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The Donald's nemesis

Perhaps even more surprising than the fact that it was a Fox News host who finally exposed Donald Trump as a misogynistic bully is that none of his 16 competitors in the GOP presidential race thought to do it first — especially given the party's seeming sensitivity to the "war on women" narrative put forth by Democrats.

It's not like it would have been difficult: Mr. Trump wasn't calling women "fat pigs" and "dogs" behind closed boardroom doors; he put the crude and condescending comments on Twitter and his own reality show.

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So either the candidates' researchers failed them, they were too cowed by The Donald to object, or worse — they didn't find anything worth objecting to in his statements.

Heading into Thursday's debate on Fox last week, Republican presidential candidates had been scrambling for a way to shut down the bombastic Mr. Trump, who's been killing in the polls. But they had, up to then, managed to do little more than offer bland protests to his verbal assaults on Mexican immigrants and POWs. Then along comes host Megyn Kelly, the only woman on a panel of three debate moderators, to raise the issue of sexism. (Full disclosure, I went to high school with Ms. Kelly in upstate New York.)

"You've called women you don't like fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals," Ms. Kelly said to Mr. Trump. "Your Twitter account has several disparaging comments about women's looks. You once told a contestant on 'Celebrity Apprentice' it would be a pretty picture to see her on her knees. Does that sound to you like the temperament of a man we should elect as president, and how will you answer the charge from Hillary Clinton, who was likely to be the Democratic nominee, that you are part of the war on women?"

Mr. Trump was true to character in his response, first claiming — to laughter — that he only says nasty things about Rosie O'Donnell, with whom the billionaire developer has famously feuded for years; then blaming political correctness for the question, and finally turning to threats.

"What I say is what I say. And honestly, Megyn, if you don't like it, I'm sorry. I've been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be, based on the way you have treated me," Mr. Trump replied. "But I wouldn't do that."

Oh yes, yes he would, as we saw throughout the weekend. On Friday night, he told CNN's Don Lemon that "you could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever" — a statement that many assumed referred to menstruation, leading Mr. Trump to be disinvited to a conservative Red State Gathering on Saturday. On Sunday, Mr. Trump said he was talking about Ms. Kelly's nose, because, yeah, that makes more sense, and by Monday morning, he was demanding an apology from the Fox host, for her "unfair" and "stupid" question.

Attractive women are clearly a weakness for Mr. Trump, whose three marriages have all been to models. That makes it somewhat delightful that a striking and powerful former high school cheerleader (who, at times, may have given off a bit of a mean girl vibe to this freshmen on her varsity squad) is the one to finally, successfully call him on his behavior.

And while it is remarkably troubling that Mr. Trump believes political correctness is the only barrier to belittling women by attacking their appearance and that there's no other reason to raise the issue with him, it's not particularly unexpected. Nor is that revelation likely to upset his base. His supporters love him precisely for what he is: an unapologetic, name-calling tyrant, who also happens to be quite entertaining. (Imagine him negotiating sensitive foreign policy matters.) Indeed, an NBC News online poll conducted overnight Friday into Saturday shows he's still in the lead, with 23 percent of Republican primary voters behind him; Ted Cruz is a distant second, with 13 percent of the voters.

Mr. Trump's behavior is doing damage to the GOP, however. Outside of the tea party many see him as a divisive buffoon and his supporters as unsophisticated reactionaries. That's not exactly the image much of America wants to be associated with. And so, apparently emboldened by the backlash, Republican presidential candidates took to Twitter and the airwaves over the weekend to condemn Mr. Trump. George Pataki called the outrage toward him "long overdue," Carly Fiorina tweeted that "There. Is. No. Excuse," and Mike Huckabee fawned over Ms. Kelly, calling her "remarkable" while Lindsey Graham, Rick Perry and Scott Walker questioned whether Mr. Trump's temperament was suited to the presidency. Mr. Cruz, predictably, remained mum on the topic.

And somehow, it all felt too little, too late.

— Tricia Bishop

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