I’ve just been handed a late-breaking news bulletin: Rare Politics can confirm at this hour that Donald Trump is a terrible human being.
The issue of Trump’s character has been a murky one. To be sure, the Republican frontrunner did slight John McCain’s war heroism, suggest that Megyn Kelly was menstruating when she moderated a presidential debate, insinuate that Carly Fiorina is ugly, fabricate Muslim celebrations after 9/11, promise torture as a national policy, thrice refuse to disavow KKK maestro David Duke, hint that Ted Cruz’s father was complicit in JFK’s assassination, mock the personal appearance of Cruz’s wife, demagogue a judge’s Mexican heritage, and somehow find a way to make the Orlando shooting all about him. But one could hardly call that a pattern.
Now, however, we have indisputable evidence of Trump’s reprobate nastiness: a video obtained by the Washington Post‘s David Fahrenthold in which the mouthy mogul is captured on a hot mike bragging about trying to seduce a married woman “like a bitch” and joking that his fame gives him license to “grab them by the pussy.”
Republicans are behaving like they just caught their champion with Kitty O’Shea: Paul Ryan canceled an appearance with Trump, Congressman Jason Chaffetz withdrew his endorsement, and several GOP fixtures recommended that Trump abdicate as presidential candidate. A bit late for that. It’s like they somehow managed to sleep through a fireworks show and then abruptly sat bolt upright during the finale.
But at least their response, however tardy, is one of moral outrage, rather than the callous, shameful, hear-no-evil dismissiveness that Democrats employed during the scandals of Bill Clinton, who was actually accused (credibly) of sexually assaulting someone rather than just joking about it. Here’s a thought experiment: what if the GOP responded to Trump’s latest abuses the way Democrats spent years responding to Clinton’s?
Trump’s supplicants would be flooding cable news with demands that the country move on. The video is old news, they would declare, and anyway it was “just about sex,” which is none of the public’s business. Trump would distort the truth over whether he had ever made inappropriate remarks about women to the point of twisting the definition of the word “is,” and Democrats would cheer his semantic ballet. Those investigating Trump’s sordidness would be compared to witch hunters and those who found his conduct contemptible would be suspected of sexual repression. One Republican henchman would dismiss a female Trump accuser this way: “if you drag a hundred dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find”—he would later be made a CNN contributor.
Allegations of Trump’s verbal awfulness would be classified as “bimbo eruptions.” An entire wing of the Trump campaign would be refurbished to smear his accusers. A seedy private detective would be hired to investigate and intimidate those who claimed misconduct on Trump’s part. Some would later allege that their tires had been slashed and feline skulls had been left on their porches. The Trump apparatus would spread rumors that one female critic was a stalker and another was just trying to get rich off of tabloid money. A journalist who testified to these smears would be temporarily relegated to pariah status in Washington society.
The conservative right would form a phalanx around Trump, and the Republican Party, one half of the elected political power in America, would spend years united by little more than a willingness to debase itself in Trump’s service. One right-leaning pundit would declare that she’d happily give Trump oral sex “just to thank him for being pro-life on abortion.” And then, the millisecond that Trump departed the national scene, his supporters would scoff that anyone who even mentioned his scandals was rummaging through ancient history.
So at least credit some Republicans with doing the right thing, albeit after months of waffling and hedging. Liberals who rail against Trump but have never once let the words “Juanita Broaddrick” cross their lips need to get off my television set posthaste.