyptian President Hosni] Mubarak instead of dropping him like a dog.“

It’s a strange usage, in one sense, considering that in American culture dogs are most often a metaphor for loyalty — the quality Trump is said to prize above all others — which is why “Fido” (Latin: “I trust”), the name of one of Abraham Lincoln’s pets, became a generic dog name. Most Americans love their dogs, to the point of wanting to be buried alongside them. But the animal also carries some negative connotations that cling to it like fleas: You dirty dog! Quit dogging it! You’re like a dog with a bone! I’ll shoot you all like dogs! You ain’t nothing but a hound dog — or else, perhaps, the word for you rhymes with “rich.” The Bible itself, just before the better-known injunction about pearls and swine, warns (Matthew 7:6) “Do not give what is holy to dogs” — maybe because (2 Peter 2:22) “a dog returns to his own vomit.”

It’s a fact of a dog’s life that its very faithfulness, its servility, can invite contempt — especially, one might imagine, on the part of an insecure narcissist who takes a sadistic delight in dominating subordinates. Dogs who have been disciplined cringe, they whimper, they slink away, and a certain kind of dog-owner responds with more abuse. Omarosa shows no signs of submissiveness so far, and commentators in the mainstream media are having to deal with a bad case of cognitive dissonance in tentatively encouraging her without appearing to endorse everything they have disliked about her for years. As for dogs — well, Donald Trump doesn’t seem to have much good to say about them, except that you can have them in your room in the Trump International Hotel & Tower in New York, for an additional charge of $250 per stay. For his own part, he’s the first president since James Polk who doesn’t own a pet, so there’s no chance he could fire one.


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